Thursday, May 24, 2007

Money To Burn

The wife of a friend of mine works at a very fancy store on Michigan Avenue. I was speaking with that friend recently, and he told me that the store sells clothing for women. Some of the dresses sold in that store cost as much as $4,000. Oprah Winfrey is said to shop there from time to time.

Wow! I've never spent more than $100 for a suit in my life. And frankly, I can generally buy a nice shirt and a pair of pants for $50 or less, at places such as Marshalls, Filenes Basement or Penneys.

Now, I know that there are a few social situations where the type of clothes I normally buy might be considered unsuitable, which is why I might occasionally be willing to spend up to $100 for a suit in order to be prepared for such situations. But $4,000? Come on!!!

Yeah, I know that I'm a poor man who lives in a YMCA. But frankly, even if I were to suddenly become a billionaire, I still wouldn't spend $4,000, or even $1,000, on a suit of clothes. What kind of a pinhead would do such a thing? There are people starving in the world, and yet some folks can't think of anything better to do with their money than spend that money on clothes. And chances are good that the type of person who would spend that kind of money on one suit doesn't have just one $4,000 suit in the closet.

I have news for such people. A $4,000 suit is not made out of steel. It will wear out just as fast as a $100 suit.

If women think they have to spend that kind of money on clothes in order to attract men, I have another piece of news for them: Most men are much less interested in the clothes a woman wears than in the woman herself. An unattractive woman does not magically become beautiful by putting on an expensive dress or suit. A fat woman in an expensive dress is still fat. An ugly woman in an expensive dress is still ugly. Such things cannot be disguised with clothing or makeup.

Conversely, a really beautiful woman looks really beautiful even if she's wearing faded jeans and a ripped T-shirt. Or at least that's my personal opinion. One of the sexiest women I ever knew used to wear baggy denim overalls and T-shirts on a regular basis.

I'm not saying it isn't important for a woman to take care of herself. But it isn't necessary for a woman to spend oodles of money in order to be attractive to men, unless those men are just as shallow and materialistic as the women who are spending thousands of dollars for their suits.

Of course, some women would say that they aren't really dressing that way for the men. They're dressing that way to please themselves. Well, I guess everyone has to have a hobby of some type. But as a man, I've never quite understood women's obsession with clothes. To me, clothes are a necessity, but that's all.

A woman may say that she finds clothing to be a means of self-expression. I say, if you want to express yourself, learn to write or paint pictures or play a musical instrument, or do something else which actually contributes to culture in some important way. Writers and painters and musicians are sometimes remembered centuries after their death for their contributions to society. People who wear expensive clothes may also be remembered centuries later, but they are almost never remembered solely on account of the nice clothes they wore when they were alive. If your only legacy when you die is that you wore expensive clothes, then you haven't left much of a legacy, it seems to me.

When a woman such as Imelda Marcos has enough shoes to stock a shoe store, that tells me that there isn't a whole lot going on in-between her ears. If she's a political leader or the wife of a political leader, as Imelda Marcos was, it also tells me that she's totally clueless about the lives of the poor people living in her own country.

Most women aren't quite that extreme, but a lot of women exhibit a similar attitude towards clothes. And then women wonder why there still hasn't been a female president of the United States after more than 200 years. Perhaps Hillary Clinton will be the first woman to break through that barrier, but even if she does become our first female president, it still won't disprove the observation that in general, women tend to be obsessed with things which most men regard as trivial and utterly unworthy of great minds. I know that it isn't politically correct to say so, but a lot of things which aren't politically correct are nevertheless true.

However, this isn't a question of sexism. Frankly, I don't want a President of either gender who thinks that it's appropriate to spend $4,000 on a single suit of clothing.

My main reason for focusing on women is that very few men would think of spending $4,000 on a suit, or even dream of doing so. When men dream about being able to afford expensive things, the focus of those dreams is rarely on clothing. There are exceptions, of course, but they are exceptions.

Admittedly, wealthy men do sometimes have very expensive hobbies.

Jay Leno, for instance, owns some 80 cars and 15 motorcycles, according to an article at Wikipedia. Personally, I find that pretty offensive, given the fact that there are many people who can't even afford one decent car, and who really could use a good car. How many cars can a person drive at the same time? One. That's it.

In my opinion, the only legitimate reason for a single individual to own multiple vehicles is if the person is a car dealer, or if each vehicle serves a unique and necessary purpose in that person's life.

So, for example, I could see having a fuel-efficient car (for daily commutes to one's job, in order to save money on gas) and a small moving van or moving truck (for carrying music equipment to and from gigs and practice sessions) and an SUV (for trips to remote areas which were otherwise inaccessible) and a passenger van (for carrying groups of people to various events) and a touring bus (if one was a musician who regularly toured the country). Maybe an RV, if one was in the habit of regularly travelling the country, and if one determined that buying the RV would save money in comparison with staying in hotels or renting an RV from one of the companies which rent such vehicles.

I personally think that sports cars, as beautiful as they undeniably can be, are essentially a waste of money. What's the point of having a car which can easily break the speed limit? I'm a law abiding citizen, so I don't need to be able to drive at the speed of sound, or even at a speed which significantly exceeds the speed limit. In my view, buying a car which has such capabilities is socially irresponsible, since a person who has a car with such capabilities is faced every day with the temptation to break the speed limit. I am not opposed to having fun. But when your idea of fun is to needlessly jeopardize the lives of other people out on the open road, then you need to revise your ideas about what constitutes fun.

Plus, sports cars are totally impractical. Headroom and legroom are minimal. They sometimes carry only two passengers, and they rarely if ever have any capacity in terms of luggage. As far as I can see, the only real reason for having such a car is that it's a cool status symbol. I think that status symbols, by definition, are immoral. If you need to have a status symbol in order to improve your self esteem, then you're looking in the wrong place for your self esteem.

Having said all of that, Jay Leno can at least argue that his collection of cars will be donated to a museum when he dies, so that many, many people can enjoy looking at his collection of rare automobiles, which otherwise might not have been preserved.

How many of the airheads who spend thousands of dollars for their clothes can say the same thing with regard to their clothes? The only clothes I've ever seen in museums have been clothes worn by historically important figures such as the wives of U.S. Presidents. The likelihood that your overpriced dress or suit will someday end up in a museum is slim indeed, unless it's a museum of the absurd.

I think it's particularly funny that so many Hollywood celebrities seem to revel in the type of conspicuous consumption which would cause a person to buy such overpriced clothes. What makes it funny is that most of those celebrities are liberal Democrats who have often complained that Republicans were indifferent to the poor, or that Republicans were harming the economy. Apparently not enough to keep such celebrities from buying ridiculously overpriced clothes rather than giving the money to those who could really use it.

In my opinion, if a person is going to spend a lot of money on something, it should be a situation where the product being purchased actually provides a lot of functionality, and it should be a situation where a comparable product simply cannot be purchased for less money.

As a musician, for example, I find that there are situations where the instruments I want to own happen to cost a lot of money. A $2,000 Yamaha digital stage piano is worth the money, to me, because it's significantly superior to keyboard instruments which cost less money. The extra expenditure isn't just for the sake of vanity. It's for the sake of functionality. Such a digital piano is a tool which enables me to produce demonstrably better music than I could produce with a less expensive keyboard. It's easy for me to justify such a purchase because the purchase of such a product enables me to contribute to society in a way which would otherwise be difficult or impossible.

Yet, if I found two products, and they were similar in virtually every important respect except for price, I would always go for the less expensive product. I would never spend a lot of money just for the sake of spending a lot of money and saying that I had proved, by doing so, that I had "good taste".

One example is the Zoom H4, a handheld digital audio recorder. Sony makes a very similar product, which came out before the Zoom came out. From what I can see, the only thing that makes the Sony slightly more appealing is that it has a nice pro black finish (which, to me, is pretty trivial). The Sony product costs about $2,000, whereas the Zoom H4 costs $300. Which one do you think I'd buy? That's a no-brainer. I could have six Zoom H4 units for the price of one Sony. Unless someone can show me how the Sony is superior in some really essential way, I will buy the Zoom when I have the chance. It's stupid to spend more money than one has to spend.

What gets me is that I always hear women complaining about "gender inequality" in terms of disparities between the amount of money men make and the amount of money women make. Well, apparently, that gender inequality hasn't prevented some women from being able to spend absurd amounts of money on their clothes. If they expect sympathy from me, they can forget about it. A person who can afford to spend that kind of money on clothes is not hurting for money.

I realize that not all women can afford such clothes, but the fact that some women can buy such clothes proves that it isn't gender per se which is preventing those other women from being able to buy such clothes. On an overall level, it may be true that women average slightly less money than men, but so what? There are still plenty of American women who make far more money than I will ever dream of making.

If you want my idea of the ultimate absurdity, it would be a person wearing a $4,000 dress and a bracelet saying WWJD. WWJD, for those of you who don't know, stands for the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" So here's a question to ponder: In your wildest imagination, can you picture Jesus walking into a store and buying a $4,000 suit for himself? Remember, this is the same Jesus who had no home of his own for the last three years of his life here on this earth. This is the same Jesus who showed unprecedented sympathy for the needs of the poor.

Personally, I can't picture it. I think that Jesus would be (and is) appalled by the self-centered lives many Americans lead today.

I'm not saying that Jesus wants us all to walk around in filthy rags. But the Bible very clearly speaks out against those who ostentatiously display their wealth in the form of bodily adornment.

I Timothy 2:8-10 says the following:

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
Now, I know that some people would say that that's extreme. St. Paul didn't really mean that Christian women shouldn't ever wear gold (even in the form of wedding bands) or pearls or costly clothing, did he? He didn't really mean that women shouldn't spend hours upon hours having their hair braided, did he? Well, yeah, that's exactly what he said, so I have to assume that that's exactly what he meant. If you have an argument, your argument is not with me. Your argument is with the Word of God.

Are you one of those wealthy people who has money to burn? Be careful, or it may be you who ends up being burned, possibly for all of eternity. Ultimately, that's for God to judge, not me, but in light of the above scripture, I personally wouldn't want to take any chances of offending God.

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