I’m fascinated by some of the words and expressions that have been coined by what some PR types (like me) have euphemistically called the recent “downturn.” My favorites are “chiconomics” and “recessionista,” since it’s fun and consoling to think you can stay stylish while being frugal.
But after reading Maureen Dowd’s editorial earlier in the week, I fear that the term “affluenza,” taken from the PBS program and book of the same name, is more appropriate for many New Yorkers. We’ve overindulged in consumerist behavior to our detriment and are now undergoing a kind of “detox” just as the banking system tries to do the same. But there are some rewards to changing habits.
As a consumer, I run to extremes. When the market started to melt down last year, I clamped a tight lid on discretionary spending – the headlines and my own tendency to catastrophize had me watching every penny. It was so draconian that I recently either slipped up or rebelled in the form of a minor gift-buying spree at the Gap, a store so ubiquitous and utilitarian that I never thought of it as anything but a note on my to-do list. But, after months of relative restraint, and given that I tend to buy everything online at, say, midnight, it was mildly thrilling to walk into a store in the middle of the day and dig through spring tops and brightly-colored spring accessories. The sheer frivolity of a shopping errand that a year ago would have been utterly ordinary was a tonic, and I’m not even ashamed. I may even do it again.