"Things"-people... help me understand.

My Wife has developed a taste for higher quality clothes. We go to three different Goodwills at least once a week to hunt for them. It is taking a while but she looks damn sharp.
I haven’t bought a pair of jeans in about three years, but I do not wear jeans every day. I would worry about a pair that only lasted one year and would seriously consider buying a more durable pair next time, but I think of jeans as things I wear while doing yard work.
We are both “the car is an appliance” people, which is why we drive Nissans. Decent, troublefree transportation. Turned the 2001 Honda over to the Older Daughter this fall.

In our family, my husband is the thing person. He got very annoyed with me a few weeks ago because the thing I wanted for Christmas only cost fifty dollars. He explained to me that Christmas gifts must be literally awesome and amazing, not just, you know, stuff you want. His idea was to replace my wedding ring with a Really Big One! Apparently he had forgotten that when we got married, I originally lobbied for a ring with no stone.

A few years ago we had a disagreement when I asked for some costume jewelry for my birthday, and he bought not one, but two genuine articles.

He wants to replace my paid-for car with a status-symbol vehicle.

We are never going to see eye to eye on this issue, although I have gotten to the point where I grudgingly admit there are quality differences in clothing…

I’m not a “thing” type person, either. I tell my husband to skip the jewelry and take me somewhere instead. In recent years, we’ve traveled to San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix, Sedona, Charleston, Maui, Oahu, Big Island, and St. John. Our ideal vacation day would be to eat breakfast in our villa (I much prefer villas with kitchens over hotel rooms), then pack a lunch and hike/snorkel/explore the area until late afternoon. Back for a shower and then dinner. A few nights we’ll visit a local restaurant, other nights we’ll pop open a bottle of wine and grill out. If the place has a hot tub, that’s an awesome way to end the day. Because I accumulate miles and get most of our airfare paid with points, our getaways end up being very reasonable – especially when we can split the cost of lodging, groceries, and rental car with friends.

I will say that in this economy, I’ve witnessed that people who are into “things” are having a much more difficult time adjusting to job losses, pay reductions, etc. than “experience” type people. Because there are places within a few hours drive of my home that could satisfy my wanderlust, it’s easy for me to “cut back” and still feel content. When you get deep satisfaction out of accumulating “things,” then it’s more difficult.

This is just one of those things where neither side will ever truly understand the other. Like being gay or straight, monogamous or poly, loving or hating cilantro…you can intellectually understand the theory behind the other side, but you’ll never truly get it at the visceral level.

I have to disagree with this, sorry.

I get what you’ve saying, of course. But I think there is a chance for people to truly get it, at a very visceral level. In fact, I suspect anyone who’s had a tornado, peel a house off of their cowering family, only to survive, but lose everything, is getting an object lesson in this exact thing. And, I suspect, anyone who’s survived a similar experience, has a radically different relationship to ‘stuff’, than they had prior.

On the bright side, she married you. Take it as a compliment.

I vacillate between the two states of “need thing” and “get rid of things”. Part of this is because I’ve been mostly broke my entire adult life. The other part is that frequent moves while broke and living in very limited space has caused me to really evaluate what things I really need to manage my life and be happy. Even my book collection has been cut, which I swore I would never do.

There are two things that come to mind when I get fixated on the idea of a specific Thing. The first is tribal affiliation. I am This Sort of Person. I belong to That Group. As evidence, I own This Thing. It may be a car, an iPhone, a pair of shoes, or even just a bumper sticker. It signals to others which tribe you belong to and gives other members of that tribe the opportunity to acknowledge you and bond.

The second is that sometimes the Thing is an Experience in and of itself. I don’t know a damn thing about Escalades, but there have been occasions where I have splurged on what others thought was foolishness. One of them was an expensive wool coat - black, hooded, A-line swing, fur trimmed. But by Og, every time I put that coat on, there was a reminding blip of “I choose YOU!” and “Awesome Coat is AWESOME!” I got a lot of compliments wearing that coat. It looked good on me. I felt pretty and graceful and fashionable while wearing it - which is a rarity in my day-to-day life.

One of my friends has described the same thing about an apartment she rented. It was just a bit out of her price range - spacious, well laid out, and in a really great building in a fantastically neat part of town. She had to really trim other parts of her budget. One thing she said, though, was that every time she put her key in the door, a little part of her brain went “Yay! Home! Home is cool!” in a happy-happy voice that she never heard when she looked at the other apartment.

So, your wife may be Experiencing her Thing as opposed to your style of making a Thing of Your Experience. She may be looking at your desires and thinking “he wants to go to all that trouble and spend money on something that will be over in a few days? Is he nuts?”, not understanding that your memories or pictures or journals of The Experience provide the same thrill that her experience of The Thing do for her.

Which side are you coming down on here? I assume you mean to say that those people will minimize the value they put on “stuff,” but on the other hand, if your roof blows off you can sell the Rolex on your wrist but you can’t sell your vacation you took five years ago.

The exception that proves the rule :smiley:
Wanted to say thanks to everyone for the input. Lots to think about and some interesting perspectives to mull over.

This is pretty much the best explanation in this thread for the Thing Person Perspective.

The amusing thing about wanting to drive an Escalade because of the cachet is it is nothing but a tarted up Tahoe (or Suburban if it is a ESV). It is the very example of GM’s badge engineering. I could somewhat understand a Mercedes or BMW.

I think there is a false characterization of the “thing” side of the argument. I spent $20.00 on a cordless drill from Harbor Freight. The label said it was “just as good as” the Makita drill which my “thing-obsessed” professional contractor has. Guess what, it wasn’t just as good.

Spending more money on things does not make you a foolish snob. Sometimes quality costs money. My father always bought store-brand ice cream at the grocey store when I was growing up. He said it was “just as good as” the Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Das. It wasn’t. Am I an over-consuming ugly American for noticing the difference?

Related threadover in Cafe Society about rich douchebags and the magazines that love them (i.e., Guitar Aficionado praising some rich guitar owner a lot more than the guitars themselves as tools).

When “things” = “I want it because other folks say it conveys status” I get cringey. But buying a pricey tool that you can use or buying for quality? I can get behind that…

I’m pretty poor, and out of wiseness, I spend the little money I have on food, gas, and bills.


I grew up pretty close to one of my grandfathers. He was well-off financially and he spoiled the crap out of me and let me have just about anything I wanted. I wore all the namebrand clothes and shoes and he got me a nice car for my 18th birthday.

Being on both sides of the fence, let me tell you…that the more expensive things you own, the better you’ll be treated, in general. The exceptions, are the really jealous and resentful.

When I said treated better…I don’t only mean being treated better by your peers or “tribe”, but when it comes to much more dire shit. People are more likely to help you if have a flat, you are more likely to be hired on jobs, it’s easier to make new friends, cops/security are less likely to harrass you, etc.

I’m not sure why some people don’t understand this desire to have “status symbols”. They can influence the outcome of your life, a lot. It’s not about being shallow, having nice things can open many doors for you…socially, romantically, occupationally, and so on.

I am not a “things” person but have been accused of being one, reason being that I do own and prefer expensive items in some categories. Mainly food, cosmetics, and to some people’s definition clothing (not top designer, but will shop at JCrew vs. Wal-Mart). On the other side, I drive a basic car, live in a small house, and don’t give two hoots about expensive TVs/home theater/stereo. In my case, the reason is that I perceive that the higher cost items perform better, and these are areas that I care about and can judge quality. Meanwhile, all I want in a car is a clean, safe machine of the right size and reliability to get me where I need to go. The difference between my Mazda and a Lexus would be lost on me.

If the Escalade driver feels that the Escalade performs better than other cars and gets some satisfaction out of driving it, does that make her a “things” person? Or is it the experience of the Escalade that is the draw? If it’s truly the name or status, and not any aspect of the item, then I can’t understand either. But I can testify that some products do seem to give a better experience than others to people who care about that type of product.

But if I were given a sum of money to spend on myself, I’d travel and not buy an item, so I guess I’m an experience person also.

Very true, I left an abusive relationship with not much more than I could cram into a horizon. I have a house full and barn full of crap we have accumulated over the 20 years of marriage, but I could gimp out with nothing more than my desktop, laptop, one of 2 TVs [the older nonflatscreen one] a reasonable set of cookware and utensils, my rolly suitcase of clothing and my carry on with med bag and be reasonably OK with it. I have all my music and pictures on hard drive, and I would miss my books but with a few rare exceptions they are all replaceable. I suppose I could come up with 1 banker box of books to go with me. [well, I would have to figure out where to cram in the cat carrier and a litter box for the furrball.] I could be reasonably happy if I had the longer version of the Mercedes Sprinter customized as a handicapped access RV, I could set up everything in it including the cat and not have to keep packing and unpacking. Only thing lacking would be a washer/dryer :frowning:

So here’s something wierd: Sometimes status DOES equal quality. So would a person, on purpose, give up a quality thing, because it has too much status?

Case in point: I’ve spent the last year getting proficient in riding a motorcycle. I had a v-twin thumping Honda (VTX 1300s) that was remarkably profficient, but unrefined. You are the windshield, you are the suspension, if You’re doing 80 mph into a 40 mph headwind, that’s 120 mph worth of wind trying to rip you off the bike and harm your hearing. (I’ve already lost more of THAT than I’m comfortable with)

There’s also the ‘social stigma’ (completely formed in my head) that I’m riding a Japanese knockoff of an American anachronism (Harley), typically driven by assless chap wearing dentists from Bar to Bar on the weekend, where they can behave badly.*

  • = Work with me here, it’s a stereotype for a reason.

My wife is starting to like riding with me. I enjoy having her around. So if I want to take this bike and give it a modicum of comfort, I’m looking at $2000 worth of windshield, seats, and heated gear…all to make it something it’s not.

In my analysis, I came across the two big tourer motorcycles: the Honda Goldwing (which stands on it’s own as a unique machine) and the BMW K1200LT (alphabet soup).

The Beemer fits me better. The wife is comfortable in it. The things it does, and the way it does them are all exceptional, and it’s not trying to be a knockoff anything. It’s raison d’etre is: Cover a lot of miles in comfort, and carve every curve it finds.

They depreciate like everything else, and so a 5 year old model is downright reasonable.

And yet, Horror of Horrors, I find myself riding a Beemer and liking it. Examples of this bike have MORE than 200,000 miles and are going strong. There is a lot of quality in this thing.

There are much fewer motorcycle manufacturers than Car makers, so that limits the field a little.

Do you hang with the ass-less chap crowd, the Goldwing-a-bago plus trailer crowd, or the Latté in your $150 cupholder crowd?

Turns out, MOST motorcycles have a negative rap, so maybe that’s not the best way to decide what you’ll ride. While I don’t find myself feeling overly pretentious, and I don’t send my kids to Polo Matches after Cotillion…it is one HELL of a bike. But do I say no, because of how other people perceive it?

Perception of the Honda was one, small, criteria in picking the next bike, but it WAS part of the equation.