I’m not going to lie; I gave up on actually really reading Future Shock about 103 pages into it. The rest, well, let’s just say I’m a master of skimming through reading and doing too many things at one time. Once I got to the part about the duration of human relationships and Toffler mentioned relationships with Doctors, I just got upset because my eye Doctor is rapidly approaching old age and I don’t trust these eyes to just anyone. What stuck out in Part 2: Transience, before the depressing revelations about human relationships was Chapter 4 Things: The Throw Away Society. I was able to relate to much of the chapter. I really like things; I mean, I have a lot of stuff. I’m talking so much “stuff” that I’ve accumulated in the 5 years I’ve been living on my own that I have all the “stuff” that any typical American family has. I’m 24 years old, like I really need all this stuff? I’ve learned that if I take my clothes I don’t want any more to Bon-Ton during Goodwill Days, I can get a coupon for 20% off more stuff (which equates to cheap shoes for me). Life now is similar to Toffler explaining the Barbie exchange Mattel offered. Like the little girls who wanted a new improved Barbie and were able to take in an old doll to be exchanged as an allowance for a new doll, I can take my car to the dealer and use it as an allowance for a SUV. As Toffler states, “The ocean of man-made physical objects that surrounds us is set within a larger ocean of natural objects” (pg. 51). We used to be able to just live off the earth, but now, we’re living in a material world. Think back to The Little Mermaid, even Ariel is stuck in the cycle. You want thing-a-ma-bobs? She’s got 20. I mean, if the need for material possessions is driving a mermaid’s life, just think of how it is impacting humans!
There is a difference between the “future” child who wants wants wants because they need need need something new, and the child of yesteryear who loved loved loved what they had until it was in pieces. The impact is the difference, explained by Toffler on the next page as “the contrast between past and future, between societies based on permanence and the new, fast forming society based on transience” (pg. 52). In the past, we have instances like the 1922 story, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real. This story, although vaguely rooted in the throw away trend as the rabbit is a substitute for another toy in the beginning, shows how a child keeps a toy and loves the toy for as long as they can until it is ripped away from them due to circumstances that are beyond their control. Whereas we have the 1985 story, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, where instead of just being satisfied with the cookie, the mouse wants more and more, and more, and more. Granted, the mouse and the cookie giving boy are in a circular story where the mouse ends up wanting another cookie when it is all said and done, there is still the aspect of want. Rather than loving the rabbit until it is practically in pieces, the new story cycles into wanting something new and not finishing what they have in progress.
Now, how in the world does this relate to the faux jackpot that is Forever21? It’s story time.
When Pittsburgh Mills Mall opened in 2005, my world of fashion was opened up to Forever 21. I was 18, I had a car, I had a great job, and I had a crappy boyfriend so I obviously had to shop a lot. Through a furry of tears, I drove down 422 to 28 and took exit 12A. About an hour after hopping in the car, I had reached retail therapy heaven, or so I thought. I dropped a good $100 dollars on clothes, and I thought I had the best deal in the whole entire world. Basic cotton scoop neck t-shirts were $3.80, and that wasn’t even the sale price! Halleluiah. I bought every color they had. So I’m about 15 shirts deep into the shopping excursion and I’ve yet to spend $60. It’s every shoppers dream. So I snag some other bargains, peruse the clearance section, and with a swipe of my debit card wash those tears away. I go home. I’m happy as a clam. I go to the laundry room, meticulously search for all hang tags and stickers, promptly remove them and toss my new buys into the washer; sorted by color and all that jazz, of course. I had seen an Channel 11 exclusive showing the germs and bodily fluids that can end up on clothing that has been worn and returned… I wasn’t about to mess with the possibility of picking up scabies from my shirts. So, my new clothes are now washed and dried in accordance with the garment care tags that are in every article of clothing these days. I wake up to go to HPED143 the next morning, bright and early for my 8 am class and to my horror, all of my new $3.80 shirts are practically ruined! The fabric was not cut correctly AND it shrunk despite following the washing and drying directions. The bias (cross gain of the fabric, think of when you tug on a shirt diagonally how it gives a bit…that’s because of the warp and weft threads that make up the fabric) was obviously not accounted for, or was accounted for incorrectly because the side seams were now creeping toward the front of the shirt. When the shirts were on hangers, it looked worse, but when wearing the shirt, the side seam on one side was clearly not on the side and more toward the front. I was not a happy camper. As I got over it, and continued to wear the shirts, I noticed that by the second or third wearing, the overlock stitch along the bottom along with the hem was starting to unravel. Some of the shirts even had little holes forming, and it’s not like I was rolling in thorn bushes for fun to cause them. I was pretty upset, but as many young people I didn’t learn my lesson.
I found myself back in Forever 21 around Christmas of last year, although now in Monroeville instead of Pittsburgh Mills, this time with my Mom in tow. As I was begrudgingly grabbing my basic scoop neck t-shirts, my mom lovingly reminded me how much I actually hate those shirts. I found myself replying, “Well, I’m not going to H&M anytime soon and I’m out of black t-shirts. For $4.80, I’ll wear the damn thing twice then throw it away”. Then, I didn’t think much of the conversation. Now, looking back on my disastrous relationship with Forever21, I realize I contribute to the future shock phenomenon Toffler discusses. Buying my ready to wear shirt from a store that rents its space in the mall that probably rents the lot that it sits on, I embodied the sense of transience Toffler discusses in Chapter 4. Prices may rise from $3.80 to $4.80 and now at $5.80, but I’m still going to go for that instant gratification of having the shirt now even if I’m just going to cast it aside in less than 6 months. And unfortunately, I think this will be the story of my shopping existence for the rest of my life.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved November 11, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_You_Give_a_Mouse_a_Cookie
Toffler, A. (1990). Future shock. New York: Bantam Books.
The Velveteen Rabbit– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved November 11, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Velveteen_Rabbit