Looking Expensive for as Cheap as Possible

by - Tuesday, May 09, 2017

This week, I have been slightly obsessed with this blog McMansion Hell.

One of the things I love about it is that it makes middle class consumption look ridiculous. When you think about it, this always happens without much help. Trends often look silly in retrospect (until they are a trend again. Looking at you, scrunchies). You may debate now whether your lularoe leggings are pants, but a few years from now it will be so clear. They are not, and your hooha is showing.

What makes these McMansion send ups so satisfying is that they are taking down the same attitude this blog is fighting everyday. Just in a funnier way. These mcmansions, laden with pointless space and tasteless yet inexplicable embellishment reveal an unspoken goal of American life:

The goal to look as rich as possible for as cheap as possible.

How many people do you know that love a good sale? Or who live in a house WAY bigger than they need? We want to look like we have it going on, but for as cheaply as possible, because the list of things you "need" to project success is pretty long.

Hardly any of us would own this (but we are all guilty, myself included), but you can see the results everywhere.

Conspicuous consumption is a normal part of our lives. It's why people can say "Jesus is the reason for the season" but still go crazy on Black Friday. It's why fast fashion exists- being able to keep up with trends is more associated with wealth than buying things of high quality.

This "in the know" ness is seen as having a lot of value, having a lot or what is new matters most. Maybe we recognize things are temporary, so we want to be on point in the moment. We want to have it all now, without having to worry about the future.

In fact, one of the places where this comes into play most is weddings. Weddings are designed to look grand and expensive, and this often creates really crazy expectations.

It doesn't matter what your walk of life, all the sudden you are supposed to be a princess throwing a grand ball. How much of that "wedding industrial complex" is about creating as many boxes to check as possible? Your napkins need to be personalized for goodness sakes!

And if you have 10 things to do, you can do it pretty well. Once it is 100 or 300 or 500 things, you start looking for deals, It's the plastic "crystal" or the cheap synthetic ballgown.

We were guilty of this too in our own way (and we still are) but how much power could we return to our own life by just calling things what they are and refusing to play these games? How do you decide what is really important to you and do that well instead of trying to do everything as cheaply as possible?

For example, can't afford a ball wedding? Why not just have a really amazing picnic wedding you did really well? Or a church wedding with the reception in the building?

The Best Weddings

The best weddings I have been to are unabashedly that couple. Like you could lift them out and still guess whose wedding it was. They are great reminders to me that you don't have to make a wedding expensive to be a good host. I would rather go to a warm home party with hosts that make you feel comfortable than the fanciest night of my life where I didn't feel like I belonged.

What's your favorite wedding you have been to? What's the fanciest?

It's good to remember as we plan a wedding, a party, or even just our life that we judge ourselves with different and harsher criteria than we judge others. We would all be better off avoiding the McMansion life, laden with trends, pointless spaces, and posturing to look as expensive as possible.

Instead, why not think about what we actually need and what actually makes us happy?

What if we stopped chasing trends and prioritized what will last?

What if we stopped fetishizing the new?

What if we let go of the idea that more is better?

What if we just stopped conflating our identities with our stuff?

Easier said than done,  I know, but it is worth thinking about, especially when you are feeling that pressure to buy, buy, buy.

And seriously, no one in the world has ever had a good time with personalized napkins. They are the McMansions of weddings. Just, no. Just, don't.

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