“OK class, now that you are close to finishing your lamp shade designs, you will have the option to make it a real, functioning lamp. I will pick up some of these lamp bases. Please bring in £1 and I will help you attach your shade to it and take it home. They will look fantastic!”
(The bases were like a wrought iron material; basic square base with a thin 16 inch tower. Simple but nice...not tacky – I think Ikea had them as well.)
“Miss! Where did you buy that?”
She contorted her face as if it was about to transform into a monster and then vomit. “Ewww! Eiye no havin’ any’in that’s from Poundstretcha!” The entire class laughed and she continued her tirade. “Miss! Weren’t you embarrassed goin’ in’ta that shop? I’d be well mortified! Y’wouldn’nee catch me within 50 feet of one of them shops! It’d contaminate me clothes, Miss! Did you smell funny after you left?”
I was speechless for a couple seconds and then I composed my rage. “You mean to tell me that you’ve never been in a Poundstretcher? What’s wrong with getting a bargain? That’s a GOOD thing! Maybe when you have to pay your own way, you’ll change your tune.”
“Never, Miss! Eiye never goin’ in one a those shyte holes. Sorry, Miss! Do they sell Bench? How about iPods? Coach? Burberry? Adidas?”
“Of course not!”
“Exactly, Miss. I only own brand names. I’ve even kept me receipts and price tags in case some wanker thinks they’re fakes. Eiye no havin’ nothin’ fake! I'd rather starve!”
I knew far before this conversation that this particular girl was a piece of work and had a lot of behavioural issues, but it was at that moment that I realized something profoundly wrong with everything that just occurred. I knew that continuing this debate further was just wasted oxygen, so I ended it.
She laughed. “Eiye right, Miss, I dunnie care!”
That night and many nights after that this confrontation haunted me; I kept trying to make sense of it. What has happened to so many of this generation? I know every older generation has been saying that about youth since the time of Socrates, but this is different – it must be; it has to be!
I’ll be the first to admit that I was spoiled growing up, but I was never so unbelievably materialistic, and never knew of anyone that was THAT extreme – and yet in this generation, it is fairly common. I was always aware of how lucky I was to be raised where I did and I never forgot that there were so many that went without. We did the 30 Hour Famine every year to raise money for children in need; and there were continuous food drives, clothing campaigns, and more that we actively took part in, and we understood why we were doing it.
Boasting about the somewhat excessive lifestyle that we led would have been in poor taste; but lately, I see more and more teenagers with nothing less than £500 (over $1000 CAD) of clothing and merchandise on their backs and in their hands at any given time – often with the price tags still attached. The worst part is that I knew that all these kids were NOT from wealthy families. On the contrary, many were on social assistance in the UK – which meant they were probably going without food or other basic necessities (or racking up credit card debit) just so they could keep up with the latest fashions. It’s gross!
MY IDEA: They completely scrap “ski trips to France” or any other ridiculously elaborate school trip which contains zero educational value, and instead it should be mandatory for every teenager to help build houses or schools, or deliver food to a developing nation in need. Perhaps, even for 1 week, they might witness firsthand what life is like outside of their materialistic bubble, learn what is really important in this lifetime, and BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT THEY HAVE.
... And for a little of comic relief, here is Catherine Tate performing a sketch of her character "Lauren Cooper" who is SO MUCH like the girl in my post! (Couldn't find one without sub-titles, sorry)
This post is in alliance with the One Wee Voice: Taking Action Against Child Poverty