Ask MR: Are We=Our Stuff?

Hello and welcome to our advice column, Ask MR, where we answer
your burning questions, hoping we’ll become the ointment to your
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Are we=our stuff?

This must be the shortest Ask MR question we’ve ever received,
and while I’m not sure I know the answer of whether we’re
defined by our stuff, I’ve decided to attack it like I’m
Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind and manrepeller.com is my library
window, minus the implication that I’m a genius. It is Consumption
Month
, after all.

When I lived in San Francisco, one of my favorite
vintage stores
was this massive warehouse jam-packed with old

furniture
and homewares called STUFF. I never bought anything
there, but I’d stop in on my way to and from places to poke
around. I loved how chaotic and self-aware it was—it did not
purport to sell antiques or treasures or curiosities… it just
sold STUFF. And that’s exactly what it was. A hodgepodge of
things that no one probably needed until they did.

What is “stuff”? As much as I usually appreciate a precise
word, there’s something satisfyingly vague about it. You can love
the stuff or hate the stuff. You can do stuff in an alley behind a
bar. You can think that’s the good stuff. You can end almost any
sentence with and that kind of stuff. You can drop off your
ex-girlfriend’s stuff or move abroad and leave everything behind
because, well, it’s just STUFF.

My stuff revolves around me like false confidence; it’s more
impactful from afar.

In that sense, per your question, I guess we both are our stuff
and aren’t. Because just like stuff, who we are changes depending
on the context. To a random person on the A train, I’m probably
the sum of the stuff I’m wearing, whether it provides an accurate
reading or not. To people on Instagram, I’m as interesting or
boring as the stuff I post, but also the voice of my captions and
the style of my photos, which means I’m only kind of my stuff. To
my loved ones, my material possessions function more like
additional information than a definition. My stuff revolves around
me like false confidence; it’s more impactful from afar.

But it seems like your question is responding to the human habit
of defining ourselves by what we buy, which is a pressing issue
right now. Not only because our attachment to material goods and
businesses’ willingness to exploit it (and anything) for cash is
destroying the planet, but also because our modes of communication
have become increasingly reliant on aesthetics. When the internet
is our primary means of connection, when we’re forced to perform
ourselves online so that others can understand us quickly and in
the ways we’d like, it makes sense that we’d become
hyper-focused on what our stuff says about us. And who we could be
if it changed.

I’d still rather be a compelling person with no stuff than a
boring person with compelling stuff.

Who would you be if you had different stuff? When you accumulate
more stuff, or pare it down, do you change? For me, those shifts
temporarily transform how I feel, which is important, but I’m not
sure I myself am any different. I’m just me, with better taste, a
cooler couch, or less junk. As I get older and smarter about the
stuff I want, I’m getting better at communicating who I am to
other people without talking. And better at understanding how the
things around me impact my environment. But neither of those really
inform who I am at my core. I’d still rather be a compelling
person with no stuff than a boring person with compelling
stuff.

We are nuanced and mercurial creatures, with desires and fears
so deep and huge we can’t always express them. That’s when
stuff can help. It can tell a story about our inner worlds that’s
tangible and simple. It can help us draw conclusions about each
other without sitting down for an hour and spilling our guts.
Ideally, our stuff is informed by our values, too. It can reassure
us of who we are, or bring us together because she likes that
thing, too. That’s not nothing. It’s the power of non-verbal
expression.

But not everyone has the time, interest, and resources to do
that kind of work, and that’s why stuff can be a perilous conduit
for our instinct to judge. Because when we’re feeling seen and
known on a deeper level by the people around us and by ourselves,
or feel that way about others, I think stuff has a way of
disappearing into the background, of becoming something we poke
around in on our way to and from something, but never the
destination itself.

In the end, the math isn’t simple, but it’s clear enough.
Our stuff is additive, occasionally helpful and comforting, but it
isn’t everything. It’s a medium with limits. It’s a response
to who we are, not who we are. And when we equate those two things,
or invert them, I think we risk losing sight of the fact that our
stuff is often the least interesting thing about us.

Photos by Cody GuilfoyleProp
styling
 by Sara
Schipani.
 Art Direction by Sabrina Santiago
and Lorenza Centi.

The post Ask MR:
Are We=Our Stuff?
appeared first on Man Repeller.

Source: FS – NY Fashion
Ask MR: Are We=Our Stuff?