Under the Sun
The addiction to acquire prompts silly products
A WOMAN I know works seven days a week, punching the cash register at a cramped, dingy store her husband's relative owns. She arrives after she sends their two daughters off to school in the morning, takes a break when they come home in the afternoon to make them snacks, get them started on homework and fix dinner.
Most evenings she's back at the shop until it's time to get the girls ready for bed. Work day done, she watches television, thankful that cable offers Korean programs.
About twice a month, she calls family members in South Korea to catch up on their lives and usually ends up crying from lingering homesickness.
She has no one she can call a friend. She doesn't drive and has been to the beach only twice in the almost five years she's been here.
She speaks little English. Talking with her involves a lot of hand motions, repetition and simple sentences. The one modern American phrase and concept she's familiar with, however, is "retail therapy."
From time to time, her husband will drop her at a mall or shopping center where she'll spend a couple of hours wandering around, looking for something inexpensive that will lift her spirits.
"I shop, I buy -- cheap, small -- I happy." She stretched her lips into a fake smile to get her point across. "Then, little while, then I sad," she said, her downcast expression exaggerated but genuine nonetheless.
I can hardly label her infrequent spells of retail therapy self-indulgent. If anyone needs to find a tiny crumb of pleasure in consumerism, she does, fleeting as it is.
Yet many of us take the cure so often that it loses its potency. The "buy high" wears off quickly when the same-old, same-old is unable to deliver the rush of the new and minimally improved.
To keep acquisition addiction alive requires constantly updated stuff. Why else would ice cream, a fine treat as is, have to be re-jiggered into pastel-shelled beads or slapped around on freezing marble and mashed with hard candy, broken cookies and I don't know what-all to remain tempting?
As much as I admire the creativity of fashion, a proclamation from a magazine that "the longer short" -- not shorts with an "s," mind you -- is THE item for "perfect" summer dressing had me shaking my head. That the featured examples were priced at mortgage-payment levels and that the magazine advised against last year's cuffed short made me laugh. But I'm sure that somewhere some woman is knitting her brow over her wardrobe deficit.
Still, the silliness in consumerism award should go to the current craze for bottled, desalinated deep seawater. The notion is that water sucked up from about 2,000 feet below the ocean surface is less contaminated than seawater in shallower areas.
Be that as it may, the product is costly in so many ways other than price. The fuel needed to pump the water, expel the salt, bottle, package and distribute the water takes a toll on the environment, a waste of energy and energies for something completely unnecessary in life.
If the water was to be used for medical or technological purposes that call for the claimed purity, I'd get behind it. If the process provided clean drinking water for people who don't have the luxury, pumping seawater might be worth it.
But the water is for making beer, drinks and cosmetic lotions and potions, its therapeutic value merely in acquiring something momentarily fanciful.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org