There are many reasons why I hate shopping. I was reminded of one yesterday.
I had stopped at the grocery store, thinking I could dash in and pick up a few items. That was my first mistake. The second was starting in the orange juice aisle.
The orange juice aisle stretches out for miles.
There’s “original” orange juice, and then original plus calcium. Then there’s “country style,” which I guess must be different than your urban, street wise, hip-hop orange juice. Another boasted extra vitamin E, C and bits of zinc, which didn’t really sound appetizing.
Two others claimed to be “home squeezed” and “home squeezed with calcium,” but I swear no one’s been to my home to press oranges lately. There was also pulp free, low acid, orange tangerine, orange cranberry and something called “orange passion.” I didn’t even know oranges had love lives.
Now, because I’m a writer with a philosophical turn of mind, and also (ahem) because I got locked in the store overnight while trying try decide between 11 juices, I thought about this a lot. I asked myself: A) Just how much of the way we live our lives is dictated by product choices and advertising? and B) What horrors await me in the coffee aisle?
Consider cars: they’re just a box on four wheels right? Don’t be silly. Thanks to Madison Avenue ad agencies, your choice of car represents an entire lifestyle:
Four door sedan — You are a cubicle commando who spends too much time commuting back and forth to work. The people at the easy listening radio request line know you by name.
Pickup truck — You must be a Jeff Foxworthy groupie, a construction worker, a farmer or all of the above.
SUV — Overworked, overstressed, underpaid soccer Mom. Do not cut her off on the highway, or else, okay?
Teeny tiny two door hatchback — Greenpeace member who hates the idea of using fossil fuels at all or a transplanted European who just can’t deal with the size of North American cars.
A little red sports car — Obviously you must be a cute and smart humour columnist.
Or, to get back to food for a moment, what about our meals? There are those of us who like nothing better than to start the day off with a piece of cherry pie and whipped cream. But we are shunned and persecuted by society, because as every one knows, only cereals like Fruit Coated Sugar Bombs with Marshmallow Shapes are suitable for breakfast.
Advertising also dictates what we drink. For instance: beer is for sporting events (and guys who drive pickup trucks). Wine is for cultural soirees (or overworked soccer Moms who need to take that edge off). Pretty mixed drinks are supposed to be for women (or for sedan drivers, but only on holiday in Hawaii where their buds from work can’t see). Champagne is supposed to be for romance, I guess because nothing says love like fizz up your nose.
And speaking of love… Valentine’s Day? Every year, succumbing to intense advertising pressure, normally sane men pay up to $100 to bring 12 roses home to die in a vase. Obviously, this is ridiculous pandering to consumer culture. It’s much more sensible to bring home $100 worth of chocolate.
Or diamonds? Quite possibly the most common ‘precious’ stone on earth, De Beers did such a good job of establishing the “tradition” of a diamond engagement ring back in 1939, that woe betide a modern man if he doesn’t buy a rock for his fiancee. Especially if he doesn’t know what betide means.
Advertising has even changed the shape of our families. It used to be that grandparents, parents, children and even aunts and uncles shared a home. But it’s hard to convince people that they need more than one microwave per household, so we’ve set up a system that makes everyone want to live separately. This means commercials targeted at youngsters (Message: Eighteen and still living at home? You’re a weenie!) and at parents (Message: Forty-five and still don’t have a separate rec room? You’re a bigger weenie!).
I’d say more, but I see we’ve run out of bread. I had a peek at the bread aisle before and figure I’d better leave now. It could take me all day to figure out what sort of lifestyle statement I want to make with my sandwich.
Also published on Medium.