Everything that’s wrong with the world is down to ponytail holders.
I know, you thought the answer would be more complex but there you have it. The answer came to me this morning as I was, coincidentally, putting my hair up in a ponytail.
I have a round box on a shelf in my bathroom that holds hair accessories. It’s quite lovely. It’s white with dark brown stripes on the side and a pink cabbage rose printed on top. I bought it for a dollar-fifty at a local store. It comes, predictably, from China.
In it lives the plethora of things I’ve purchased to constrain and ornament my tresses. Since I’m either lazy or low-maintenance about my appearance depending on your point of view, it’s mostly filled with hair ties. There are also a few barrettes and a couple of decorative pins with flowers. I was going through a phase. It turns out flowers in the hair isn’t my thing. I feel awkward and conspicuous.
I grabbed the white tie sitting at the top. I’d used it for the first time the day before.
I like the size of the tie. It’s a three-wrap. This means the tie wraps around the pony three times to achieve maximum security. It’s important to apply the correct number of rotations; few things are more irrelevantly annoying than a ponytail sliding out from its confines. The collapse often coincides with eating, leaving me with a mouthful of hair to complement the fettucine.
At any rate, I brushed my hair back and grabbed the tie. One. Two. Three.
Done and not done. Three turns were no longer sufficient. There was no security in the tail.
It’s no longer tight enough. It’s no longer a three-wrap. It required four twists for pony-tail security. If it stretched this much after its first use, it’s going to be useless after the second.
This completely pissed me off. Seriously? It’s good for two uses and then it’s trash?
That was when I realized the shoddy hair tie was a metaphor for everything wrong in the world.
Perhaps “everything” is over the top but that tie says a lot about economics, socio-political development, and the way our world is developing.
I have a lot of old things in my house. Not antiques, just old things. Old cheap things. An eight-dollar table from Ikea that is sixteen years old. Four second-hand sofas and two second-hand televisions. A pressboard dining room table and china cabinet set lacquered to look like maple.
They aren’t high quality but they have endured and they look okay. I know how to care for my things.
People used to produce with care too. People and companies took pride in the goods they manufactured. They had a level of quality. They were intended to survive, some even generationally.
Unfortunately, if you produce a remarkably good set of linens that people don’t need to replace every other year, it gets harder to grow sales and make obscene profits. You can’t scale up production to meet an artificially-induced demand.
You don’t need to start dumping the huge quantities of waste you’re now producing in environmentally hazardous and potentially toxic ways.
You don’t need to break up unions so you can drop wages and benefits to further grow your profits. Because everyone knows it’s the person who dies with the most who wins.
You don’t need to close down your factories and ship production overseas, causing problems as diverse as domestic violence, economic stress, slave labour, and further environmental damage. All a result of moving production of the now semi-shabby sheets around the globe in further efforts grow revenue.
There is no end goal. Growth is the end goal.
The people who think the only important thing is growth are the same people who produce shoddy hair ties. They don’t care about landfills. They don’t care about intangible costs.
I don’t think every single thing should last forever. I do think that products should last for more than single or semi-single use. And some things, big things, like furniture, should be a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. When did seasonally refitting your home become a thing?
It would be nice if things of quality were produced again, not in addition to but as a replacement for the fast fashion and cheap furnishing that are a big mistake. I have a blanket in the closet with my grandmother’s initials stitched into the border. She got it when she got married. In 1941.
It would be nice if we got back to expecting quality. It would be nice if we remembered to take care of our things.