June 12, 2007
How are you affected by fashion, fame, and fortune?
Last Thursday my husband came home at noon to pack for a four-day trip to visit a friend in Las Vegas that was to begin at 1:00 pm. He took five shirts off their hangers, added five undershirts, five pairs of underpants, five pairs of socks, three pairs of pants, and a toiletry kit. Fifteen minutes. Ready to go. No concern about whether shirts and pants were color-coordinated.
His philosophy is that as long as he covers the parts of his body that need covering, he’s just fine. Clothes are not Bob’s passion in life. He takes after his father, a kind and well-loved man who lived just short of one-hundred years, the last twenty of which he was a widower. During that time, he thought nothing of wearing the same shirt all week and pants that hadn’t been cleaned for longer than that.
Mentioning the advantage of packing when you’re a man who doesn’t pay attention to fashion, I told my husband that if I died first that he would probably treat his wardrobe the same way his father did. Bob’s response was to ask a question, “Do you think my father was happy?” “Yes,” I had to admit. “Then what’s the problem?,” he asked.
If a person is decently covered, there shouldn’t be any, should there? Why are we bothered by the way someone else presents themselves in public? If we are not dressed the way we think we’re “expected” to dress for the theater, will we enjoy the play any less? Will others enjoy it less? And if we aren’t dressed the way we think we should when we go to church, will God be disappointed in us? What is it about us that focuses on fashion? Are homo sapiens born with this trait, or are we bred to believe looking good makes us good?
The fascination with fashion—who wears what to where—reminds me of how we pay so much attention to Paris Hilton’s exploits in-and-out-and-in jail. Even I skim articles about her driving and incarceration exploits, and I barely knew Hilton existed, other than the fact that she seems to be a celebrity because she’s a rich celebrity, wears expensive clothes, and is followed by the paparazzi everywhere she goes.
Just what is it about the rich and famous that causes us to be so impressed by them, or at least interested in their lives? If we’re poor and don’t know where our next meal is coming from, it’s understandable that we would want to have more money. Once we’ve got the basics covered, however, why do so many of us want to be rich? What is there about being rich that makes us believe we would like ourselves better, or that others would like us better, than if we didn’t have piles of money?
There are benefits in being rich, of course. If you’re rich, you can travel more easily. You are likely to have more access to others who are rich and/or famous. You can buy clothes, homes and cars you like. You can build hospitals, universities, art programs, youth centers, and health programs. Other than that, does having a great deal of money or fame increase your value as a human being? Yet our society seems hell bent on getting more and more.
Is any CEO really worth 60 million dollars a year? Why do we want to know the views of the rich and famous? Does having money or having people like you mean your opinions are more informed than those of people without money or fame? Why do people stand in line for hours to see movie stars at the Academy Awards and Tony Awards? Why do parents respond to ads of agencies that ask, “Do You Want Your Child to be Rich and Famous?” Why are the most important goals of Generation Y to get rich and be famous, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2006 Survey of eighteen- to twenty-five-year olds?
The questions below are not intended to make you “wrong” iff you may be interested in making a lot of money, or keeping up with current fashions, or enjoying rumors about movie stars and rich athletes. Rather, if you want to become more well-known, more attractive and well-dressed than you are now, and have a significantly larger bank account, the questions are designed to have you consider why.
EXPLORING SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES
Against whose standards of dress do you evaluate whether you are adequately clothed to go out in public? Why?
How do you make this determination?
What have you learned from the lives of the rich and famous that has benefited your life?
What determines the worth of a person? Why do you feel that way?
If you were rich and famous, surrounded by all the things your wealth can buy and with your picture on the front page of the newspaper, would your ego be satisfied? What would it take to satisfy your ego?
Do you believe there is something lacking in our lives that makes the idea of being rich and famous attractive? If yes, what is it?
In what way do you think the focus on wealthy celebrities encourages materialism?
How do you think you would feel if you were rich and/or famous and for some reason lost most of your money (perhaps returning to the amount you have now) and/or were no longer the center of attention? Would your value as a person be diminished? Why?
Does knowing about the divorces and marriages of movie stars and top athletes improve our relationships? How?
If you see a famous person in a restaurant, do you want to tell others about it?
What does letting others know that you saw someone famous say about you?
Do you secretly hope their aura of celebrity will rub off on you, even though you may not want to admit it to others?