I remember an advertising jingle from years ago, a classic which cropped up every January (as I remember it). A razzmatazz melody and a rushed chorus of voices sang, “Everything You Wanted But Didn’t Get For Christmas…” to promote a post-holiday sale at Sears. (YouTube kindly allowed me to refresh my memory with a version from 1977 — was it seriously that long ago?)
Things that we were fine living without before an arbitrary gift-giving occasion thus become things that we need badly enough to go out and buy for ourselves. That’s the point of commercials, isn’t it? They remind us that wanting something is a condition which can be cured rather than endured.
Commercials try to persuade us that our lives are lacking things which we never realized we wanted or needed or couldn’t live without (despite having done so). Very few commercials are simply informational announcements of a new product or service. Along with the facts are the opinions, presented as arguments we cannot refute, telling us how to think about ourselves and our lives and why we must surely want what they offer.
Even without commercials, I find myself wanting things that I never thought about before, simply because the lack of those things have been pointed out to me. I knew Twinkies existed, I had eaten Twinkies in the past, but I lived for decades without thinking about Twinkies. Then it was all over the news how the world would soon be without Twinkies, and suddenly I wanted them. My store had none left in stock, and I wanted them more. The shelves of Little Debbie snack cakes were never a destination for me, until this manufactured desire drove me to buy their Cloud Cakes.
Then there is this matter of my current search for a job. I have considered a lot of different career paths, and have applied for a variety of positions. I have learned about jobs which I had never considered before, but might be a good fit for my current skills and interests. I recently had a phone interview which boosted my spirits, and it left me looking forward to working at that company. Then the rejection came. And now I am left wanting something I was completely ignorant of before. How can I want something now which I didn’t know I wanted a mere week ago? Just because it was taken away from me, before I even had it to begin with, I feel the loss.
I guess they don’t call them “want ads” for nothing.