My mom and my MIL are both highly materialistic people. I could write a book, but one particular manifestation of this that has been bothering me lately is that they both love their manicures and getting their hair done, and they spend a lot! My MIL even tends to want to flaunt her new hairdos or nails around me--the woman loves nothing if not being doted on, but I digress. And of course they always load on the perfume...
I have neither the money nor the time to do these things. I wouldn't necessarily even choose to if I did. I would be happy if I could even just shower more often. I just wonder how on earth they think that I value this in any way or care to hear about it when I myself do not ever do this, even on the rare occasion when I have a little extra cash? You think it would be obvious, right? And they have this entitlement thing going with it too. Like it has to be done, and well, they just have to spend the money. Like going to the dentist but instead of twice a year, it's twice a month. And again, hello? Don't they realize that if this were the case, we all would be doing it?
But anyway, how do you handle it/not get annoyed/angry at this? I just don't even share this as a value at all and they wouldn't dream of not doing it. I guess there is nothing to really say that wouldn't be rude but I certainly think rude thoughts about it.
I know. I am a horrible person...
It sounds like the issue is not just about values (e.g., materialism), but about hurt feelings regarding their flaunting things you can't afford. (I can't afford them, either.)
I also get annoyed when rich people state that things many people cannot afford are "musts." For example, when I worked as a nanny, the Mom questioned whether or not we could have a child at all, since our three-bedroom house contains only one bathroom. I replied, "Well, someone could come from India, and say that I could raise eight kids there." (We both have friends from India, which is why I used the example.) She also justified her purchase of a smart phone (which I would not have begrudged her at all for buying just because she wanted it), by saying she "owed it" to her kids to keep up with the latest technology...like a nice phone. Similar thought processes went for brand names (that were still made in China like everything else), stylish clothing, etc.
Since we are talking about close family, could you say something like, "I'm really happy that you have a manicurist you like, and that you have the money to spend on it, but to be honest, it is a little hard for me to get excited about it when it's just not something I have in my budget." If you think this wouldn't go over well (either by seeming rude or just having no effect), you could always say something like, "I'm so glad you're happy," followed by, "Your nails do look very pretty," if you can stomach it.
Well, I like to think that I have some sort of Janis Joplin complex: you don't like what I'm wearing, you don't like how I look, you don't like what I represent? Well, eff you!
Seriously, I think I was born with that quality and I don't think it is the most positive thing in the world, but it has certainly helped me navigate this life.
Anyway, not advising to adopt such attitude, but there are other ways that I think are helpful because deep down I have struggled with the idea of rejection (and OP, I think this is more about rejection (and as PP said above: hurt feelings) than materialism). For me, a good way to approach is to ask myself: "In what ways am I a snob?" I have been a snob on so many non-materialistic levels: confession here, but often I think I'm smarter, more artistic, more savvy than the general population. It gets in the way of a lot of relationships because I struggle with issues of superiority. It is my problem, not anyone else's. Which leads me to this: others use other tools to exert their superiority and place in the universe. For a lot of people, it means being prettier, appearing more wealthy, being popular. In my old age, I wouldn't say this if I didn't think it was true...I've experienced it over and over again. I live in a neighborhood in Brooklyn that could be the set of that television show "Mob Wives." Looks are IMPORTANT. Problem is, the "look" is predetermined and pre-sanctioned. It is actually sort of humorous to me but I recognize it for what it is. These things are important to the women in my neighborhood and it is what they know to be required and appropriate in their particular sub-culture. In some ways, I can't fault them for that. They have bought into an idea like I have bought into certain ideas. They're not richer than me, they just have different priorities. I don't see any moral issue with it because if they can afford it, then that is their choice. We are just different, that is all. This is how I reconcile a lot of this stuff.
As long as they are not trying to force you to follow their self-maintenance routines, why not try to adopt a "live and let live" attitude?
If your m-i-l or mom wants to be praised for her new hair-do and manicure, it doesn't hurt to say "It looks nice", or "I'm glad your pleased with it".
If they are trying to involve you in conversations about it, maybe you can just say peacefully "Well, it's not really my cup of tea, so I can't really say much." Kind of the same reaction if you met someone who was really into some hobby or sport that you're not into (hang-gliding? competitive rose gardening? rebuilding engines?) and they want to chat a lot about it.
If it really gets bad, maybe say something along the lines of "When you talk about your hairdos and manicures and the time and money you spend on them I feel... [bored? irritated?], so can we change the topic?"
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