Saturday, August 30, 2008

Who Do You Think We Are, The Rockefellers?

Every time the season changes, my mind turns to fashion. I think about my look for fall and other superficial things. If it were up to me, I'd hit the stores every July and stock pile fall and winter clothes like a squirrel.

As it stands, I grab bits and bobs throughout the year, as needed. I buy summer clothes in the summer, when they're cheap, and avoid anything new while snow is on the ground. As years go by, I spend less-and-less on clothes. I stretch my cost-effective (read: crappy) fabrics out over the course of several seasons, scraping the pills from my sweaters and jazzing up a stale pair of pants with a snappy new pair of socks. It's only at times like this, twice a year when the weather is moderate and lovely, that I'm desperate for clothes. I dream of new jeans and crisp button-downs. I look at magazines and get angry at the accessorized male models. Spring and fall in Toronto are like nothing else: comfortable and fashion-friendly. No smoggy humidity to combat, no slushy gutters to dodge. Just perfect for dressing. Add to this the Pavlovian back-to-school spending urges, and Labour Day Weekend is impossible.

Growing up, whenever my sister and I would suggest spending beyond our means (or if we stood with the fridge door open) my Dad would ask boldly, "Who do you think we are, the Rockefellers?" If he'd been a sitcom character, it would definitely be his catch phrase. It came in many forms; when he was in a good mood, it was funny. When he was in a bad mood, it was not.

We were never the Rockefellers, of this we were painfully aware. Though we weren't poor, we often acted like it. And not for food stamps or pity from the neighbours, we just lived below our means. My parents grew up in a time when money was hard to come by. My Dad lived on a working farm and knew the value of a dollar. My Mom, raised largely by a single mother, didn't have any extra. They plan to retire early and have done well for themselves, so the plan worked. Much to the chagrin of a kid who had to settle for Brooks running shoes.

Once a year, as September approached, we'd head to the mall where we'd scour the racks for fiscally-responsible clothing. While my friends arrived back to class wearing the coolest Hypercolor T-Shirt or Vuarnet sweatshirt, I hit the scene in something considerably less amazing from Bi-Way. In retrospect, I'm fine with this, but being 10 years old, it was torture. The brief pair of years I spent in the Husky Department (see: Fatty Fatty Two By Four, June 2008) created lasting memories, as you can imagine.

I'd like to credit my parents with teaching me important lessons and respect for money, but that wouldn't explain my credit card debt and penchant for namebrand cereals. I think, for a time, I rebelled against their penny-pinching and acted like a Rockefeller. But isn't this what the college years are for? To drink too much, love too much, and spend too much money? That said, if I could turn back time, I'd keep walking past the tables in my college hallways, set up to exploit fresh young credit ratings. The bastards.

Times have changed and though I have a secure job and a steady income, I spend far less than ever. And I don't mind. Except when I'm trying to decide on my look for fall.

(Above: the Rockefellers, 1940s)


  1. Thomas of Washington DCAugust 30, 2008 at 9:12 PM

    What a clever post. Okay. I am starting to get addicted to this blog. :)

  2. i'm preoccupied with what fall fashion in toronto will be when i return. i've been living in perpetual summer for a while and i think i'm unnaturally excited about the prospect of a store window visual that doesn't feature board shorts. my money's on purple as the bold stroke for this fall- or at least i hope- purple is just fine by me.

    what you need to do is fly to bali and come do your back-to-school shopping here with me in the most cost-effective fashion (thought the flight mightn't be the most cost effective)

    i miss you extraordinarily.

  3. Holy Vuarnet throwback!

    I think fall is my favourite shopping season.
    Like you said - so versatile. Light sweaters, scarves, etc.

    There had better still be leaves on the trees by the time I get home.

  4. It has never occurred to me, until now, how much Mrs. Rockefeller looks like Robin Williams in drag.

  5. Hah!
    You're so right, Jory Dayne.

  6. Did you notice how miserable the Rockefellers look in that photo?!

  7. Hey! I wear Brooks running shoes! They are QUALITY ;)

    Also, can we discuss the fact that for girls the fat line was called "Pretty Plus"?? Come ON, Sears! I still have memories about that line. And in my mall it was JUST inside the entrance to Sears to the left. WHERE EVERYONE COULD SEE ME SHOPPING. Ugh. Embarrassing.

    But I should also say that I got sucked into the credit card college bullshit. Everyone shopped at J. Crew--I had never really heard of it prior to landing at Villanova (a university that was the complete opposite of me in EVERY.SINGLE.WAY possible!) Getting the catalogs in the mail was like the second coming of Christ each quarter.

    I swear that I'm still paying for cardigan sets (SETS!) I bought there in 1998.

  8. A good point Ralph, but I believe people are going to have a hard time defending prejudice when the possibility of answering certain kinds of questions with much greater precision increases
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