Conscious Consumerism

The new normal foisted upon us by the coronavirus pandemic has fully exposed every fault line in American society. The retail apocalypse is here and the empty Sears at my local mall proves it. Of course, the carrion crow that is Amazon continues to feed off the leftovers.

Three years ago, I wrote glowingly about the necessity of online commerce. Some of that still holds true. As an asthmatic, I’m high risk for covid so I try to limit my in store shopping to essentials as much as possible. I spent thirty minutes in Pier 1 getting some plates and glasses in their going out of business sale (only the second time I’ve purchased from that store, yikes) and damn near had an anxiety attack. So yeah, if I run out of hair dye I’m ordering it online instead of going to Target, CVS, Ulta, and the beauty supply store trying to find some.

So about Amazon. I’m not naive. I know businesses don’t have values and that capitalism is an inherently inhumane system. It will always cost more money to keep people happy, healthy and thriving than it will to make money off their suffering. But some truly disturbing things have come to light about Amazon. Their labor practices now include exhausting their drivers so much that they get in fatal car wrecks; making workers continue a shift while walking around the dead body of one of their coworkers; and most recently, investing in companies only as a means to steal their IP and launch competing products. Last week, Amazon warehouse employees launched a walkout and called for a daylong boycott of the site. Jeff Bezos will testify before Congress next week because the DOJ is investigating the necessity of antitrust proceedings. This is the toxicity we support by subscribing to Prime, getting packages delivered daily and letting Alexa organize our lives.

A friend of mine posted about the IP issue on Facebook and was wondering if any of her friends had stopped using Amazon. Honestly, we should. Of course in practice, the answer is more complicated. I’ve been an Amazon customer since I was 13. I’d save up my allowance money so I could pay my mom let me use her credit card for used books and CDs. Later that turned into textbooks, Kindle e-books and MP3 albums. My use of Amazon picked up when I started working, and didn’t want to spend my few hours off in a crowded store looking for socks or whatever other random thing I needed.

I should boycott Amazon. I can get a Nook and buy e-books from Barnes & Noble. I can cancel my Prime subscription and download music from iTunes. But in the end, how much does that solve? Just because those other companies aren’t making headlines doesn’t mean that their labor practices are squeaky clean. And in some cases (Nook vs. Kindle) switching would mean getting an objectively worse product.

This is why living under capitalism is hard. It permeates your whole life and there are just too many issues to fix. Too many traps to avoid. Too many things to care about. ON some level, I understand why so many people just say f*ck it and live in willful ignorance. We can’t afford to do that though. 2020 has been an awakening. I hope that this moment of demanding accountability is actually the start of a real movement to change things.

 

 

 

Millennials Are The Torchbearer Generation

Millennials get a lot of crap. We’re stuck in childhood, we lived with our parents too long, we’re killing the napkin industry and business formal dress codes, etc etc. Of course, a lot of Boomers act like we haven’t experienced three recessions; the collective trauma of 9/11 and repeated mass shootings; and the realization that we won’t outlive the planet unless we take swift and drastic action to curb climate change.

I look at all of that and say that we are the generation that has redefined adulthood. It wasn’t by choice but there have been some positive externalities. Most of us have experienced long periods of unemployment or underemployment,  so our careers and salaries weren’t good enough to justify giving up everything else in our lives that we enjoy. At 30+ years old we still eat cereal, watch cartoons, and play with puzzles and coloring books. We  signal boosted the importance of mental help and are ending the stigma around seeking therapy. We started demanding inclusivity from not just in the media, but at our workplaces and churches too. We grew up on liberal ideals, and most of us didn’t become Republicans. Sure, maybe it’s because we’re still broke. But the end result is that if you don’t get rich by the time you’re 30, you usually stay humble even if you get rich later. And humility fosters empathy and cooperation, something the Boomers were solely lacking.

Perhaps most important of all, we might be the first generation to actively encourage the passion and idealism of the kids behind us instead of trying to kill their dreams. If we can survive the Boomer backlash to our efforts at making a better world, the eventual political coalition of Millenials and Zoomers will be legendary. (I read Zoomers that as an alternative to Gen Z once and it stuck.)

The amazing thing is that before they turned 18, the Zoomers absorbed by osmosis all the lessons we had to learn the hard way. It’s because of us that they feel so free to be themselves. Are they more sensitive than we were, less jaded, less tolerant of the sarcasm that’s just thinly veiled judgment? Yes. But that same sensitivity has 16 year olds sneaking out and breaking curfew to join the Black Lives Matter protests. 13 year olds are confronting their parents on their BS (something that took most Millenials 30 years of living and 2 years of therapy). They learned early that adults don’t know anything, and America values money over everything. They’re sick of America’s shit and they’re going to take us into a more progressive future, whether or not they have to drag us kicking and screaming.

I’m looking forward to it.

Social distancing ad inifitum

We are fully two months into the pandemic. Everything has changed and at the same time, not much. Many states (Texas included) have decided to reopen, often based on data that was incomplete, flawed or outright manipulated. Individual counties are trying to keep people safe, but fighting a losing battle because apparently, white people think that wearing a mask to protect themselves and others is some kind of oppression. I’m fortunate to have a job that I can work from home, and a management that is doing the right thing by delaying our return to the office and following CDC recommendations.  We’ve been told that when we do start going back to the office we’ll have staggered schedules and building occupancy will be capped at about 20%. So that’s one less thing to worry about.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a little bummed out. Being an introvert and voluntarily not socializing is one thing, but being cut off from family and friends is different. Under normal circumstances I would have gone out of town for my friend’s wedding (now delayed until September or next year), had a random weekend outing with friends, visited my in-laws, gone to family church service and brunch for Mother’s Day, and be heading to the family cookout for Memorial Day. I’d be looking forward to a plate full of ribs, grilled veggies, and baked beans; ignoring sports talk; and Taboo, charades, or some other game. Sure, I can grill out at home but a cookout for two is basically pointless.

The acceleration of the retail apocalypse caused by a desire for apparel stores to remain relevant when most people don’t want to leave their homes has resulted in a lot of good sales, though. I got a badass swimsuit for whenever it’s safe to travel again. Normally I hate traveling. Actually being someplace new is fun, but the getting there and back usually sucks. Having the chance to get acquainted with every wall of my home has made travel seem MUCH more appealing. I’m not an out and about type of person, but I’m ready to be out and about!. . .

Not at the expense of risking my life, though. So until something changes, I don’t know what, I’m going to be at home.

Notes from the field

 

It’s Day 11 of the quarantine. The hardest part for me is staying on task with working from home and not being glued to the news all day. The upside is that I no longer have an excuse not to make time for working out. We use one of the spare bedrooms for a home gym so all I have to do is go upstairs. I only exercised once last week because #lazy, but if I stick to my schedule going forward I will definitely come out of quarantine in better shape than I was before. I worked out today and yesterday and it has helped me feel less anxious.  Something about tiring out your body physically really helps distract you from worrying. Probably those endorphins the runners keep talking about.

Everyone’s excited about the possibility of getting relief checks. As a tax attorney I know that it’s going to be slow in coming, and most of that money will probably get taxed right back. I support getting money to people in a time of need, but I’m not counting my money before the check clears. There is also some nonsense floating around about creating what is essentially government bitcoin, and a new central bank where the relief checks will be distributed via app. The plan is to eventually replace all cash transactions. I feel like they need to walk before they can run. How about we get the ability to file taxes online directly with the IRS before we jump into cryptocurrency?

Yesterday, Dallas ordered shelter in place until April 3. Houston followed suit this morning. I don’t think the activity is likely to die down, especially because the president wants us to get back to work to boost the economy. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Life on Lockdown

It’s day 10 of quarantine. Okay, “social distancing” or “self-isolation” would be more accurate, but quarantine sounds better. Suffice it to say that “life comes at you fast.” Since I last wrote, I had a bittersweet but relaxing Christmas season at home. My in laws were out of the country and I missed my family terribly, but it had been a busy summer and fall and we both needed the time to recharge. I went on my first ever girls’ trip for my birthday in January with a couple of work friends who are now officially real friends (seeing each other naked at the day spa while not entirely sober will do that, LOL).  Last but not least, my big sister had a baby so I’m now a new auntie. I actually got to visit them just three weeks before life came screeching to a halt under the threat of coronavirus.

Speaking of which…this has been crazy. I’m an introvert so the quarantine itself isn’t hard for me, at least not yet. I like to spend time at home. We only go to the movies once a month, and have friends over once a quarter. Even though we order plenty of meals out, we only sit down to eat in a restaurant once every six weeks. So other than working at home, the terms of the quarantine haven’t radically changed my life.

The issue is the uncertainty of it all. I have zero faith in an administration that fired a qualified pandemic response team just because it was created by Barack Obama. The president’s obsession with eradicating his every accomplishment speaks to either an endless depth of racism, or a deep seated envy and bitterness that he’ll never be as attractive, intelligent, or well liked as Obama. It’s probably a bit of both. Regardless, it only adds to my anxiety that our Commander in Chief is an incompetent liar. The fact that I’m high risk (I have asthma and coronavirus can cause permanent lung damage) doesn’t help, either.

The economy is tanking. The quarantine orders get stricter every day because there are always some idiots who refuse to be told what to do. At first we were told things would get back to normal in two weeks, then a month. Now I’m seeing reports that this could go in waves, with restrictions being lifted in June and July and shutting back down for cold and flu season. Other, more alarming reports say that at the rate we’re going we will be stuck inside until August. It’s crazy.

Hubs pointed out that I like to spend weekends at home but that’s not the point! Between now and August I definitely was going to go to brunch and possibly visit to a friend’s lake house. I was playing with the idea of taking a weekend trip to Galveston to visit the beach, walk the pier and get some fresh seafood. I wanted to drink bubble tea at the outdoor mall on the other side of town, the one where I can buy handmade bath bombs and body butter that I don’t need. I had plans dammit!

Of course, all that takes a backseat to my health and that of the greater good so I”ll be complying. It’s just scary to have a virus that is so contagious and yet asymptomatic. It’s not like you get a rash first and have three days before things really start to get bad. All I can do is pray and minimize my risk. We’re still getting takeout, less than usual but several times a week. We’re both still getting paid, fortunately and I keep us to a budget anyway. Our concern is getting a complete quarantine order, because at that point there will be a mad rush to the grocery store and who knows when we’ll be able to restock. So we stocked up on groceries, mostly frozen and dry goods that we can ration out.

Feel free to comment with your quarantine routine, survival tips, complaints, comments or concerns. Do you have toilet paper? Any funny stories about hand sanitizer theft? (A whole case disappeared from the supply closet at my job.)

 

What’s wrong with basic?

“Bad Bitch Support Group” on HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show

I saw this sketch back when it first aired and it got me thinking. What’s so bad about being basic? I admit to being guilty of using the word right up until I realized that maybe I wasn’t as bougie as I thought. Yes, I’ve had better, but on a day to day basis I genuinely enjoy Starbucks coffee. I watched the entire run of “New Girl” starring Zooey Deschanel and though most of it was pretty funny. I have to avoid Target unless I have a defined shopping list or I’ll end up with a cart full of (fun, but) unnecessary goodies. And while I don’t particularly enjoy pumpkin spiced lattes, I love almost everything else about the season they represent. I, too, am basic.

ba·sic/ˈbāsik
adjective
1. forming an essential foundation or starting point; fundamental. “Certain basic rules must be obeyed”

Oxford English Dictionary

I spent a good chunk of my childhood wanting to be That Girl. Once I got older and realized how much work being a “bad bitch” really is, I didn’t want that lifestyle even though I spent a few years wishing I did. That archetype is celebrated as the feminine ideal, while “basic bitches” make up the majority of your stay at home wives and soccer moms. The stereotype is that they don’t do anything but go to yoga/pilates/barre class, go to mimosa lunches, shop, and take care of their families. I don’t know about you but that sounds like my kind of fun!

Nobody ever said basic chicks were unhappy.

– Me

I’ve turned into a basic suburban wife and it’s everything I ever dreamed of. But I like getting up on Saturday mornings, drinking coffee and making breakfast while my husband mows the lawn. I like leaving work to go to a quiet home on a quiet street. I don’t even mind cleaning up as much as I used to because for the first time, I own my residence. I may not be living the most exciting life but I am truly the happiest I’ve ever been.

All things considered, I live a pretty conventional life. I went to college, straight on to law school, married my college sweetheart, moved cross country for his career and bought a house. It worked out for me but the traditional patterns of adulthood are just that, traditional. They aren’t the best path or the only path to adulting. In fact, soul singer Chrisette Michelle makes a great case for why she needs to live the nomadic single life for now and possibly forever. And it’s great that she knows herself well enough not to force her life into a shape that suffocates her.

I’m a modern woman and my career is important to me. I love the legal profession and the never-ending opportunities for learning that it provides. But at the end of the day, legal work is enough excitement for me. I thrive in domesticity and I’m content with the choices that brought me here. I wish everyone the same peace and happiness, however it may come about.