The Tyranny of Nice Things

Who doesn’t like nice things?

I love my material luxuries, particularly the ones I don’t deserve and have no business possessing. I constantly yearn to possess nice things. Not just for the prestige points having such nice things about earns you amongst your friends and society at large; rather, it’s the unadulterated aesthetic pleasure that possessing nice things can bring.

Although you may not be as unabashedly materialistic as I am, I’m sure you, whoever you are, also like a nice thing or two. Unless you’re an ascetic who has renounced the material world, you too suffer this unholy affliction, the need to possess things, the nicer the better. You might go weak for designer wear. Then again, your Achilles heel could be a well-crafted shoe. You covet that high performance sound system you saw in a catalogue, or perhaps day-dream of cruising the highways in a classic car. At this very moment, you and your mate could very well be saving up to update your kitchen, because who doesn’t want cabinets by Poggenpohl?

The problem with nice things is that for every ounce of pleasure they bring you and every modicum of pride they stir in your bosom, they exert an equal and opposite pressure upon their possessor: worry, apprehension, and the need to keep those nice things as nice as possible.

That ephemeral floor length Alberta Ferretti gown you just bought? Better not wear that to tonight’s soirée — someone might spill a drink on it, or worse yet, your very own heels could poke a horrible, gaping hole through the fabric. A stain can be treated by a dry cleaner but pierce that organza and you’ve shot yourself in the foot.

The Prada ballet flats you bought earlier this season still sit in their box. You’re saving them up for some special occasion. When you finally break them out for whatever occasion it is you deem fit, you’ll make sure to wear your heavily-worn everyday shoes to and from the venue. Your fancy flats will remain un-scuffed, pristine, virginal, transported to and fro in a cloth shoe bag (most certainly not in an undignified plastic bag!).

Should you obtain that glorious  sound system, I wager you’ll be adding many an add-on to enhance your overall listening experience, to make sure your technology isn’t obsolete, to sync up all your devices, to have sound pipe its way into every room in the house. You’ll leave the cleaning lady explicit instructions to not fiddle around with the knobs or disturb the wires and plugs (and they’re always disturbing the wires with their incessant vacuuming aren’t they?), but to make sure to dust it thoroughly.

And Mr. Muscle Car — well, you’ll probably take intense pride in your machine — wax, buff and shine it. Do other car stuff to it so that its engine hums like a jaguar’s purr.a Feel nauseated at the thought of a teenage miscreant taking a key to your lustrous paint job. Every day you leave the house, fearing the prospect of being involved in a road accident, not because of the danger it might present to your health, your life, but the damage a collision could inflict on your baby’s bodywork. Better keep that vehicle in the garage my friend, and buy a Ford Fiesta for your daily commute.

And the Poggenpohl couple? Well, they’ve yet to cook a thing ever since they installed their new kitchen — it’s only been seven months — and they’re trying their utmost to keep that stove top shiny and new. They sit at the kitchen table, with containers of takeout, the comforts of a home cooked meal long forgotten, traded in and up for the subtle sounds of their kitchen drawers slide shut — now that’s soft-close technology.

Even as we call them our own, our nice things can rule over us. Eager to protect their plastic perfection, their flawless forms, we conform our behaviour to coddle our goods so that they never have to face the realities of everyday wear and tear. But what’s the point of having something if you can’t use it? What exactly is the point of possession, if it is not utility?

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  1. I know very little about cars, so “car stuff” will have to suffice as a placeholder for various vehicle maintenance activities.  (back)
  2. This rant is brought to you courtesy of my parent’s brand new, lovely furniture, which has resulted in the unjust sequestering of my cats to the basement and garden areas, to the exclusion of the rest of the house.

    It’s true, these particular cats have an almost magical knack for the ruination of expensive upholstery.

    But to be deprived their favourite haunts in the house? Oh, the cruelty! The humanity! Is fat Benjamin no longer permitted to loiter beneath the dining room table? Will Jebediah’s skulking, needy presence in the day room while my parents take their coffee no longer be suffered?

    Better that they had bought those sofas from Ikea than sit upon those silken and velvet cushions, cat-less and alone.  (back)