Today I’ll present a case-study: that innocuous little $400.00 crocodile skin wallet. Let’s call him Croc.
It looks harmless enough. In fact, if you like status symbols, this thing is downright seductive. Maybe it represents an image of that chiseled businessman you saw in a Calvin Klein ad. Of course, I’m assuming a male demographic for this one, there’s plenty of Prada purses out there for the ladies.
It won’t actually turn you into that image of visual culture displayed on the ad. But, you’ll feel a little bit closer to that lifestyle you want. Just some basic leather, carefully folded together with a designer logo, has the power to transform your lifestyle. You become higher status, more popular, sexier.
You may wonder how it does this. I mean, it’s a wallet, so it stays in your front pocket most of the time. Nobody sees it unless you whip it out. So, by nature, you should probably buy more things in order to flaunt it, or else nobody will know you have it. However, since it’s still usually kept confidentially on your body, the wallet must possess some kind of magical power, not unlike a shamanic fetish, that provides greater self-esteem and status by the mere fact that it exists in your pocket. Nobody else has to see it, what matters is the effect the wallet has on you .
Unfortunately, our little friend Croc doesn’t provide all of this pleasure without a price. The harmless wallet slowly wraps its tentacles around you and consumes you just like you consumed it, not unlike a parasite.
First and foremost, you’ve attached some of your identity to a hunk of leather. In exchange for the self-gratification it gives you, you’ve given up a piece of your identity, an inevitable outcome when you spend this kind of money on something. It’s no longer just a utilitarian device to hold your business cards and dollar bills, but now it’s the sacred cow of your jeans. Unlike other wallets, you’re continually conscious of this one. You protect it like a child. You find your hand holding on to your upper pant-leg, guarding it in dangerous areas.
Next, whatever self gratification it provides has strings attached. If possessing this wallet creates a certain image that you want, what happens if you lose it? You wouldn’t just have to cancel your credit cards and dig up new business cards, you’d have to go through a mourning process over it. I mean, this was a piece of your identity for christ’s sake! It cost four hundred dollars! Hours of work gone!
With all of the value attached to this thing, the wallet gradually holds you back in life. Planning that vacation to Mexico? Croc taunts you: “Oh, no you don’t. I’m too valuable. You’ll lose me in Mexico, or someone will rob me. Keep me safe, keep things just the way they are. Don’t rattle the boat. You don’t want to make me mad.”
While the wallet itself might not be enough for you to change your lifestyle and vacation plans, if you combine Croc the wallet with Shiny the Rolex, Fancy the shoes, Chuckles the $3,000 DVD collection, and Speedy the Lamborghini, you may find your new friends have overstayed their welcome. It’s now impossible to leave your residence without fear of leaving your treasures behind. And who’s going to clean the bird-droppings off the windows of your three story house while you’re gone?
I’m not advocating to give up material possessions, but I’m saying that next time you’re about to make the decision to pull out the cash on a status symbol, or another piece of equipment that’s going to further tie you down, consider the actual value of the thing. Is it going to provide any real happiness, or are you just wrapping a bandaid around your insecurities and trying to be somebody you’re not?
Instead, think about times you’ve really been happy. I’d guess these memories relate to experiences. It could be that week in the Bahamas or in the California wine country, or it could be spending time with your old friend or family member in Denver. Instead of buying Croc the wallet, use that four hundred on a plane ticket and go do something adventurous, fun, and self-enlightening.
And if you do decide to indulge yourself on objects, just tread carefully. Make sure that you know who has the power in the relationship. Be ready to accept material objects, even that Lamborghini Diablo, inevitably disappear. Do not place your identity and self-worth on the line over a few luxuries. They’re not as valuable as you think they are, and being tied down by too much stuff will come between you and a free lifestyle.