December 17, 2016

i am not tom ford sunglasses

Huh. I unearthed this old post from my time rambling around India after I left Peace Corps in 2012. Figured I'd post it up.

If I had to describe New Delhi in one word it would be "dirty".  In two words it would "dirty" and "uric."  Uric as in urea. Urea as in urine. Urine as in the whole city smells like urine. But that's neither here nor there at the moment. I didn't come for the aroma, I came for mountains and eye surgery.

I was interested in eye surgery for all the obvious reasons; basketball, surfing, and kissing someone are all done easier without the mechanical interference of glasses.  The price of the surgery, much like everything else in India, is significantly cheaper than in America.  Like a quarter of the cost cheaper. So here I am right now with freshly lasered corneas and I couldn't be happier with how it all worked out.

Naturally one of the first post-op stops was the sun glass store. I wanted a quality pair of shades, I had after all saved quite a bit of money, a pair that would last me for a long time. I was ready to make a sun glass investment. The hunt began in earnest and I made several laps around the store all the while honing in on that perfect pair. I didn't want any branding on the side of the frames, something I find tacky, and I wanted a gentle gradient from light to dark from the bottom to the top of the lens.

Finally settling on the perfect pair I checked the price tag: $450.  Four hundred and fifty dollars? Tom Ford, apparently, can get away with these sorts of things.

I sat there. I marinated. No.  I don't think I can bring myself to do that.  

But I did marinate. I congratulated myself on my impeccable taste, having blindly picked out the most expensive pair of sunglasses in the store. My second choice turned out to be a $300 of Paul Smiths. Which again was three times too much for my liking. It seems that if you don't want someone's name on the side of your frames you have to pay a bunch of money to make that happen. Which is kind of odd right? Spending a bunch of money to keep people from knowing how much you have spent? Well at least people, the majority I would assume, who don't keep up with the subtle branding of high end men's sunglasses.

And this frightens me. I'm frightened by my consideration to actually do something as stupid as pay four hundred and fifty dollars for a pair of sunglasses when I'm unemployed and wandering. I'm frightened that my taste was validated by the price, that I derived satisfaction in my "expensive taste." I'm frightened that I'm still thinking about those sunglasses even after I begrudgingly bought a $40 pair. I'm frightened to once again be a consumer.

Being free from the American consumer influence has been one of the quiet pleasures of my time in Uganda and carrying that experience forward is proving an uncomfortable challenge. I'm once again reminded that without Product This or Product That I am not good enough. Strangers will overlook me and women will find me boring, bland and undesirable. Changing cultures means changing parts of myself. Where once my white skin was adornment enough, now I'm weighed by my choices of clothes, watches, sunglasses and consumer electronics.  

How do you find the balance between style and substance? Appearance and essence?  

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