Saturday, May 21, 2011

Am I a grumpy old lady before her time?

I cracked yesterday.

I went to the price club and loathe going. At the end of the shop, I’ve a cart hauling about 500 lbs of merchandise; so heavy this cart needs to be hit dead on with a 50-yard sprint just to get the darn thing moving. Strategic parking is mandatory, a straight line from the exit. Maneuvering a cart that heavy would be like parallel parking an eighteen-wheeler with no power steering. I don’t have the upper arm strength to manage that nor do I want it.

The irony is I go to the price club because it lessens trips to the grocery store. I don’t like grocery stores either. The bright lights, white walls and white linoleum makes me think of other places that we really don’t want to associate with food. An ER? A surgery room? Let your mind wander and it won’t go to a happy place. I actually heard “I want to be sedated” by The Ramones once in a grocery store. How apropos.

I pine for the open markets shown on travel shows on PBS. I imagine the aromas, the bartering and the colors. I think, “Now that is living.” And, how cool is it to meet the person who baked the bread or sun dried the peppers? Imagine the knowledge they impart to their customers and the pride they take in their product.

Regardless, I’m still trying to reconcile what happened yesterday.

Television has never been front stage in the Golightly home. It is only on when we watch it. We don’t have cable and probably watch about five shows a week. To me, television is not an experience. It doesn’t need to be high definition or huge. I don’t need a home theater. I get more from a good read. Really, I do.

Again, yesterday I cracked.

I pushed my behemoth cart into the first section of le price club, electronics. Down the canyon of televisions I drove and in less than three minutes picked up a 19” flat screen LED television/DVD player and casually tossed it in my cart. It was $200 (40 times my Flinch Point) and weighed less than the box laundry detergent on my list. Just about a year ago it would have probably cost three times more.

In a trance I came home and hauled our 10, possibly 15-year-old television and DVD player to the thrift store. My oldest daughter was thrilled to have a new television but showed a deep concern in witnessing this from her mother. Karma did catch up with me for in my state, I forgot to remove the DVD in the old player and had to go back to the thrift. It’s fine to donate my items, but I don’t think it’s right to donate things that don’t belong to me like a DVD from the Denver Public Library.

Mr. Golightly saw the new television and told me it wasn’t big enough. So off he went to the canyon lands of electronics. Now we have a 36” giant. To me, that’s huge! I don’t like it. I am so sorry to have ever acted so impulsively for I know there is no turning back without family dissent. Guess I got what was coming. Now when in the room with the electronic beast, it’s all I see.

It's in a small, cozy little room in our 111 year home. With the old furniture and lamps mixed with funky curios it screams, "I don't belong here!"

Then there is this other part of me that struggles with what my daughter’s feel when they go over to the homes of their friends. Do they notice the hu-gantic televisions? Do they like them? The Wii? The Xbox? Does my frugality and want of a simple life embarrass them?

It’s frustrating. I know my daughter would hands down want to ride a real horse over a virtual. Given we live in downtown Denver and don’t have a stable out back, a virtual horse would be more convenient. But what would a virtual horse give her? Skills? Just some hollow un-experience?

I struggle almost daily with expanding technology and how the products on the market indicate our cultural priorities. What will my great grandchildren be doing or eating? Just how far can we push the limits of technology before we lose the things that once brought us satisfaction, pride and worthwhile skill?

Oh, I can’t wait to get my girls off to summer camp in the Adirondacks! For four weeks they will genuinely live in an honest moment and they won’t need a phone, text, television, computer, Ipod, GPS system or radio to do so. They want action? They play real games. Music? They sing. Navigate? Orienteering with a compass. Write? Use a pencil. Converse? Talk face to face.

In the meanwhile, we’ll watch movies on the electronic beast that now resides in our home.

I’m certain many people think I’m over reacting. I’ve been in homes where the television truly takes up half the room and the people on the TV are larger than life and they think it wonderful.

Have you ever cracked and then regretted it because there’s no going back? What do you think about the expanding technologies and what it’s doing to our children, our pocketbooks and our landfills? Yes, there are pros and cons. But are they in balance? I fear not. Does that make me sound like “grumpy old lady”?

Post Script:
I believe that 36" monster is the root of my new found craving for over-processed empty calories. Now hand over the Twizzlers and Dots. Supersize them please.


suzieQ said...

I think you need to relax a bit. Television can be horrible, but it can also be entertaining. I watch mostly PBS, the History channel and yes, some guilty pleasures. There is no better program than American Experience and I would be upset if I couldn't watch Nova, Frontline or Jon Stewart and The Colbert Show. I live alone, so television is cheap entertainment for me. I am very selective about what I watch and I must say, I have learned many things from television. I understand your concerns for your children and I watched many, many programs with my own children (I know many songs from Sesame Street after all these years) and we talked about commercials and how Madison Avenue wants to control your mind. Moderation in all things, including moderation.

Harper said...

I don't think it's a huge deal that you bought a new television, as long as it doesn't become a bi-yearly routine like it is in much of America. It's fine to upgrade as long as you make use of it. You can get a great number of years out of that tv set and the LED technology uses less electricity than many older sets.

Of course, that being said, it's important to not give that TV undue power over your life. For example, the commercials challenging your current dietary lifestyle-- consider making use of DVR so you can skip over those want-creating commercials.

A bigger TV can be a sign of wanting to show materialistic status, but it can also be a great tool for view the educational or enriching programs that the TV set can also bring us. Let me just say, that watching Globe Trekker in HD or Planet Earth in HD is absolutely riveting. While you can say it is a placebo for experience I think it also incites a fire for what is out there in the world and encourages wonder.

Shopping Golightly said...

Ah Suzie and Harper,

You both mention many of my favorite shows! Nova and Globetrkker (especially when Ian hosts). Frontline is riveting.American Experience! Did see the recent "Soundtrack for a revolution" documenting the songs of the Civil Rights movement.

Yes, it's entirely disgusting to watch the erectile dysfunction commercials that plague our other favorite show, CBS Sunday Morning with Bob Osgood.

I'm nervous about the on demand movies from Netflix.

When I was single in Boston, I yanked cable. The quality of my life exploded. Instead of lying on the couch watching Mystery Science Theater 3,000 ad naseum, I went for bike rides on Cape Ann.

Perhaps the Surgeon General could issue a warning about the health hazards televisions promote, like complete inactivity.

Sassy said...

Don't beat yourself up over this purchase. I think as long as you will consistently use it, then surely you should't regret the purchase. :) Enjoy it.

Mr. Golightly said...

I'm glad to see the posts so far. We've been TV frugal (and are still cable/dish-less), so while it's worse that what we had, I don't think it's all that bad.

I need to correct something off the bat. Our old TV was a standard 20", very modest TV recycled from the thrift store, and it during its amortized lifetime, it set us back about 33 cents a month.

The new one is 32", NOT 36", which probably makes me sound defensive. It's still one of the smaller ones on the rack, and I'd place it firmly in the lower end of the modest category.

But, it's not the screen dimensions, it's what you do with it. By and large we'll still watch the same PBS shows, the DVD's from the library, but still get our $7.99's worth of Netflix's choice of mostly older TV shows and movies. If anything, that's where we sold out a little.

It' like the grocery store. You can buy the Scrapple, the fatback, or the fried chicken livers from the deli, or you can choose to do the right thing and alleviate guilt. Same with TV,or any technology for that matter. People spend more way more than twice as much on an iPad, plus pay killer monthly fees (hey - another rationalization - I'm pretty good at this!).

Our relative (to ourselves) splurge is still well below the average American's *monthly* car payment, and I don't foresee replacing this electronic beast for many, many years. What makes me think so? The last new TV we bought was 13 years ago, a small model via a friend that worked at Sony.

I will agree with my lovely spouse that it looks a little out of place, but doesn't any TV in a 110 year old home filled with eclectic stuff?

I am happy to say that amongst the leftover pile Netflix gives you for free is the Monty Python collection. Now Po and Pi will be able to understand their father's stupid jokes a lot better.

Beth said...

What an interesting post. (As usual.)

I have a 27-inch Sony TV that my parents bought for me when I moved into my first apartment. In 1994. It still works just fine, so while I've done a little research and wandered among the widescreen TVs, I've never bought one because I can't justify replacing something that works, not to mention that it fits perfectly into a space on my built-ins, and I'm not sure where I'll put a widescreen TV someday when this thing decides to stop working.

Then again, my cell phone is four years old, too. I joke to friends that I like to stay at least three years behind the technology curve.

I don't think your kids are missing out on anything. They get their electronic fixes at the homes of their friends. And when they're a bit older, they're really going to appreciate that they had parents who made the time for them to do "real" things. They're going to remember experiences like riding a horse. They're not going to remember what game they played on Wii.

And heck, a 32-inch TV is downright diminutive these days. I was looking at a 42-inch number and thought that seemed small. And then realized that that was ridiculous.

Kay said...

oh the up side, you are using much less energy than the old fashioned one.

We're still using a 11 yr old one that DH bought when he lived in Michigan.. But I think of the energy this one uses and wonders if it would be better to upgrade to a LCD screen .. and when we go there, I'm sure DH wouldn't want a tiny one either..

You'll be fine, Golightly! you are already going light in many many ways.

Alex M said...

I feel for you... I hate big televisions! I work in the IT industry but when I am not at work, I want to be low-tech. I can't afford nor do I want a Blackberry. Yet there is increasing pressure for me to have one. So, I'm thinking of taking a lower-tech and lower paying job. I do not want to be chained to gadgets and the latest entertainment fad.

We might switch to a new flat-screen television when we move this year because the old one weighs a ton, but we won't go to a bigger screen because I don't need my living room to look like a theater.

Jennifer said...

I admit, that could have been me writing that article(except about the grocery shopping). We bought computers for our high school kids because they were studious and used the computer for homework and a few games. Two years later, they are Facebook monsters!!! I SOOOO regret giving them the computers sometimes. We do have a big TV though because, though we aren't avid TV watchers, a good movie on a high quality TV IS an experience. As a family of seven, going to the movies is a rare occurrence.
I think it is quite normal, as we are on a road to a simpler life, to once in a while get diverted and confused. We live in a modern era that has some very interesting things going on. We just have to weed through the good and the bad. Don't worry about the TV. Watch a great movie on it! (We don't have a Wii though and there is NO WAY we're buying one). :-)

Beth said...

I've been considering a switch to a flat screen TV for the last two years. My current TV is very deep for my small "family room," so a flat screen will introduce some livability improvements as well. The idea that I might save a bit on energy is also appealing. If I make the move, my 9-year-old TV and DVD/VCR will have a new life in my basement work/exercise area, which will give me more use of another room--again, not a bad thing. The trouble with upgrading is often knowing where to stop. My cable bill is $10 per month (necessary for reception) and other than PBS, I rely on movies from the library or that I collect from thrifts or house sales. (Netflix may be the next frontier, though.) My commitment to keeping service bills low is helping me leverage my entertainment budget to make this technology and lifestyle move.

Shopping Golightly said...

Oh! Amen on the cell phone! I've had one -for reasons I won't go into- for seven years. I don't like it. It's primary benefit? My children don't have to wait two hours before I get home to pick up the message that they are sick.

I was actually quite proud this Saturday. It seems that, as I grow older, I'm inheriting some of my grandmother's quit wit. Clips of words so easily fall from her lips that sum up things right fast and leave little to no room for debate.

Mr. Golightly was coaxing me into using the installed GPS in the commuter car. To that I replied, "Well the pioneers made it out here with out a GPS."

Had he replied that many pioneers died, I would have noted that I came close to that in a teen-related auto accident on my way home from the grocery store. Literally just a few inches saved me from a gruesome death.

Perhaps some day I need to write up a list of my grandmother's witticisms and -should she grant me permission- post them. It's an arsenal for a being a woman, wife and mother. On the counter part, I would need to write up my grandfather's quiet mantra on being a man, husband and father.

Shopping Golightly said...


Little Pie rode Cupcake last Saturday. Surprisingly the riding lessons are nowhere near what I would have expected, a good load less than a new pair of blue jeans. Maybe it's the Recession.

But, I do believe that it worth more than the cost of a Wii, subsequent items and continual upgrades. Again one of those things where the higher value goes to the lesser expense.

Little Pie's one on one experiences with Cupcake are channeling a deeper interest and she reads novels about horses and knows more about them than I ever have - this she elected to seek out on her own from the library.

Nostalgic in Maine said...

You could always look for a beautiful old armoire to store the vinyl monster in when it is not in use. Would probably make your 100+ year living room a lot more stylish :-) I also cringe when I see big "ugly" gadgets in older homes that emphasize period details like door knobs, lol.

Anonymous said...

I think 32" is a good size for the newer TVs. For some reason, the picture seems harder to focus on with the new TVs, than it did with the older style.

I recently upgraded to a 32" flat screen HDTV. No cable or broadcast, just streaming internet (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) I worried that I was buying something I didn't need, but now I'm really glad I went ahead and bought the new technology. I think it is an appropriate time to upgrade.

Anonymous said...

We have gadgets, oh, yes we do!

But I don't have (much) problem with them:

DH, DD#2, and I use streaming Netflix when we exercise. ($50 elliptical machine from the thrift).

In the evening, DH often surfs to figure out our next house renovation while I sit next to him and read knitting blogs on my laptop.

When we did our kitchen renovation, we ordered numerous pieces online.

Computers enhance school assignments. We use the computer to coordinate with the public school system.

And, for homeschooling, we have a video math program that distills my work into a manageable chunk. We use a computerized typing program. We even used a computerized foreign language program for a while.

I keep my school logs on the computer (backed up on another drive as well). I use Quicken, Excel, and Turbo Tax for managing money. I use email to update the family, and I store a lot of knitting patterns on my laptop.

We all have iPods:
DH uses his for audiobooks
DD#1 uses hers for music.
DD#2 uses hers for games.
I use mine for watching movies while I'm waiting in the car. Wait for the kid to finish her dog-care job. Wait for religious ed class to let out. Wait to meet DH for a lunch date. etc.

We all have cell phones, too. DD#1 texts ... um ... frequently. It's how her friends communicate. DD#2 (homeschooled) uses hers to coordinate with me. ("Mom, art class is over; should I take the bus home or wait for Dad?") DH and I have already spoken twice today.

Having said all that, I DO have to police some things, but, my oldest will be 18 next year. I'm glad that I had the chance to discuss the media out there before she hits the firestorm of college independence.

Overall, I'm glad for the gadgets.


Anonymous said...

Your columns are always right on. I feel the same as you. If I had it my way, cable tv would be banned from my home but I don't know if the stress of family dissent would be worth it. It can be hard to live by your principles when you have children - although our children should inspire us to stick to our principles even more so. But I'm not tough - I'm fair and realistic. Thanks for the thoughtful column.

Anonymous said...

No -- I agree. I sold our hand me down TVs at a yard sale this spring. I haven't missed them one bit and regret all the time spent watching just to kill time. I now occasionally watch something downloaded on the computer but I am much more careful that it is truly something I will enjoy and not just a time killer. I find that after we had it turned off for two weeks my children were nicer to one another, played with more imagination, and generally just seemed happier. We are a very average , conventional, suburban family so it really wasn't a political or a fashionable decision just one that feels really right for us. I'm glad I made it.

Kim said...

You can relax about the TV. You only need to worry about this if you find yourself scheduling your day around watching any of the "Real Housevives of..." shows.

Sherrie said...

I wouldn't worry too much about the new TV. You'd probably have to get a new one eventually anyway. I think a big screen is a great way to watch dvds. No, it doesn't integrate seamlessly and invisibly into an old interior. It's ugly, agreed - though beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's just such a great thing to have. A friend of mine lives in a late 19th century farmhouse that's been renovated over the years, filled with antiques and old stuff from thrift and consignments shops, and yes a gigantic screen tv in there, too. If you are going to be super controlling about your environment's appearance, then you have to hide the TV. If you are going to be comfortable and happy in your environment, and want others to be as well, then you have to accept the ugliness of electronics. Grown ups need camp, too. A few weeks of no TV, internet, etc. Just as a break. :-)

Shopping Golightly said...

Breaking news!

We are really close to chucking streaming Netflix! Too much like cable! All it does is give us topics to squabble about - which movie to watch out of a gazillion - many of them not worth watching.

When we go to the library and come home with FREE movies, once at home, we pick from about four. No squabbles.

Sherrie said...

I get free movies from the library, too, as well as old BBC productions on dvd. When I rent a dvd it's from a redbox kiosk outside the grocery store. Very convenient, but also most of them much worth watching. I am interested in maybe three or four out the entire redbox selection. Other than this, I'm very happy with no cable at all. My husband has it so he can watch sports games. I have a small tv in a guest room that only has a digital converter box on it (did that all by myself, so proud!) and it picks up plenty of channels, including two or three pbs ones. I don't need cable.

Sherrie said...

I meant to say "not much worth watching" above. :-/

Shabby Vintage Junk said...

Mr SVJ & I had cable for ONE year about four years ago....When our contract was up we disconnected & refusing to sign up again....We had become CABLE JUNKIES....We watched lifestyle & sci-fi every waking hour we were at home & had NO idea what was going on in the world as we SKIPPED the news....hahahahaha....I laugh now but it WAS a little sad....!!

I don't see that happening with you though Lovey....You are MUCH to clever to allow yourself to become immersed in shiny SHINY world of TV Land....!!

Cheers from Australia,
Tamarah :o)