Holiday Post # 1- Bananas and Video Games

Holiday Post # 1 Bananas and Video Games

The Thanksgiving holiday marks the season of joy for some, but for others it can be very depressing. As a matter of fact, you may know that for TherapyDocs all over the world, it’s BUSY SEASON.

Because of the Holiday Blues.

This Doc starts getting busier as soon as the leaves begin to fall and the days get shorter.

In Chicago, if we have a decent Indian Summer, meaning if there are a few weeks in late October and early November with sun and high temperatures, it seems there’s less of an onset of SADS (seasonal affective disorder).

I forgot to add someting about the holiday blues to that post on SADS, but I should have.

Going out of town last week for a vacation, a mere two weeks before Thanksgiving? Sheer sacrilege.

Why are people such emotional wrecks before the holidays?

Lots of reasons. One of 'em's money.

But first, a quick story about S. and bananas.

Who is S.?

S. used to be referred to in this blog as G.D., Genius Doc, writer of BUNK, Medical Myths and Misinformation. The problem is that he’s always hated being referred to as G.D. and I hate to upset him. So from now on we'll refer to him as S. short for Such a Good Doc.

Thursday night S. went to the Jewel, the local Albertson’s grocery store, to buy bananas. He’ll do that, go to the store to buy ONE thing. This is not something women ever do and it boggles my mind, but I admire it, like everything else about him.

The Jewel is in a strip mall within walking distance from our house. S. returned home with bananas that were a little green, but okay. I’m not going to make an issue over green bananas.

S: You would not believe what’s going on at the Best Buy! (Best Buy's right next door to Jewel). They’re queued up to get inside for tomorrow’s sale. Do you want to know what’s going to be on sale?

Me: Uh, sure.

S: The new Play Station. People will be waiting in line all night to get in early tomorrow morning to buy Play Stations for their kids for Xmas. They will be camped out all night long to buy these things.

Me: I see.

S: Crazy, right?

Me: Oh, yeah.

My friends, I have to tell you. We do not live in California. We do not live in Florida. We do not live in Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina or Texas. We live in friggin’ Chicago, Illinois, and we are not having an Indian summer. It is COLD here at night. In November it gets into the 30’s by 10 p.m.

I have my thermostat set at 75 degrees.

Immediately I understood that this was going to be a very good season for me.

Except that people start canceling their appointments around this time of year (you DO give me 24 hours notice, right?). They’re saving their money, co-payments, co-insurance, what-ever, to buy things like . . .

Play Stations.

They short change S., too, this time of year.

But we’re getting away from the point:

Why do people suffer from Holiday Blues? The holidays are supposed to be happy times.

Money's big here. No question depression's also related to other things, LOSS in particular, missing people who are not here and having problems with people who are. But money certainly factors in heavily to the blues.

The Wall Street Journal made it perfectly clear.

In Friday’s WSJ (November 17) there’s an article in the Marketplace section entitled: It’s the Publicity that Counts.

Vanessa O’Connell writes an ingenious piece about holiday marketing to consumers. She says that in 1959 Neiman Marcus began to pitch gifts to those who could afford excess with the first one-of-a-kind luxury item. Neiman’s convinced the well-heeled that they could not possibly do without a . . .

Black Angus Steer.

Ever since, high end retail stores have been introducing fantasy items this time of year with exorbitant price tags. We too can buy them if we can get our hands on thousands, upon thousands, sometimes even millions of dollars.

A space travel venture, meaning a ride on a spaceship, the Virgin Galactic? Only 1.5 million. They’re booked solid, I understand. Sorry, you're too late.

A walk-on roll at the American Ballet? A mere $3,000 is the starting bid. Good G-d, TAKE it!

A day at the Super Bowl, accompanied by a National Football League player? Only $100, 000.00. How can anyone resist this?

Ms. O’Connell brilliantly remarks, “. . . even customers who can’t afford fantasy gifts will want to be associated with such luxury.

She continues: Retailers know that luxury is largely an emotional state, and during the holidays, people are most prone to acting on emotions.”

Bing, bing, bing.

Hear that friends? You’re most prone to acting on emotion (as opposed to logic)during the holiday season. And I’m telling you that your serotonin is likely to get locked up in those neurons this time of year. Thus you may be more vulnerable to impulse buying than you would be under normal circumstances, and you may be likely to regret your purchasing later, which will add to your depression.

The journalist is 100% correct. People act upon the need to spend money they don’t have: (1) to make others happy, (2) to save face among friends and family, (3) because it makes them feel rich, and 4) they want to be perceived as rich so that they’re treated as if they’re rich. The saying goes, image is everything.

So everyone rips out the plastic and goes to town beginning the day after Thanksgiving. And it depresses the blank out of ‘em to do it, too.

What a world.

Which brings us back to bananas and video games.

Bananas aren’t exactly a gift, it’s true, but we can consume them. I maintain that a banana, because it is food, is closer to a symbol of love than is a Play Station.

Food for sure represents love. When people eat they are commonly happy. They often eat with others and talk, discuss problems or fantasize about dreams. Women lunch. Couples make plans for the future over dinner. They communicate about intimate things.

Whereas a Play Station represents staring into a media device.

My grandparents (and my father) were immigrants and came to this country in the twenties. When I was a kid I remember only getting two toys for special occasions: a Ken doll with a bald spot (why Ken, not Barbie, I’m not sure), and a Sheri Lewis hand puppet, Lamb Chop. At some point Mom got us all a Monopoly Game to share which was a tremendous thrill. These were great toys.

But that generation wouldn't have dreamed of throwing out money on things they could not afford. Their concept of fun was any state that was the absense of work. Work for folks like my parents and their parents meant picking feathers off of chickens or holding eggs up to a candle to see if there was anything moving around inside the shell.

Fun was something you did outside, using imagination, preferably. It meant moving around, tossing pennies, having contests to see how far or high a kid could jump.

I'm thinking that the best gifts you can give your kid are imagination, a back yard, or both. I am sure that one can live without a back yard. But imagination? So necessary.

It can lie dormant unless it is watered, for sure. Parents have to water a child’s imagination, and seed it.

Another great gift is teaching children to love learning. Learning is also fun Good parenting, parenting with care, as I’ve said before, is the greatest gift.

And it’s not expensive.

Am I saying that I would have accepted a banana for Chanukah? Uh, no.

But a new sweater or a little cash? Well, what do you think?!

What would I suggest to parents who feel they MUST spend more money than they have in order for their children to have happy holidays?

Well, actually? I’d say don’t do it, don’t spend the money. Use your imagination to figure out something else, anything else.

Talk to your children about values. Spending money on things that don’t last is self-destructive for you and doesn't really enhance your child's life very much in the long run.

You being mentally healthy is a gift to them, too. Getting upset about something that really is within your power to control isn't necessary.

You can tell your children as much if they have the audacity to ask, "Where's My Play Station?"

You really can say, “You know, it makes me a little crazy to spend all that money when I don’t have it to spend.”

Believe it or not, they’ll understand.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


jeanie said…
Great post - over here since Cyclone Larry Bananas ARE a luxury item!! We are doing our Christmas lists at the moment, and making sure that intangibles such as fun activities that don't include price tags are on there...

My daughter's birthday has just been and there was a lot of $$ spent by various family members on her wishes and they are not ratio-ally (what is the word I want here?) more favoured than those that cost less but used more imagination.
I liked your post!! We Jews also tend to overspend before (Jewish) holidays and not necessarily on gifts--must be the serotonin. The best gift to your children is good parenting--and financial security.
Holly said…
Excellent post - - especially after catching some of this Play Station waiting game on the news....nice how so many play right into the hands of the marketers...Oh well. I wanted to post on a couple other articles that came through my RSS feed but never appeared on your site. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!

Holly's Corner
Therapy Doc said…
about bananas. . .not everyone's heard about Cyclone Larry, but C.L. did a real number on the banana crop in Australia (right Jeanie?)

They're about $3 - 4 U.S. dollars a pound. So maybe we SHOULD consider them as presents. hmmm
Dan G said…

Dan Goldmeier here. My dad e-mailed me alink to your blog.

Love your writing. Thankfully my kids aren't old enough to want video games yet. But I grew up without them and don't have one and have no plans to get. I much prefer a backyard and imagination.

I enjoy reading what you write.
All the best
Mark Brown said…
Excellent writing! There is much truth in what you have expressed. Tis the season of Love! Love trumps Play Station 3 and the new Tickle Me Elmo any day! You are also correct that children understand much more than we sometimes give them credit for. A bought gift is fun, however rarely memorable, where as the love that you share and teach will live on forever. Looking back, I don't remember many of the store bought gifts that I received during the holidays. I do remember the love, the faces, the songs, the people in my life and the relationships that I will forever cherish.