“Affluenza.” Does A Body Good? #lookgood
I’ve got the affluenza. Well, actually I don’t. But I wish I did. And if you’re like the ninety-nine percent of us out there, you might wish you did too. What is afluenza you ask? Afluenza is the affliction of being too wealthy. Symptoms of afluenza might include: lighter jail sentences (or none at all), better job prospects, lower interest rates… free “stuff.”
Poor-itis on the other hand, is what most of us suffer from—and if it’s not poor-itis, it’s just-getting-by-enza, or doing-well-enough-ia. And most people, who don’t suffer from affluenza, but one of these “other” diseases, also experience symptoms: disproportionate representation in the incarceration system, difficulty climbing the social ladder, higher interest rates…
The benefit of affluenza, in addition to its jackpot symptoms, is that affluenza allows you to look good. I’m not talking about the grossly proportional face that’s the key to supermodel beauty, or the rock hard, solid abs that we all crave—I’m talking about a way of presentation to the world that signals to others that you must be treated differently. You look good. And if the occasion calls for it, you can brush your teeth, scrub your face, put on a nice set of clothes, and speak with eloquence and grace to communicate with the confidence that there is weight behind your words.
Recently, Ethan Couch, a young, wealthy, reckless drunk driver, killed four innocent victims. Couch was sentenced to ten years of probation and no jail time, for the grossly negligent homicide of four innocent people. The rationale for such a light sentence? The poor guy (metaphorically speaking of course) suffers from an extreme case of “affluenza.” I’m absolutely serious—this was a legal argument that prevailed in court system. As it turns out, his circumstances, his parenting, his lifestyle, heavily contributed to his actions, and the choices he made, that led him down this unsavory path. Yet, he walks away with a light slap on the wrist—he “looks good.”
Compare that to the article that just recently came out in response to this decision—“Meet Dayvontay—He Suffers From Povertenza.” Dayvontay might have failing grades because he reside in a poor school district—there’s no money to move somewhere else; he might not get into the best schools because of those failing grades—if he even decides to go to school. He might end up in jail, or selling drugs on the streets. But the countless Dayvontay’s have never waged a successful defense based off of their homegrown “poor-itis.” At the end of the day, no matter how hard Dayvontay brushes his teeth, they won’t be straight. The gold crowns won’t disappear and the missing teeth won’t magically appear. (Subsidized insurance often doesn’t allow for porcelain crowns—it’s cosmetic. Neither does it allow for things like implants—again, cosmetic.) No matter how hard he presses his clothes, they don’t hang quite right on him, and his vernacular doesn’t seem to allow him to speak with eloquence and grace. His presentation gives a different kind of weight to his words.
The behavioral problems that stem from socio-cultural backgrounds are the same, whether one suffers from affluenza or poor-itis, as Mary Gresham, an Atlanta psychologist, attests, as quoted from CNN’s blog “[I]mpulse control problems are seen across all socioeconomiclevels in families where limits aren't set.”
However, the fact of the matter is that how you look, and the perceived social status that comes along with it, dictates how you are treated in the world. It might not be right, it might not be nice, and it might not be fair, but it’s true.
I have a friend, a young black mother under thirty, with five young kids. Her family is middle-class—nice house, nice cars, nice job. She moved to a new town, and made the decision to venture to her new doctor’s office without getting ready for the day, five sick kids in tow—runny noses, pajamas, fussy. The receptionist assumed she was a young, unwed mother on government assistance. Her questions were not answered; her voice was not heard. The treatment she received, until she set the record straight, was saddening.
My parents, on the other hand, always insisted on looking good. We once went to the airport to catch a flight, but we were notoriously late, but my mom was wearing heels, panty hose, and a dress suit. My dad was wearing slacks, a dress shirt, and maybe even a tie. All of us kids were dressed to the nines.
The baggage attendant observed our little troupe and commented —“You guys look pretty important; you must have somewhere to go.”
My dad’s single, measured response, with the full force of confidence behind it was, “We are late.”
In a moment, we were whisked to the front of the line, our bags were tossed on the conveyor belt, walkie-talkies came out, a go cart sped across the floor, and we were briskly shuffled in. The driver called out, “Make way!” to the crowds as we were zipped through the airport on the little go cart—and we made our flight. (Obviously all of this was pre-security screening.)
Here’s my point: Yes, in a way, afluenza (and it’s by product—looking good) does a body good. And that’s why so many people want to catch it.
Question: As the ninety nine percent of people, do we argue against the advantages of the affluenza’s look good advantage? Or do we try to fall in line, so that we can attempt to get the same benefits (symptoms) that those with afluenza suffer from?
Here’s my argument: (And remember, it may not be nice, it may not be right, and it may not be fair—but it’s true.) People are influenced by the way you look, and the weight that carries. So, sometimes, we may have to put in a little more time, a little more effort, a little more money, to look good (as people—not just as women). And when I say “look good,” I’m not talking about conventional standards of beauty; I’m talking about the look good that carries weight; that makes people notice you, and want to hear you. When you look good, you have the weight behind your words to be heard. And only once you have someone’s ear who has the ability to change the practice, can you point out the ills of affluenza. Those with poor-itis, can still try speaking, but unfortunately, as the record shows, nobody’s listening.
This drive the question: “What does it mean to #lookgood?” Stay tuned for part two as we dive into the meaning of #lookgood.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Do you think you need to look good in order to have your voice heard?
Work It Girl
(Follow me on Twitter @workitgal, subscribe to the blog and keep posting your comments!)