There is a wheel of the year for consumers, moving us neatly from one shopping opportunity to another. Valentines, mother’s day, Easter, father’s day, summer beach things and barbeques, then Halloween and Christmas. On the given days you are to run out and buy the right things for the right people. In theory you are celebrating your family, and doing nice things for them. When you’re told to, and by buying stuff.
Little moments in the year when you can assuage your guilt over all the things you don’t do the rest of the time, perhaps. Fuelled by adverts that encourage you to feel a tad guilty and that reinforce the sense of what other people expect from you. An approach demanding token, commercial gestures, as though spending money on a few days of the year is what it takes to have a relationship. Of course if everyone is doing it – taking Mum out for Sunday lunch on a specific day, going out for a meal one night of the year… the pressure to be part of that is vast, and the sense of alienation and loss if you don’t, or can’t, or don’t have those people, or have such a poor relationship that it wouldn’t be viable… If we could measure the total of human shame, anxiety and distress caused by the commercial wheel of the year and weigh it against the happiness it causes, I do not think happiness would win.
If course if you’re dealing with someone who mostly doesn’t bother, then the making of effort a few times a year has a heightened value, and the failure to honour key dates seems like a bigger deal. The partner who doesn’t even remember your birthday and can’t manage a Valentines card and takes you for granted on all the other days as well, is really depressing to deal with.
And so we end up with these little, seasonal pockets of overload, when there can be too much. Patters of feast and famine in our exchanges, and the difficult sudden bursts of expense. The burden of Christmas can be terrible for people on low incomes.
I like gifting people with things when I can, and just because. I take more joy in small, ongoing exchanges of things – often far less commercial – loaning, sharing and passing on also being important parts of this process. Relationship is not something you buy for people on key dates. It is what we do for each other, together, from one day to the next. Every day.
The Easter Eggs have been in the shops for weeks already. Of course we all have to buy them, because it’s fun, paying through the nose for shaped chocolate to give to people who probably don’t need it. Especially children. We’re well under way with an obesity epidemic. What fun we can have stuffing their little faces with eggs! It’s all about the fun, and anyone (me, invariably) who questions the fun is of course a misery and a spoilsport. The problems could not possibly lie with the festivities of consuming, and anyone who dares to suggest it is just a bitter killjoy intent on making everyone else miserable. (I figured I’d get in early and pre-empt the usual comments, because there’s always one).