all of the selves we Have ever been
Mick Jagger turns 78 today.
Poor guy. He just can’t get no satisfaction.
Mick does try. And he tries. And he tries. Mick may be more famous for his persistence than his rock ‘n roll. In the fifty-six years since Mick sang those words, sharing the pain of sexual frustration and American consumerism, Mick has had eight children with five different women, five grandchildren, and a great grandchild who is older than Mick’s youngest child. Jagger’s chronic dissatisfaction has resulted in a net worth estimated at $500 million. Maybe that helps to ease the pain.
I have a net worth of about $5.00, but I am more easily satisfied than Mick Jagger, and I don’t even try. Yesterday, I found a solid wood Ethan Allen side table sitting up pretty next to the dumpster. I live in a college town, and that’s what people do with good stuff when they move. Instead of taking the bulky items to Goodwill or another charity donation center, they set the items near, but slightly apart from, the regular trash as an offering to their neighbors. If passers-by spot the items before it rains or snows, they get a great deal. It troubles me that so much of this perfectly fine stuff ends up in the landfill. I try to recycle it by using it myself, passing it on, or taking it to a donation center.
When I was growing up, we were not so carefree with our belongings. Our homes were furnished with good quality hand-me-downs from the generations before us. Every item had a story, and we waited patiently to contribute our chapter. Furniture was sturdy and made of real wood and natural fabrics. Our clothes were sturdy, too. We got new clothes at the start of each school year and for the big holidays like Christmas and Easter, unless we had a growth spurt in between. Being the oldest or the only might mean new stuff--unless there were cousins. Being a younger sibling meant hand-me-downs. We had school shoes, Sunday shoes, and play shoes. Play shoes were often just our worn out old school shoes. We changed into our play clothes the MINUTE we came home from school or church, and we hung them up IMMEDIATELY.
There was no shame in patches or in mending, especially when the handiwork was skillfully done, and most moms were skillful. Girls endured life-long apprenticeships for their roles as mothers. They came to the mending game experienced. Most dads were tinkerers and fixed the other broken and weary stuff. They did not have to storm the legislature to demand right-to-repair laws. Not to repair was an insult to rugged individualism and American know-how. No one needed a special amendment to the constitution to carry a wrench. There was pride in making things last, an essential strategy in the pursuit of happiness.
When a spare part or something new was needed, we turned to the Sears catalog. While I have attributed my love of reading to Nancy Drew, I don’t think I gave Sears, Roebuck and Company enough credit for the growth of my mind. I have to acknowledge the Sears catalog for helping me to become a visual learner. The catalog was also a free course on how to write descriptions. That big catalog sold everything including houses. I dog-eared plenty of pages and starred many illustrations of the items I wanted, but I didn’t really expect to get them all. Dreaming was another American past time. It did not fill me with dissatisfaction; it fed my imagination. There was no keeping up with the Joneses. Not one of my friends would be getting that stuff either. Sure, we argued over who saw it first and who deserved to have it, but we easily tired of the competition and got back to Barbies, the sprinkler, and chasing fireflies.
The advertising industry has exploded since those days, and with ample supply, convenient access to shops, and on-line retailers with promises of two-hour delivery, we don’t give consumption the thought we once did. Back when Mick announced his dissatisfaction, there were just a couple of seasons in the fashion industry—warm and cold, and later, spring, summer, fall, and winter. I recently heard that some retailers change fashion styles weekly in order to drive up sales. Some of the prior “season’s” clothing is removed from the racks, shredded, and tossed into the landfill. There are no free lunches or leggings in America.
Someone said, “You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.” Well, the pandemic changed all of that for me. A year of social isolation showed me just how much I really do need. Turns out, it isn’t much. A little does go a long way toward satisfaction. And my little is so much more than many others have.
Mick Jagger, I think you may be trying too hard. Meet me at the dumpster.