Consumerism ruined the hangout

Don't the the plans ruin the hangout

written by oz chen

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Some friends and I haven’t seen each other in a while.
Let’s catch up!

The planning begins.

It just so happens in our busy schedules that there’s a short window of time when we’re all available.

One friend wants to see a movie.
I wasn’t into the movie (horror, lol) and suggested 2 others.
Once we landed on a movie, I find out that the theatre didn’t have enough for all of us to sit together.
They suggested finding another theatre.

I start to get frustrated.
Not at my friends, but at this all-too-familiar situation.
How did a simple desire to spend time together turn into a logistical mess?

I took a breath and found the underlying desire—

I don’t give a fuck about the movie. I just want to see my friends.

So I said: “Hey, my main goal is to catch up with you guys and we can’t really talk during a movie. How bout we catch up at a cafe, and you guys can go see whatever movie you want after?”

Hallelujah—the plan worked.

I couldn’t help but observe 1) How difficult it was to unearth this desire and 2) How easy it was in execution.

If you’ve ever felt the same social frustration, then I think you’ll find an interesting culprit in…


Consumerism has ruined the hangout

Growing up, I stopped having friends over when I realized that my home was messy and wasn’t as nice compared to my friends’ homes. (Typing that makes me sad.)

Could it be that consumerism cloaks the deep rooted fear of not being enough?

Consumerism is the culture of more.
More products, more services, more spending.
Which all creates a dependence on external things to validate how we feel about ourselves—or each other.
(Be it a showing up in a nice car, a sweet pad to host, or the ability to pay for overpriced meals with a 20% tip.)

I lament how many conversations and hangouts have been foregone because of not feeling enough.

Now, I dream of simple invitations.

Wanna come hang out?
Well what are we gonna do?

This kind of invitation feels vulnerable.

Maybe because there’s no consumerist activity to latch onto, or fall back on.

If someone rejects you for dinner, that might feel less painful than being rejected for who you are. (On the flipside, if rejection hurts all the same, why not try the direct route more? Asking is free.)

If consumerism wasn’t the norm, I wonder if just spending free time with someone would still feel so vulnerable.

Because we don’t need an excuse to see friends.

And yet…I often couch my invitations with a reason, or activity.

“Wanna grab dinner? Or movie? Shall get we drinks after work?”

When in doubt, just hang out

When the point of engagement starts with what we’re going to do or spend money on, that often distracts from the intention of just spending time together.

Knowing this, here are some ways I want to prioritize connection:

  • Start the invitation with the desire to connect, rather than the plan.
  • Text/call to catch up first before proposing plans.
  • Invite people into my home more.

(If you’re my friend reading this, I want you to know that the baseline for hanging out with me is always free.)

In other words…Prioritize the hangout. Don’t let plans ruin the hangout.

The solution is not becoming a frugal hermit

There’s nothing wrong with buying things.
It just feels wrong when buying things is the norm to belong.
And I don’t want the transactional culture of consumerism to bleed into my relationships.

I acknowledge that the more money there is, the more options there are to spend it.

And that’s a great thing.

I just want the best of both worlds.

I want to have fun with my money.

But I also don’t want money to get in the way of my relationships.

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