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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nice Things

"Why can't I ever have anything nice!?!" was my Mother's favorite rant.  Either we had broken something she had or we(I) had gone through her make-up.  Whatever we had done you could feel her sense of frustration in trying to maintain a sense of self, style and status.  Invariably whatever was broken was something of personal value. 

Recently I purchased an expensive car, not my first mind you but I think the it's the first thing in my life that I bought that although I could afford it, it is completely impractical and a luxury in every sense of the word. It's a small German, red convertible.  Since I work at home it is rarely driven except for short runs to the public pool and on balmy weekend afternoons. It's the first thing I've ever bought that generates pride, shame, guilt, pleasure and panic all at the same time. 

Don't get me wrong, I love this "thing".  As an American man, it represents decades of longing and working for a vehicle that shows off years of work and education.  As a Miamian I have entered the large shallow pool of status symbols where brand names soothe the city's large population of exiles and refugees of past deprivations and indignities. As a man of a "certain age" it makes me feel virile. As a gay man it just screams "fabulous".

However, there is a downside. Unlike other vehicles I've recently owned (a string of luxury station wagons), this one seems so much more precious. Mostly because it was purchased for ego and not utility. It is like that pair of Prada loafers that you won't wear because they're "too nice."  When I see the homeless guy at the red light asking for money, I feel nothing but shame. (As a good liberal elite should) When I'm told that the brand is nothing but a status symbol, all I can think of is "yes, but the red leather interior is not available in Korean". Even worse is the disdain I feel for all the jerks who drive the same brand I do. 

I can't relax when I drive it. I clench my teeth and grip the wheel and pray I make it home without a scratch or dent.  I never worried about these things when I was loading up my European wagons full of teenagers and animals. It's like those little china tea cups my mother had locked in the china cabinet. I'm sure she shuddered at the thought of anyone actually drinking out of them.  So as I drive my topless "mid life crisis around I am worried.  Then last night the car alarm went off and all I could think was  "why can't I ever have anything nice.? Sigh.