THE FAD watchers have predicted that "keeping up with the Joneses" will no longer be in style. The recession is causing more and more people to cease competing with their neighbors in the struggle for status and the American dream.
The last ones to hear the news were the Jones family. They drove my wife and me crazy during the '80s, and I couldn't wait to go across the street and tell them that I was dropping out of the competition.
It didn't surprise me to find a new Jaguar convertible in their driveway. Jones, smug as always, said, "I bought it off the floor. Why don't you take a spin in it?"
"Jones, haven't you heard? Affluence is out, and splurging on luxuries is in poor taste. No one is impressed any more with your material possessions."
Jones wanted to make sure that I wasn't pulling his leg. He yelled, "Martha, get in here. The recession has hit the fan."
He said, "America was built on keeping up with the Joneses. The people who followed our lead were the ones who made this land a paradise. If you think that there will be any economy left in this country if you go it alone, then you are barking up the wrong Bonsai tree."
"What choice do I have?" I said. "Everyone has to cut back. There couldn't be a better place to start than forgetting about you two."
Jones responded, "Does this mean that you are not going to build a marble indoor swimming pool off the sun room as you had planned?"
"Yes, it does, Jones. Just because you have done it doesn't mean I have to."
"I'm not surprised. Most of the neighbors suspected that you were too cheap to build one."
"That's unfair. Nothing you say can convince me that I have to keep up with you any more."
"People always make those kind of statements at the start of a recession, but they eventually follow the Joneses because if they don't they have nothing to live for."