I have had plentiful encounters during my lifetime that somehow ingrained in my head that “only items that are expensive are worth any form of respect”.
Not that kind of respect in the worship, coveted sense. Our minds shouldn’t be owned by our possessions. But rather, respect in the most basic form, that this is (name)’s belongings. Do not damage it because it is not yours.
When I was 12, I bought a red Mickey Mouse autograph book. I loved it a lot as it had plenty of colorful pages, and I had planned to collect messages from all my Primary School classmates before graduation. In fact, it already had a handful of messages in it.
One weekend, a kid cousin yanked at it unyieldingly when I wanted to take it back from him. The first two pages tore. I was devastated.
The aunt looked over to see what the fuss was about. When she saw the torn autograph book, she rebuked me. “Aiyah! Cry over this for what? This one so cheap, you can just buy another one lah!”
“Can just buy another one.”
Not a single thought of the messages friends had already left for me inside.
A year later, I had a favourite white GUESS t-shirt that I wore often. It also happened to be the period of time where one cousin was obsessed with markers. He drew on my t-shirt when I was not looking. The stain never came out.
Again, similar response from the aunts.
“Aiyah, your t-shirt is cheap one lah. Just get another one lor!”
“But this is my favourite t-shirt!” – my feeble protest.
“But it looks so cheap! Can get a nicer one lah!”
“This t-shirt is expensive too!” – me, by then playing on the fact that only using the “expensive” concept will work on them. (Besides, the tee cost $39.90, considered a hefty amount for a Secondary 1 student then.)
“Expensive mehhhh? Where gotttttt? Your t-shirt has no brand!”
Which again, was besides the whole point.
The point was, I am wearing my favourite t-shirt. My favourite t-shirt got ruined. I am upset because my favourite t-shirt was ruined.
I got a dressing-down because I got upset. The cousin on the other hand, never got rebuked for drawing on my t-shirt.
Here I was, getting drilled in my head that “no one cares that it is your favourite t-shirt. They will only care if your ruined t-shirt comes from a branded label with a hefty price tag to boot. Otherwise it is okay to ruin other peoples’ things if they are cheap.”
This was the message I got. And I hated that message. At the age of 13, I vowed to rebel. That I would treat people’s belongings with the same respect I gave me own. And that basic respect for people encompassed respecting their property, branded or not, expensive or not.
Throughout teenhood and until today, I continued to get slapped by contrary messages.
On another recent occasion, (family member) was sheltering me from the rain. Her handbag was within the shade of the umbrella but my haversack was getting soaked.
When I pointed out that my bag was getting wet, her response was as such. “My handbag is expensive! Your things are cheap things. Nevermind one. (Sic)”
I wasn’t expecting any other reply anyway.
I guess the past 17 years of trying to battle this mentality was a futile one.
But I’ll continue to respect other people’ belongings like I would my own anyway.
You’d never know if that bag is that person’s favourite bag. You’ll never know if that t-shirt carries a powerful personal memory. You’ll never know if that person had saved up a year’s worth of allowance just to buy that item.
(P/S: For the record, I do not bear any hatred/grudge towards any people referenced in this post. I just did not agree with their actions and the incidents I raised were significant to me questioning this particular value set.)
What were some significant events in your growing-up years that ingrained within you messages that you did not agree with?