Life was simpler pre-millennium wasn’t it? Don’t say it wasn’t; it was. Everything is limitless these days. I mean it might have always been but we wouldn’t have known that. Back then we had to walk to use a public phone box to communicate with someone and if that person didn’t answer you’d be forced to return home (berating taking the shortcut via the allotments after walking white (yes, white; you never see that these days) dog poo all over the epilepsy-inducing Wilton). No chance to leave a message or anything. Photographs taken on cameras that you had to fit with a cartridge yourself then wait a few weeks to find out whether you’d managed to take even one decent photograph. People wrote letters; in their own handwriting with a pen then took it to a post box with a stamp and reverence and popped it in.
Waiting was common place; nobody really thought about it, it was what it was. I’d often wait for the local Butcher to fillet 4 chicken breasts right there in front of me. Stuff seemed more precious, more fought for; waited for, longed for. When I was a young Mum a big night in at our house was fancy crisps from the Spar which included a little tub of sauce to dip them in. I bloody loved those crisps. Washed down with one bottle of Diamond White each. If there was a celebration we’d share mushrooms in gravy from the chinese with prawn crackers. Yes I really was that classy. Obviously buying a deep-fat fryer was a game changer; now we could have fried potato in any shape our heart desired, on any given day…simple pleasures you see. That’s all we needed. And contentment was generally high as we had no real concept of what others were doing or having.
Today we are forced to mentally digest everyone’s life. Yes we can chose not to look; not engage in the social media circus and for the vast majority of us we dip easily in and out. And if the phone apps don’t get you the televisual brainwashing and advertising will anyway. Most of us have the good sense to know it’s only the polished version of a truth, even though the public display of what people have; regardless of how they’ve achieved it, has definitely furthered the myth of what is normal and in turn expected; particularly by young people.
A night ‘out out’ years ago would have seen me popping a Harmony box colour on my hair whilst spackling the bathroom and carpet a few hours before, then popping on my ‘going out clothes’ as there was invariably only one choice at a time and applying the brightest lipstick I owned. I’d drink either half a lager or Martini and lemonade and only expect to visit a few pubs and still be home in time for Come Dancing. I never thought of having my nails done, fake tan, eyelash extensions or having a ‘hair-up’ in a salon pre-drinking Prosecco with my friends.
And this level of expectation now applies to all areas of our life. Because we’re being led to believe that there is a lavish way of doing absolutely fucking everything and literally everyone is doing it and we can also do and have it should we aspire to do so (not labouring the extremely high price you will invariably pay as you entrench yourself both fiscally and mentally). Unless you’re going it alone; and then you can pick a ‘minority’ label? Of which there are now MILLIONS. If going down this route; at least go for something conservational; Veganism perhaps, anything other than some vile introspection, where you seek attention by berating the masses to appease your grossly inflated sense of self.
The poor young people of today with their great expectations of the brand new car that all their friends in essence ‘rent’ these days. Yes you don’t’ just rent a property, you also pay a premium to be told how far you can travel and in some cases between which hours of the day/night; in order to have use of a car you will never own but at least can be seen driving in the meantime. This along with your extortionate i-phone contracts, Netflix and Spotify accounts starts to drain the pay you receive for that middle-grade job you struggled to secure after 4 years at Uni put you into 40k’s worth of debt that you don’t really see as being yours.
Then there’s the ticking time bomb of ‘do I go travelling’, ‘further my career here and get on the property ladder’, ‘find my soul mate and get procreating’? And each one is time-limited; and to enable just one person to ‘have it all’ which they’re being invisibly force-fed to truly believe they can and should but for that to happen requires everything to go smoothly; absolutely fucking everything. There must be no mishaps; no deviations, missed turns or opportunities. No, there’s no time for that; not if you hope to tick off every stage of ‘having it all’; one bit going wrong will have a knock on effect and suddenly down come your hopes and dreams; collapsing like a pack of bloody cards and suddenly you’ve failed. Oh dear, you’ve only managed to have a career and a family; never been travelling? Must try harder; look at all these golden families on Insta trotting round the globe with their offspring; living the dream, assuring you it’s all totally possible. So you’ve travelled the earth but have now returned home the wrong side of forty with no significant other and an untarnished womb; all the mind-blowing sunrises not enough to stop you feeling unfulfilled and like you’ve failed the ultimate life experience; to actually create life…and so it goes on.
Expectations that remain just that and never materialise end up like a vulture of self-loathing that sits on your shoulder and constantly reminds you of what you’ve not got/had. They’re to be avoided. Though today’s world makes that very difficult and avoiding the endless taunting images of all that you’ve not yet achieved damn near impossible. And unfortunately no amount of motivational words, self-help links or sensible platitudes from your contemporaries will be enough. We need a full societal overhaul. For it’s not just the planet that’s in danger of imploding.
On a lighter note; it’s nearly Christmas and all my wrapping is done (badly).