Two Thursday’s ago, while reading The New York Times’ Thursday Styles insert — the paper’s only section of veritable content — I learned something new: Apparently, the U.S. economy is not doing so hot. I was somewhat shocked to read this, as my life has not noticeably changed in the past year. I was also bewildered that I had not been informed about this seemingly legitimate crisis earlier, and that, especially in this election season, I had not heard anything about it on the news.
I learned of these rough times by reading that sales were down 15.8 percent at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf, 10.9 percent at Saks, and 9.6 percent at Nordstrom. Another article also stated that the upcoming holiday shopping season is projected to be one of the worst since the recession in the 1980s. Things must not be right if even the educated and privileged are cutting back; Lord only knows what is happening to those Joes (six-packs and plumbers) all around the nation I keep hearing about.
Upon reflection, my life probably has not been affected by all this economic mumbo-jumbo because my parents have secure jobs and a ton of money. My father works for national security and my mother works part-time as an alcoholic and part-time emulating Cindy McCain’s pill popping antics of yesteryear. They have both held their respective positions for 20-plus years, so they are not going anywhere soon (unless my mother’s liver finally gives out; then, I suppose, she would have to retire to the family morgue).
While shopping during fall break in D.C. for clothing I did not need, want, or have room for in my life, I too felt affected by our nation’s hard times. Or, more accurately, I wanted to feel affected (because pretending is always fun). I altered my spending habits so I could empathize with most Americans and also have another thing to complain about. For example, I wanted to buy an $1,100 Theory leather jacket, but instead I settled for a $350 G. Star Raw military inspired piece. The whole rest of the day, I just couldn’t stop thinking, “Jeez, times are rough!”
Later, while carrying several garment bags out of the mall, a bum asked me if I could spare some change. Now usually I just act as though I cannot see poor people, but in the spirit of the times I put my hand on his shoulder, hung my head a bit and said, “You know, man, I really wish I could, but this economy has got me down too, you know?” I proceeded to give him the most compassionate look I could muster and a meaningful shoulder squeeze. As I turned and began to walk away I heard the man utter, “God bless you.” It warmed my heart. I realized that this desperate economic period has an upside: It is helping to unify all Americans.
It has since been suggested that the man probably said, “God damn you,” but I choose not to believe that.
Upon my return to Cornell, I no longer had to feign economic harship. I live with nine others in a late 19th century home that is anything but heat-efficient. I am uncertain if finances are legitimately tight for my seemingly inhuman housemates — or if they actually prefer to eat breakfast while wearing cutoff gloves and wool hats — but the heat has still not been turned on. They mention how expensive oil is and say that the house isn’t “that cold,” even as their liar breath is visible.
In order to combat their cruel and unusual stance, I have had to take certain measures to live through the night. I incessantly gripe about the cold, which keeps me active and my heart rate up; I take a shot of whiskey after dinner every half-hour until I go to sleep; I sometimes run the shower in my private bathroom as hot as it will go for up to an hour-and-a-half (until all the house’s hot water runs out — yeah, who’s saving money now?! It actually warms my room significantly, but unfortunately makes it awfully balmy and promotes mold growth); and I have been known to share a bed with the most corpulent person in my house out of pure necessity.
I am unsure when my personal hardship in this economic quagmire will end, or if I will even survive the winter.
What I do know, though, is that we, as a nation, should be incredibly grateful for the no-bullshit reporting of the Thursday Styles section, as it first brought to light the current economic crisis. While major news channels focused on whether pigs, pit bulls or Palin should be wearing lipstick this season, Thursday Styles was astute enough to deduce that the drop in clothing orders by American buyers — such as for French designer Christophe Decarnin’s $3,000 sparkle t-shirts, had greater global economic implications.
You can watch your CNN, MSNBC and FOX news if you simply desire entertainment and fluff, but when it comes to the real issues, I know where I will be getting my once-weekly updates from: The sleuth hero of this troubled period, the Thursday Styles section of The New York Times.