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.

25 thoughts on “DISPOSABLE SOCIETY

  1. Larissa

    Great post. Have you been in a serious relationship before? I think the paper towel analogy is great, really I’m just looking for a nice rag, er, towel. 😉

  2. Aja

    happy to read some of your thought-provoking stuff again! (although a fan of the hate)

    I agree on how wasteful and lazy we are(Americans). But I don’t think that truly applies to relationships. People invest more into relationships than they do material goods. To suggest that you could just up and dispose someone because of idiosyncrasies is a far cry from tossing someone away for a more superficial reason (not thin enough, European enough, unAmerican enough).Two weeks isn’t enough time to decide if someone is broken, unless of course what you’re seeking is evident (i.e. they won’t put out;in your case, notch attempting). It is all relative to what you are willing to learn about that person. Do you believe in someone having potential? Good luck on finding someone who will not require even the most minor of repairs.

  3. Anonymous

    Well done! My view is playing the numbers game and meeting someone new every few weeks is a young mans game because the “old” men have realized its an emotional dead end. To settle down and develop deep intimacy is important part in a dudes emotional evolution.

    Plus, you can always can have hook ups on the side from time to time if you keep your game tight…

  4. holiday

    I think it’s really difficult in a relationship to determine what problems you can work through and which ones are simply dealbreakers. Some couples “work through” cheating, lying, etc and for others, they let it go and move on. I suppose when you find someone you really like, you work through the problems, even if they’re terrible.

  5. Tyler

    I completely agree with the fact that American society is terribly wasteful. I try to be as conservative as possible so that I will not have to dispose of as much stuff.

    Anyway, I have never thought to relate that to relationships, but I think that you have a very good point with this post. I have noticed this trend with some friends of mine. I completely agree that getting to the level of intimacy is very important. Good thoughts!

  6. Matt

    How come the wise French women had paper towels? Cloth towels are available in this country. Ill tell you why, because in America, every second of your time has monetary value. We love capitalism, yes we do, and the pressures of remaining financially competitive are too great to waste even 10 minutes washing towels…err…developing relationships.

    The baggage that comes with this stuff; emotions, buying laundry detergent, break ups, waiting for the dryer, these things take time and effort yet provide you with no monetary return, and in fact cut into your productivity as a capitalist slave; and since that is all that really matters in life why not make everythign disposable so we can save our time for what is most important. Paying off our credit card debt.

  7. chicnotshady

    First, mr anon who has evolutionized – clearly not if “you can always can have hook ups on the side from time to time if you keep your game tight”. Ick – remind me not to date you!

    I also thought this was a great post Mr DCB. I think we are all running from the hard work that is required to really connect with someone. It is much easier to only feel that first rush of intimacy than to truly deal with issues and differences as well as the good stuff. The other reason our society prefers disposable – it is risk averse. If you really show someone who YOU are – they may choose to reject you. Many are actually terrified of rejection so they reject first.

  8. Anonother Anon

    The only problem I have with this is that in some ways young people really should have disposable relationships. Due to being overcome with emotion and attachment I see way to many young people latch on to a relationship and try to work through “issues” that mostly just mean that the two people are not really well suited to one another.

    Maybe I am in some kind of minority, but a good relationship is 75% practical compatibility. It’s not going to work out if the girl wants a guy home at 5 every night to eat dinner and then cuddle if the guy is a career oriented, independant person. Same goes for the guy whose ideal mate is someone who will stay in with him in his free time and watch movies and play board games if his girl loves to go out and dance.

    You can continue to take these examples to extremes– I am sorry, but working through cheating, or beating, or fighting is often a huge waste of time. It has nothing to do with capitalism, but it has everything to do with the fact that the clock is ticking down for all of us and you best spend that time happy.

  9. Days of Broken Arrows

    Of course, when you’re on the other side it all looks better doesn’t it? When you’re the one looking to dispose of someone, it’s not bad to live in a place where you can move on — and you won’t be forced into marriage or get chased down my some dad for defiling his daughter’s “honor.”

  10. paully

    i wonder what the french lady thought about disposable tampons and toilet paper. i guess it’s to wax poetic about shitty standards of living in other countries when you’re enjoying rolls and rolls good ole’ US of A Brawny and Bounty and chuggin starbucks.

    good post — hope to see more like it

  11. Eugenius

    on that note…..where are we going this weekend?

    In reality this post applies to those who have options, if you were with one person, eating their home-made cake, then do to your lack of options at the time you would accept this as normal.

    Reality = Since you are spoiled with “options/variety” you postpone the “home-made cake” stage until you feel you have maximized the “options/variety” potential. Right now everything seems disposable (and honestly it is).

    So what it all means is that you got about 3 more years to maximize your potential and then settle down so you can fix the broken people, with their broken cars, their broken credit, and their broken feelings. You accept it as next stage in life……………….

    oh yeah and I promise not to ever touch your camera again :-))))

  12. Audrey2025

    How interesting to read this post after your Brosnan/wife post. You seem to imply that she is “disposable” because she put on some weight, most likely after bearing his children.

    It’s a shame that the nice moments of clarity you have are lost in your heavy-handed, shallow drivel.

    It’s not that I don’t have a sense of humor. It’s just that you have no sense of self-awareness, and that is a shame.

  13. Frederf

    Most every relationship advice piece I’ve read geared toward women comes to the eventual conclusion “Then Leave Him.” This fix is arrived completely freely and often as the right thing to do. Dr. Laura Schleshinger is painful to listen to because of such attitudes.

    I find it, as a male and a romantic, deeply upsetting and insulting.

    Watch a sitcom such as Friends and you can pinpoint the exact moment the conflict of the show starts. It’s usually a woman jumping to conclusions, acting hastily, and leaving without discussion.

    Much stress is caused by this throwaway attitude. No relationship is perfect and people do really funny things when they’re in love. People have odd expectations and behaviors. Maybe some guy always brings flowers to every single meeting. The woman gets creeped and wants to dump him stat. But the man just feels that is what’s right and actual communication would clear up the whole confusion that that roses five times a day is too much.

    Of course there’s always times of abuse or such where immediate action is neccesary, but reasonable discussion to a logical conclusion is always preferred and everyone walks away (if not satisfied) understanding.

  14. ZZ

    I see what you describe here all around me. Bravo, you put it into words beautifully. It’s a sad phenomenon, but excellently put here, and I’m glad someone finally said it out loud.

  15. Quote

    ?People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.” – Audrey Hepburn

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