We have all become accustomed to “treating” ourselves, indeed, we are constantly exhorted to do so by feel-good women’s mags, commercials and advertisements, films and TV shows. Whether a fancy cup of coffee (5 dollars) or a drugstore lipstick (4 dollars) for those of us hovering precariously round the poverty line, or a cruise or a designer piece of jewelry for others not so desperately situated, the general narrative runs the same: life can be tough, we work hard, today has been especially crappy, and we deserve a treat. I believe I hear the slogan “Go on, treat yourself” fifty thousand times a day, it floats in the air, exhorting us to spend on little (or indeed, not so little) pleasurable luxuries for ourselves, for after all, aren’t we all so precious? So amazing? Don’t we all have to overcome such tedious difficulties in the rolling-out of our day-to-day lives? Look, I just managed to successfully parallel park, I deserve a treat, oh, and you, you completed your assignment, another treat, and you, well you made it to 11 am without crumpling up and expiring from the slow crushing existential angst of your life, you definitely deserve a treat, the biggest one of all.
Indeed, how many times have I heard myself cooing this very same mantra to girlfriends poised on the verge of making some desirable yet slightly exorbitant purchase? It is embedded in the code of friendship: we have a duty to make each other feel good, and nothing feels as good as treating oneself. Go on, try it if you don’t believe me.
Yet I find myself explaining to the Princess and the Golden Boy, who have become thoroughly saturated in this treat-culture and clamour for cupcakes and candies, gummy bears and muffins, pizza and pop every single second of the day, that a treat cannot be a treat if it happens every day. For a treat to be truly a treat, it has to be an exceptional, rare occurrence. Not a desire that is fulfilled daily. I have been thoroughly warned of the consequences of not treating the kids: they will fetishize gum and candy and once they grow up, they will go and live in a house made of sweets, like the witch from Hansel and Gretel, only with alcohol running in the taps and marijuana stock-piled in the cupboard.
So, to treat or not to treat? I leave it to your discretion, Gentle Reader, only remember, every time you decide to “treat yourself” the gods of consumer capitalism are cackling with delight and rubbing their hands with glee. They will rip you off on electricity, phone plans, internet and basic goods and we have little choice but to comply. But that is not as much fun for them. It is the sweet, sweet money which comes flowing from the purchase of completely unneccessary and yet delightful things, those “treats”, which is the spark in the heart of our consumer society, the glow on its skin, the shine in its eyes.