The Big Sell

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So I’m in the kitchen, opening a packet of Chia Seeds I bought in the health shop (because Omega 3, right?) when I notice a rather unusual claim in bold print:

Chia seeds, ancient food of the Aztecs.’  And I thought to myself, um…. they died.  All of them.  It was a wipeout.  I’m not sure that looking to the Aztecs for health tips is such a wise move.  I used to work in marketing, so I understand the process behind selling people things they don’t want or need, but even I’m baffled by the reasoning used to sell stuff these days.  It’s clear that they think we’re idiots – mindless consumers who will swallow any old sales patter from these snake oil sellers.

Next, it’s the turn of the serial ‘common sense offender’, the beauty industry.  There is a new face cream on the market that boasts as one of its ingredients, the leaf of some plant that a panther rubs up against in the rain-forest.  I mean, WHAT??  It’s the rain-forest, panthers probably bump against all sorts of plants on the way to the local watering hole, should we be spreading them all on our skin?  I just don’t see the correlation – is the panther doing it to stay younger?  Nope, she leaves that kind of shallow thinking to us humans.

Then it’s fashion.  Oh fashion, you give me an embarrassment of riches to choose from.   Statement Tees are the big thing now.  You don’t even have to speak anymore, or have opinions of your own when your friendly fashion label is having them for you.  Although, would you really want your top to say this?

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What the…. what does that even mean?!  How can you follow your karma, when karma traditionally follows you?  Well, kudos for challenging the principles of cause and effect, I guess.

What this says to me is that the PR people have finally given up on the need to make any kind of sense at all. I’m sure you’ve all seen the 250 million year old Himalayan rock salt with an expiry date doing the rounds.  They’re literally lying to our face, and yet we still part with our hard earned money because, well, it’s Himalayan rock salt.  It MUST be good!

Yet, it’s the way in which they target women which is really insidious.  They seem to feed on our insecurities, or create insecurities where there were none.  I mean, how can you sell anti-aging cream without making people feel old?  Or sell diet pills?  A few years ago I actually wrote to the broadcasting authority about an ad for diet pills targeting young women.  They were shopping for clothes together and for whatever reason, one of them kept trying on clothes that were too small for her and as a direct consequence, she couldn’t go out with her friends.  But then she took the diet pills, miraculously found a dress that fit and they all had lunch together (presumably more diet pills).  The message was clear – be thin or be a social pariah.

Eventually the ad was pulled, but it won’t stop companies coming up with new ways to manipulate our inner fears sell more stuff.  Stuff that doesn’t even do what it promises to, but we keep buying it.  Lotions and potions to hide wrinkles, mask grey hairs or eradicate hair altogether!  So what are they telling us?  Don’t get old, fat, grey, hairy.  Just stop BEING.  If that’s what they wanted, they should have just given us the chia seeds.

It’s The Most Repetitive Time Of The Year

 

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If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then Christmas really takes the biscuit.  Is it just me, but when you reach a certain age, don’t you just kind of think ‘Christmas, again?  Really??’

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total Grinch.  I mean, I used to love Christmas…. or at least I did the first 30 times!  Like I used to love clubbing till 5 in the morning or wearing platform boots, but you grow out of these things.  You mature.  Your tastes become more refined.  You move on.  But Christmas won’t let you move on.  Regardless of your age or your circumstances, Christmas demands to be observed, every year, for what has now become a two-month torture-fest celebration.

From November onwards, it’s the same old Christmas songs you’ve been subjected to every year ad nauseum, ringing out from every public space.  There’s no getting away from the countdown or the brainwashing to join the masses and start shopping for a meal that will take place in two months time.  Every half-cooked Nigella impersonator is telling you how to disguise your brussel sprouts so they don’t taste vile – I mean honestly, is there any other veg that has built its entire career around one meal?!

But that’s just the food.  The latest shopping frenzy to hit our shores, Black Friday, swiftly followed by Cyber Monday, only serve to remind you of the annual (vain) search to find vaguely novel gifts for the same people.  If, according to the ‘desire theory’ of Jacques Lacan, our desires can never fully be satisfied, I think we can safely assume the ‘perfect gift’ does not exist.  It’s just shit you got from the shop wrapped in sparkly paper.  And anyone with kids (including inner children) will know that the wrapping inevitably ends up being more fun than what’s inside!

The pressure to create a saccharin, picture perfect, roasting chestnuts on an open fire kind of Christmas inevitably spoils the entire thing.  Most people set themselves the unattainable goal of trying to re-create the magic and nostalgia of their own childhood memories, instead of breaking out of the mould and creating new traditions.  On top of the emotional cost is the actual cost of the aptly named ‘silly season’.  In Ireland, each houshold will spend approximately €1,400 this year – unlike the Dutch who will spend a rather sobering €211!  (And as far as I can tell, they invented the whole thing with the original Sinterklaas – so when you get your credit card bill in January, blame the Dutch!)

It can’t be December already?!

And besides, when you’ve reached a certain age, if you really want something, you’ll buy it for yourself.  Unless you’re a child, you’re hardly waiting for December to come so you can start dropping hints about that Swarovski watch you’ve had your eye on (oh, did I just say that out loud?!).  I have enough stuff (although it would be great to have the time constantly available on my wrist, in crystal form) and so does everyone else in my family.  I’d rather give to people who really need help this Christmas and just spend the holiday being greatful for what I have.  Maybe the best way to survive enjoy Christmas is to ditch the idea of a perfect day and try to have an enjoyable one instead.

Just to show that I’m not completely immune to the charms of the festive season, or averse to a new old Christmas song, here is a beautiful waltz from Lisa Hannigan.  Merry Christmas everybody (again!)