Three years ago I was looking to rent a room in a house owned by a French woman. I’ve never been to France so I asked her how it was different from this country. She pointed to the roll of paper towels in the kitchen and said, “In this country everything is disposable, just like paper towels. Paper towels are everywhere. Back home we use cloth towels, wash them, and then use them again. Here there is so much waste, people just don’t care.”
It used to be that you buy something, it breaks, and you get it fixed. But that’s not how it works anymore. Now when something breaks you throw it away and get a new one. I see this with digital cameras. I’ve broken a few and mailed it to the company to get it repaired. But people I know just break theirs and buy the newest, more expensive model with the half-inch bigger LCD screen. It’s easier to enter a credit card number on some web site then to take the time to call a number, fill out paperwork, box the camera, ship it, etc. Of course everyone is busy now… who has time for that?
Then there are people who buy new cars. There is no good reason to ever buy a brand new car when you can save thousands of dollars by getting the same model that is just two years older. Buy people do it and say things like, “Well I don’t want to have to worry about maintenance.” They end up spending a lot more money so they don’t have to think about having to take time off work, find a way to get a ride to the auto shop, deal with a shady auto mechanic, sit in a waiting room, etc. What a hassle that would be.
Unfortunately this type of disposable mindset has transferred onto people. Now we are disposable. Why put in the effort to maintain a relationship when you can easily meet someone new? Why bother calling someone to work through a problem when it’s easier to call your friend to go out drinking? Broken camera, broken person… same difference. Why confront it? If someone has an annoying habit, why should we learn how to tolerate it? After all, we grew up in the age of Seinfeld, where man-hands and pea eating habits is fair-game to end it. We’ve become a neurotic sitcom character.
There is an article in Details this month by Augusten Burroughs. He writes,
There’s always going to be somebody better-looking than the person you end up with. Somebody funnier, smarter, richer. But if you’re fortunate enough to meet somebody with whom you are compatible, you have to close certain doors. You have to recognize that, yes, you may indeed meet other people you could fall in love with. But by sticking with the person you chose, you gain a level of intimacy that is not possible by hopping from one person to the next every couple of years.
Couple of years? More like couple of weeks. I’ve been here before. I’ve thought about the benefits of the long-term relationship, and I hate the disposable mindset, yet every weekend I’m still up doing the same thing, meeting women who I consider already broken. Fixing something just takes too much work.