In 1986, the self-proclaimed president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, was deposed in a coup because he was more dictator than president. Ferdinand and his wife Imelda were unceremoniously flown from the capital city of Manila aboard a U.S. government helicopter, barely ahead of a horde of angry citizens.
Amid the remarkable events of that day, people took notice of the black espadrilles Imelda Marcos worse as she boarded the helicopter. Why would anyone focus on footwear when an entire country was enmeshed in such momentous events? It turns out the concern wasn’t over a single pair of shoes, but rather on the fact that Imelda Marcos had over one thousand pairs of shoes.
When the dictator’s palace gates were breached and Imelda Marcos’ private closets thrown open to the world, news of her shoes hit the media. There were rows upon rows of shoes, in an astonishing display of color and style. Why would anybody have so many? Some would say she had a shoe obsession. I think we can all agree that Imelda regularly, extravagantly, excessively binged on shoes.
Any reasonable, rational person could conclude that having over a thousand pairs of shoes is unnecessary. However, Imelda Marcos was hardly reasonable or rational about her shoes. To Imelda, her shoes were a necessity. She justified her behavior by saying she was merely helping the Philippine shoe industry. She refused to accept any concept of excess where her shoes were concerned. One pair of shoes, possibly even a couple of pairs, is a necessity. A thousand pairs of shoes, I hope you’ll come to recognize, is an excess.
LOOKING AT OUR OWN DESIRES, WANTS, AND NEEDS
It’s quite easy to shake our heads and joke about Imelda Marcos’s shoes. And the world did that for a brief moment in time in the late eighties after going through the closets of her life. Even today, we can look at her behavior from a safe distance of time and place and comment on the woman who was out of control where her shoes were concerned.
When we start looking at our own behavior, however, that zone of safety shrinks. Yet the point of Gotta Have It! is to learn to distinguish between true needs and wants. We’ll talk about life’s excesses — a made-up word for a very real situation for many people when excesses become necessities. This book is about the compulsion to overindulge in any number of everyday behaviors, including the bizarre, comical, and not-so-funny. Excessity is the impulse that throws caution to the wind and demands immediate satisfaction. It is blindness that occurs when comfort becomes more important than consequences.
Excess is about feeding our wants and desires, while at the same time starving our true needs. The more we starve what we really need, the greater our hunger grows, causing us to stuff ourselves with more and more of our wants. After stuffing ourselves full of our wants, we find that we’re still starving, empty, and desperate — and the mad cycle repeats.
Excessities show up in a variety of styles, just like Imelda’s shoes. But when we look at this behavior here, it won’t be from the safety of a front-page story or a past time or a faraway place; it will be close up, right now, in our own lives and the lives of those we love.