Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Gimme, Gimme, Gimme; I Want, I Want!"

When I was a kid, I had a seriously bad case of what some would call the "gimmes".  There was always something that I just had to have, and I wouldn't rest until I had it.  Of course, what usually ended up happening was, when I got whatever I "needed," there was something else that I started desperately wanting.  I couldn't even look at a catalog without seeing something I just had to have.  When my mom was a school nurse, she once got a catalog of goodies--i.e., pencils with fun designs, etc.--to give out to the students.  She brought it home for me to look at, only to end up wishing she never did.  Why? Simply because I started begging for her to buy me the items in the catalog.  Her exact words were, "That's the last time I bring home one of my catalogs!" (It also happened to be the first time, too, and, therefore, the only time.)

It's no question that people--kids and adults--have become rather materialistic.  Holidays and birthdays have gone from celebrations of/with family and friends to a way to obtain more and more "stuff".  Dr. Elmo, formerly of Elmo and Patsy ("Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"), has a little-known track called "Santa Ain't Comin'" that makes fun of selfishness during Christmas.  It starts off with the Doc, as St. Nick, saying, "Listen up now, kiddies! Yo, it's Santa here, and, no, I won't be coming down your chim-en-ies this year! The elves and Mrs. Claus and I have almost given up! It seems we just can't satisfy your need for all that stuff! No matter what I bring you, it's never quite enough!" You then hear a chorus of kids saying, "Gimme, gimme, gimme; I want, I want! Mm-mmm, mm-mmm; more expensive! Na, na, na, na! Oh, please, Santa?" That jolly old elf criticizes the kids throughout the rest of the song, with phrases such as, "Whenever you're not getting, your little nose gets out of joint!", "I've had it up to here," and, my personal favorite, "No more 'ho, ho'!"  As funny as the song is, it actually makes a very good point, not just for kids during Christmas, but for all of us all through the year.

It's also no question how advertising has permeated our culture.  Some years ago, I saw a teen magazine with Victoria Justice on the cover, and opened it to read the article.  However, I had to flip through at least five or six pages of ads before I could even find the table of contents.  Though I enjoyed the article, it wasn't as easy to find as it should have been.  In recent years, advertising and/or product placement has appeared in everything from TV shows to movies to even video games.  I once had a Spider-Man game for my Nintendo GameCube where MetLife got advertised by banners in the city levels.  A devotional in a teen Bible I have even says, "Isn't it amazing how awesome food can look on TV and in magazines? Even dog food and baby food can look tasty!" It's not just food, though; it's pretty much everything.

What's the problem with advertising? It's true that it does serve a purpose: to inform you about the capabilities of a device, the services of a company, or the plot details of a movie or TV show.  However, many times, it seemingly creates a "need" for something that you were completely fine without before you saw it.  A quasi-news show called American Journal once had a story where they followed a mother and her teenage daughter while they went to their local supermarket.  The most remarkable part of the article was when the mother told her daughter to go get something off an end-of-aisle display, even though they had already passed the exact same item in its regular place, and she had said they didn't need it.  That mother isn't the only one, though; seriously, how many of you are dependent on items that you were functioning quite well without ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago? See what I mean?

Though most of us think of brand names--Hostess, Apple, Nintendo, Nickelodeon, etc.--when we think of advertising, that isn't always the case.  Way back in 1996, when the live-action 101 Dalmatians came out in theaters, many moviegoers left the cineplex with an immediate desire to bring home one of those spotted dogs as a family pet.  The same thing happened a few years later, when the sequel 102 Dalmatians was released.  However, there was actually a problem: Despite how cute and cuddly they were in those Mouse House flicks, Dalmatians are actually--according to what I've heard and read, anyway--not for children, and the pet stores kept having to tell prospective owners just that while those movies were showing at multiplexes.  I once heard a story of a little boy who was in a veterinarian's office's waiting room, and walked over to see a client's Dalmatian.  Immediately, someone--the dog's owner? someone who worked there? I may never know--said to the boy's mother, "You need to get him away from there, ma'am.  Dalmatians are not for children."  Unfortunately, those movies, as cute and funny as they are, seemingly mitigate the actual truth about those dogs, because they advertise the exact opposite.

Okay, so...where is this going, you ask?  Simply this: I'm past the days where I'm constantly begging my mom to buy me whatever I want.  I have my own job, and, usually, if there's something I want, or even something I truly need, I can buy/pay for it myself.  Though one or both of my parents usually end up driving me where I want/need to go, the cost for whatever I want to bring home is my responsibility.  Even working (and, previously, volunteering) at a public library, and using both their in-house catalog of items and their inter-library loan service, has saved all three of us quite a bit of time, effort, and money.  Though the airwaves and the Internet are still plagued with items to buy, places to go, and things to do, I usually make no mention of it, usually because I realize that I really don't have any need for such an item.

That all sounds well and good...but one detail completely undoes all that: I still do have a "pressing need"; it's just not something I can buy on eBay or at MovieStop, nor will I find it sitting under my tree this or any other Christmas.  What is that? A relationship.  Anywhere I go, anything I do, I'm pretty much reminded of the fact that I have always been sans a significant other.  When I actually stop and think about it, I realize that there are advantages to my situation.  Still, sometimes, feelings of helplessness, self-hatred, and doubting the existence of hope overtake me to the point that I feel a desire to just end it all, because it's never going to get any better.  (Yes, I'm sure all of you reading this could--and would--tell me the exact opposite.)  It's been especially bad lately, because not only are there at least two or three coeval friends of mine who are getting married or have recently, but a female friend I've gone back and forth about asking out for quite a while recently announced on Facebook that she is now "in a relationship" with some guy.  As you'd expect, all that hurts, and, when you combine that with my apparent complete lack of deep friendships, there appears to be nothing that will ease my loneliness and emotional pain.

Upon thinking about this whole situation, I was reminded of two different incidents involving a childhood friend of mine.  He and his family used to attend all of the local theme parks at least once every summer, and I wanted to go with them, but my mom wouldn't let me, for fear that I would have one of my temper tantrums, which would leave them not knowing what to do.  It's not that I couldn't go; it's that I was only allowed to go with my sister and brother-in-law.  (I'll admit that I fought her tooth and nail about that rule, but, looking back, I realize that she was right.)  When I lamented to him and his siblings--all of whom were my friends--about the situation, they replied that I had a computer, which I could play any time I wanted.  For several years after that incident, I couldn't believe he said that; seriously, that old Macintosh Performa was better than a trip to a place that people from all over the world come to my area to go to?!! It wasn't until recently that I realized what he was actually trying to say: I should have been happy with what I had, because I had a computer, and he didn't, because his mother wouldn't allow it.  During the time they lived in my neighborhood, the closest thing they had to a Mac or PC was their original Nintendo, and, later, their Nintendo 64. 

Some time after that, not long before they moved, I was upset with my mom about something; what it was, I don't remember.  He told me something that I still haven't forgotten, even fourteen years later: "You've got that new computer.  Enjoy it while you can." At the time, I thought he was implying either the supposed apocalypse of January 1, 2000, or the whole Y2K thing that was supposed to ruin digital equipment everywhere; however, regardless of Jesus' return--whenever it may come--or any supposedly massive glitches, I still have to enjoy what I have while I can.  As good as relationships can be, they can also take away from one's hobbies and/or interests.  A significant other could take away from my consumption of entertainment, my bargain hunting, and other things that are a pretty big part of who I am.  Do I want to do away with that for any reason? Of course not...but a relationship might end up doing just that, whether I want it to or not.

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