Selling Affection

It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, and although I love my mom, I despise these holidays.

Why? Is it because I’m an emotionally crippled Scrooge who hates seeing happy people?

Maybe.

But I’m more inclined to say I hate these holidays because they put a price tag on affection. When you get down to the core of these holidays, it’s pretty depraved. “Hey mom, my love for you is worth approximately $30. Here’s a chintzy card with a schmaltzy platitude and a gift card to Red Lobster. Thanks for my existence!”

Now, I have no problem with showing gratitude in the form of gifts. It’s a handy way of expressing appreciation, but the way these holidays operate is on such a shallow level. Instead of buying mom a card, why don’t you call her or write her a letter? Instead of buying her a gift card, why not treat her to dinner? Hell, why not make her dinner? The same applies to Father’s Day, birthdays, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day.

It seems like we’ve gotten into a social arms race injected with a healthy dose of consumerism. It feels like our communication, both verbal and nonverbal, has been stunted and replaced with heaps of plastic and gaudy displays. It’s an ugly part of social capitalism. We have turned our care into capital, and treat our relationships like an exchange system. Let’s see, mom gave birth to me so she’s worth this much, dad contributed to the project known as “me” so he’s worth this much, and my significant other is worth this much.

Look, I understand why we give gifts. It’s a simple sacrifice. I care about you and am willing to deprive myself of something to give you something in return. The problem is that we have turned it into an isolated exercise, a series of materialistic holidays where, if you don’t spend x amount on the people you love then you must be a cheapskate or an ungrateful bastard.

So why does it have to be organized? Why does it have to be a bizarre example of peacocking? Also, why do we even need these holidays to remind us to appreciate the people we care about?

If you love your parent(s), or your significant other then why does there have to be a day on the calendar to explicitly show that affection? Shouldn’t that be, y’know, every day?

What about Christmas? We talk about family, we talk about world peace, but why does it have to be one day, or one month? Shouldn’t we aspire to appreciate those things year-round without the need to express that appreciation via an orgy of buying and heart attack-inducing stress?

The worst part of this is that we bought into it voluntarily. Nobody held a gun to our head and demanded a spending quota. Hallmark and Macy’s don’t have armed thugs coercing the passerby into buying overpriced greeting cards or trinkets. The federal government isn’t threatening to arrest you if you don’t spend enough money on your loved ones. That’s one beauty of capitalism: it can be fought with very little effort. Simply don’t engage.

Now, for the sake of transparency I bought my mom and other mother figures a card and a small gift.  I’m just as manipulated as everyone else, and I can’t decide which is better: artificially induced guilt or feeling disgusted with myself for buying into “it.” Why should any of us feel guilty, though? All this is is turning love into a physical commodity. It seems like we have forgotten the ability to deal with abstracts, so we panic and grasp for tokens to deal with the emotional crisis.

My plea is not to never ever buy something for a person you love, or to not participate in any of the personal holidays, but simply remember that you aren’t scum if you don’t buy a blood diamond or an overpriced card cranked out by overworked and cynical office employees. Instead, just remember that something as simple as a phone call or a heartfelt message, or an act of kindness means a helluva lot more than a worthless trinket that wraps a price tag around the necks of people you love.

Happy Mother’s Day, and try not to get sucked into the stupidity.

My novel, In the Land of God, is available on Amazon as an eBook and paperback.

You can also click here to donate to my Patreon page.

 

 

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