Do you remember the old days, dear reader, when soap operas interrupted the daily vacuuming at home? When you could sell more cigarettes by placing magazine ads telling the little ladies that only successful families contain smokers and how much sexier they were than non-smokers? When you could flog the latest brand of gin by showing smiling husbands with martini glasses in their hands?
In those days, it was well known that housewives were harmless, gullible creatures who could be swayed to buy your product in bulk if only you appealed to their looks/mood/status. Everybody knew that all the average housewife did was cook, clean, take a break to watch the afternoon soaps and pop pills:
First, it was valium that the Rolling Stones famously dubbed “Mother’s Little Helper.” Then, the New York Times reported that sleep aids like Ambien and Lunesta were the drug of choice for women — the newspaper reported that 1 in 3 were hooked. Now, according to Fox 5, many suburban moms are taking Adderall, a medication commonly used to treat ADHD…
“Desperate Housewives” took this on in the show’s first season, when Lynette used Ritalin to turn into a “supermom,” feeling like she was the only mother who couldn’t handle the responsibilities of being a parent…
Fox 5 profiled two suburban moms who admitted to prescription drug addiction. In an interview, the women (who had never met each other before) agreed that it is likely a neighborhood-wide problem and both doubt they are the only mothers abusing meds. Their assumption may not be so far off -– in a CDC study, 30 percent of women said they’ve shared prescription medication with others.
This wasn’t mere addiction. For housewives, and the companies that advertised to them, it was both a lifestyle and cash cow.
For the most part (the Desperate Housewives notwithstanding) those heady days are gone, as governments discovered that they could double their tax base by getting those vapid, consuming females out into the workforce, where they could earn, be taxed…and continue consuming.
If I stress the attitude of the general population to housewives as being one of patronising tolerance, then it seems that that attitude died its death once a significant fraction of women began donning power suits. Not so fast.
I’m equal parts amused and appalled to note that millennials have taken the place of those 50s, 60s and (to a lesser extent) 70s housewives.
Instead of “soaps”, we now have “gigs” and “hustles”. Rather than spending three hours watching soap operas, millennials are encouraged to spend that spare time driving people around their town/city. It’s hip, it’s groovy, it’s Modern Lifestyle.
Everybody needs a side-hustle, Uber tells us. Lyft driver Mary went into labour while picking up passengers.
To put this in wider perspective, I recommend you read Jia Tolentino’s article “The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death” at The New Yorker magazine, but here’s a choice paragraph:
A Fiverr press release about “In Doers We Trust” states, “The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding.” This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic. No one wants to eat coffee for lunch or go on a bender of sleep deprivation—or answer a call from a client while having sex, as recommended in the video. It’s a stretch to feel cheerful at all about the Fiverr marketplace, perusing the thousands of listings of people who will record any song, make any happy-birthday video, or design any book cover for five dollars. I’d guess that plenty of the people who advertise services on Fiverr would accept some “whiteboarding” in exchange for employer-sponsored health insurance.
You snooze (or attempt to have a normal life), you lose, sucker! But all this rabid entrepreneurising has its side-effects. You’re always on, always hustling, always sucking down those double-shot espressos, rushing from one appointment to the next, caught up in a crazy whirl of pitch, pitch, pitch. What do you do to relax? Well, nothing, because relaxing is for losers. In that case, what do you do to work off all that nervous excess energy? Why pilgrim, that’s what fidget gadgets are for!
The fidget gadget. The Therapy Shoppe tells me to:
Use fidgets and sensory balls for calming and alerting, to promote focusing and concentration, decrease stress, increase tactile awareness of fingers/hands (through proprioceptive input), and as a way to keep fidgeting fingers busy!
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen “fidget”, “calming”, “decrease stress” and “keep busy” together before in the one sentence. Because, of course, if you want to decompress, the best thing for it is to keep busy! Another site, Fidget Widgets, in cracked English, tells me that:
It’s easy to get stressed out with the hustle and bustle of life.
Use it to relax and stay stress-free all year long with your new Focus Cube.
Where the housewife could at least be relied upon to think about her family and put dinner together before getting that gee-whizz must-have gadget, with things like fidget toys, we’re cutting out the middlemen and going straight for self-gratification. Screw the family, that gadget is for me! And it’s therapeutic, so you can just go warm up a TV dinner and leave me twirling my little plastic gears and wheels in peace. I’m worth it.
Fidget gadgets don’t reduce stress…they just channel it in a different direction. The stress is still there, it just looks cooler. If you consider people who behave like compulsive hamster treadmill-runners cool, that is.
So we now have a generation of sleep-deprived, hyper-caffeinated, fidgeting hustlers who won’t baulk at closing a $5 deal mid-coitus. Wow, imagine what role models they’ll be when they have children.
But what if you can’t keep up? What if you’re slower, stupider and less fidget-prone than your cutthroat peers? Then we have you covered as well, you useless eater! Cue heavenly music…
Nootropics are “smart drugs”. (If you want to sell to Millennials, just use the word “smart” before everything…smartphone, smart display, smart sex. You get the picture.) Or, if you’ve just rolled your eyes at that two-word summation, cognitive enhancers.
In other words, they’re the kind of drugs with the kind of cachet that hustlers can get away with taking, but probably not the homeless guy who lives under the bridge. While I’m not a fan of Wikipedia, I commend the editor who penned this short note on the topic:
…intense marketing may not correlate with efficacy.
Brilliant. I came across nootropics when I received a newsletter from a techie trying to flog his Linux course. The newsletter started in the following way:
“Take this pill.”
“No, I’m not going to just take a pill.”
“It’ll make you crazy productive.” [Wow! Not just “super-productive” but “crazy productive”! I can see colours spark at the edge of my vision already! –Kaz]
I swallowed the pill.
Some people call nootropics smart drugs, brain boosters, or even cognitive enhancers. [No, surely not! Even cognitive enhancers? –Kaz] I’ve always been skeptical about such things, but it was the perfect storm:
1) I totally respect and admire my friend for his high level of productivity and effectiveness [dude –Kaz].
2) [Irrelevant detail]
3) I had a deadline. I couldn’t put off work that HAD to get done that day! [Ah, the perfect go-getting hustler, I’d say. –Kaz]
So I swallowed the pill.
I don’t know if it was the placebo effect or what… but about 30 minutes after taking [the pill] I felt like I had blinders on. I was crazy focused and super productive.
I had such a good experience that I ordered a bottle from [USG-/CIA-funded online shopping behemoth] the very next day so it would be waiting for me when I got home.
My friend also recommended [another pill]. He told me that if [pill A] didn’t work for me, [pill B] probably would. It makes total sense [dude –Kaz]… everybody is slightly different, so some people respond better to one formula while other people respond better to the other one.
Oh good grief. This is who I’m leaving the world to? A slightly more intelligent version of Theodore Logan? At least your average drug-addled housewife wasn’t allowed to handle the nuclear codes, but these completely sucked-in, vocabulary-challenged, always-on hustlers not only drive us around, program our society’s AIs (from social media to actual important things like medical diagnostics) and will one day rule the world, but are put on pedestals as something for others to aspire to.
Just as an ambitious person would probably not wish to lead their entire life as a 60s housewife, I doubt the same person would wish to transform into a tanked-up, jittery drug addict for the duration either. Imagine a world full of these:
Copyright © KS Augustin, 2017
* If you liked this article, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Even a dollar a month would be gratefully received. If a regular subscription is out of the question (and I understand how that can be) a small donation would nonetheless be greatly appreciated (see the Donation button on the sidebar). I’ll be trying to hit big issues in ways that may not be obvious twice a month, on the first and fifteenth, and every cent helps. Thank you.