Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Monkey brains

Yesterday I went upstairs to cover Maggies break and took over seeing the rep from Elsevier. I'm flicking through the catalogue of books that mostly don't apply to our store and I said to him that most of these books seem like the one on monkey brains that another rep showed me the other week. I was a bit embarrassed when the other rep turned out to be him as well.

This then led to a conversation about time speeding up recently, since it had been a month since he'd been in and it had only seemed like the week before that I'd seen him. He was saying that he'd just had his birthday and that he couldn't believe how old he was when he didn't feel it, and how stuck he felt when he thought of all the things he could be doing.

We had a chinwag about this for a few minutes before he went, but it really got me thinking.

When I was little, 28 was old. I know that about 9 years old I thought that when I was 27 I'd be married and have kids, that was an aim right up until this time last year in fact. Not a big aim, but the kind of childhood aim that stays in your subconscious and hangs about there, occasionally making itself known. Last year I really felt I'd failed this aim that I'd had for such a long time, and it took a bit of work to acknowledge that although it was a valid aim, it just didn't apply anymore.

I think part of the problem is that the media feeds such a constant image of not good enough. Celebrity magazines say that you're not thin enough, or your life is not worthwhile if you don't have these sunglasses, that dress, those shoes. Lifestyle magazines try to sell you the perfect home, the perfect cleaning product to clean your perfect new gadget with. Advertising is designed to sell you a product by selling you the image (and I'm the advertisers dream according to my dad) but the whole of the media seems to be going this way. Even book prizes do it, the idea that you HAVE to read the Booker/Orange/Costa winner or not be a serious reader.

TV programmes show you the dream of quitting the rat race and going to grow vegetables, but they gloss over the hard work and focus on the "goodness" of eating your own produce. Relocation, Relocation did a programme when a mother and daughter followed their dream of going to run a pub in the country (which our new manager was raving about it being a fabulous idea), but it never mentions the fact that someone has to be up early for deliveries, someone up late to close up and you never get a day off. (My parents have friends who own a pub, and all this was mentioned when once I said I'd like to do it)

It's no wonder that we sell so many Pop Psych books, the world just seems to be set up at the moment to tell you that you're not good enough. Your job isn't paying enough, you should love your job, you should be going to these places on holiday, you should be recycling more, eating better, reading these books.

For a long time I thought it was just me, doing my whole paranoia thing and feeling generally insecure. But having a chat with a guy who said that he harbours dreams of living like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall but knows he wouldn't like the hard work bit has helped me realise that it's something affecting other people than just me.

I don't know if I'll ever manage to be free of it, but knowing this is helping me look at it that much clearer.


Anonymous said...

Hello - thanks for adding me on twitter, I've dropped by at your blog before and enjoyed it.

I am a full 11 (count 'em) years older than you and have learned to relax.

But now as a parent all this 'you should be doing this, you should be doing that..." kicks in even more - but I think everyone secretly knows that we all just muddle along the best we can.

Take care


Kate said...

Thank you Linda!

I was having a moment where I thought no-one had commented cos no-one else had the same problem...

Now I just have to deal with the fact I'm turning into my mother...