Watches, Sunglasses, and Playground Politics
I’ve noticed something peculiar about adults: they like to wear watches and sunglasses. I don’t often see adolescents and teenagers wear them, but they’re so common among adults. But why do grown-ups wear them? Why do they even own them? I confess, I too have purchased and currently own a watch and a pair of sunglasses. I only wear a watch to interviews or when I go on a walk without my phone and I need to make it back by a certain time. Rarely do I ever wish I had sunglasses. A few months I bought a new pair of sunglasses. Ray-Bans aviators. I like how they look and how they feel in my hands. They seem like a thing cool people have. For those first few months I found myself wearing them whenever I went outside. They made me feel older, cooler, like a grown up. But I never really needed them. Actually, I didn’t like how they dampened how colors appeared. Ironically, more often than not, wearing them worsened my experience more than it improved it. Yet, I always looked for opportunities to flaunt them.
Each time I wear a watch or sunglasses I feel like a tool. First off, I don’t need them. Consequently, wearing them feels dishonest. For sunglasses, the sun rarely bothers me. For watches, my life isn’t important enough for me to need to know immediately what time it is. Each time I put these on I feel like I’m adorning myself with accessories in an attempt to show the world that I’m was important, that I’m somebody. Just like a parent dresses up their kid to show off to the world, I felt like both the parent trying to show off and the kid being shown off.
Second, as often happens with purchases, before I buy something I think that after I’ve bought it I’ll never have to think about that thing again. But, this thought is wrong every time. Instead, I wonder if my purchase is good enough. Maybe there is something better? Maybe my original purchase is what they sell to posers. Always, after I’ve bought something there is a point where I’m more caught in the purchasing cycle. I’ve recognized this rule that I’ll name here: The Consumer’s Fallacy. My description of it is as follows:
When you are without a thing, there is a belief that once you’ve acquired it you will feel complete and will no longer want that thing again. But, this is not true. Once you’ve bought something it will only consume more of your mind and you will continue thinking about buying more of these things; it could be because you have found something better, because someone you know has the same thing, etc. Consequently, you end up only buying more of products similar to it.
Perhaps that is how capitalism runs. It offers you products at a variety of qualities and price points. It provides an item that that is affordable for anyone. You enter the market at a price you’re comfortable with, and you’re always faced with the prospect of a better version but at a slightly higher price. Eventually, you buy the next best thing. Then you face the product at the next highest price. You but the new thing; and the ratchet continually increases and you’re stuck in the loop forever. Once you are in the purchasing trap you only come out of it by intentionally deciding to remove yourself from the cycle, disconnecting your value from what you own, and ignoring all urges to place yourself back in the cycle. But, once you have something it’s hard not to compare what you have to what others have. The danger lurks in that first purchase. Once you have it you are faced with the comparison. Or you can toss it aside and part with it, which is difficult because now if feels like you are losing something and instead of just not having it.
This clarifies my second problem with watches and sunglasses. While elevating my status above those without, I still had to deal with how I compared to those with these items. I was not out of the rat race of showing off what I had. To my chagrin, I was further entrenched.
It’s weird. Whenever I find myself in a place with a high concentration of adults it never feels like we’ve evolved past the point of playground politics and establishing hierarchies. We’ve only changed the way we participate in these practices. We no longer outright fight, name-call, and bully. Instead, we flaunt through body-language, looks, clothes, accessories, and knowledge. Who has more. Who knows more. The same battles, but different weapons.