In 1997, the Spice Girls invaded America. My brother came down with a disastrous case of frosted tips. And Radiohead’s “Creep” played on MTV’s “Dawn Patrol” while I ate my Honey Nut Cheerios.
Life was all about rocking board shorts, Drew Barrymore barrettes and scouring Seventeen for full-page spreads of Jared Leto (aka Jordan Catalano). When we weren’t fighting over the bathroom mirror, kids like us were accessing the World Wide Web via Netscape and crunchy dial-up internet tones.
But in this pre-TRL, pre-Britney boom time, one cultural touchstone broke through all the noise. And that iceberg, ladies and gentleman, was “Titanic” — the James Cameron mega blockbuster that redefined film for the dawning 21st century.
My name is Betty. I’m 94. I was born in 1923, lived through the Great Depression as a young girl, and waited with bated breath as my husband fought in World War II. This had a profound effect on my life, and his.
We had a good life, though. Money was tight, but we were blessed in so many ways.
I gave birth to a beautiful son who then grew to have kids of his own. Some of my grandchildren have already had kids of their own, too. My grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) are everything to me. Every time I see their faces, I see the hope of an entire generation. I see my mom and my dad. I hear my siblings in their laughter. Their hugs warm my heart and remind me of the vigor that I used to have.
I’m telling you all of this so you get to know me. Because I’m not the typical customer advertisers talk to these days. I’m not a millennial or even a baby boomer. I don’t use the internet frequently. I still watch cable.
But I matter.
Growing up, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I got older. I would go from marine biologist to race-car driver to nighttime security guard in the span of an hour. At any given moment in high school, I might have told you I either wanted to study sociology at UC Berkeley or drop out to find a berth on a cod-fishing vessel.
The only things I could never see myself doing were marketing and sales (might also throw air traffic control and law enforcement in there for posterity). I was passionate about social and environmental causes as a child, and my parents made sure that I hated Wal-Mart before I could even pronounce the name of that unholiest of places.
“Let’s add a QR code” may sound like a bad marketing punchline or the nightmare of an ad exec in the early 2010s, but it’s a phrase coming soon to an office near you. While it feels like we just got rid of them, QR codes are returning, stronger and more determined than a hoard of Demogorgons.
When Black Friday rolls around, the same thought always crosses my mind: do we really hate our families this much? On the day after Thanksgiving we could be sitting in our pajamas, having a wholesome breakfast of leftover pumpkin pie and lukewarm mini-quiches. But no. Millions of Americans will brave parking lot traffic jams and stand in long lines with turkied-up grumpies, ready to elbow anyone who stands in the way of their deeply discounted, 60-inch flat screen.
Lots of people love Black Friday, but surely, there’s got to be a better way to stock up for the holidays. Maybe I just don’t love America enough, but nothing about this spectacle appeals to me. For starters, I hate mornings and I love pajamas. And I have no interest in being tased by a security guard or receiving a shiner from the overzealous shopper coming up fast on my left flank.