The Mack and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about food.
The Mack’s one of those guys who’s always thinking at least one meal ahead. We’ll be mid-way through a big cooked breakfast and he’ll start wondering aloud what we ought to do about lunch, smacking his lips and emitting deep belly groans at the thought of more food. Worryingly Homer Simpson.
With me, it’s more the typical no-carb obsessiveness of someone who worked on the fringes of fashion and who has an entire wardrobe of size 8 clothes. Dullsville. But absolutely necessary.
The Mack says that it’s simply his genetic coding. He’s hardwired to be a hunter-gatherer, so it’s only right that he’s always planning where his next meal is coming from. It’s usually coming from Sainsbury’s, but I guess it’s good to plan…
We’re all ultimately driven by two things: fear and desire. The proportions vary from person to person and often from situation to situation, but whatever gloss you add to justify your particular actions, if you strip it back you’ll find plain old fear or desire (or a combination of both).
Marketeers have had this sussed for yonks. They play us constantly on both sides. The aspirational longing – if only I had that watch/car/phone, I would be instantly cooler. The insecurity and inadequacy – I must buy all the anti-aging creams I can afford because no-one wants to be with a wrinkly old hag.
New-fangled marketing is no different. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, FourSnore, all are built on these two pillars of what it means to be human. It is the desire to belong, to be connected, to share. And the fear that if we don’t participate in these collective obsessions, then we are marginalised, we’re not really living. You’ve probably noticed it amongst some of your friends too – they upload so much of their day-to-day existence: it’s as though they believe that if it’s not captured and published, then it doesn’t count.
Strange, but maybe that’s what those cave paintings were all about…?
fanning the flames
I’m largely immune to the normal desire sales triggers. Show me all the magnum adverts in the world and I’m still not buying. Even those ones with triple caramel and almonds all swirling around hypnotically. Spare me. I grew up in the 80s with soft-focus Flake adverts and the Caramel bunny. Do you really think I’d fall for that lame old seduction routine??
So desire doesn’t really do it for me. I know this because I contrast my approach to starting up a business with The Mack’s. He’s a go-getting, nothing-stands-in-his-way, smash-some-walls-down, bish-bash-bosh (his words, not mine), laser-beam-focused, machine. He has energy, purpose and clarity of thought. He makes decisions quickly, moves on and gets shit done. And then he howls at the moon and beats his chest. (That last bit is, unfortunately, not made up – he hired a lion mask last weekend for my sister’s fancy dress party and seems in no hurry to take it back to the shop).
This is because he is driven by desire. He wants to succeed and he enjoys the process of making things happen. It’s quite impressive in action.
Whereas my approach is more stagnant puddle than flowing torrent of ambition. Sure, I get the occasional burst of enthusiasm for my projects, where I’ll splash around happily in the puddle for a day or so. But ultimately all that happens is that I churn up the mud at the bottom. And no-one’s investing in mud. So I stop.
But fear, now that I can relate to. According to The Mack, the 3 little words that I say to him most often are, “Babe, I’m worried…” And I have a really good scared face.
I think, on the whole, women do anxiety better than men. Maybe it’s because we’re so adept at multi-tasking. It means that we can worry about 821 things simultaneously. What a gift.
The downside of using fear as your primary motivator is that it has a tendency to paralyse you, rather than spur you on to greatness. You don’t often hear really successful people interviewed saying that what made them was sheer blind terror. It’s always burning ambition, passion, desire for self-improvement. Fear and self-loathing don’t seem to feature much in rags to riches stories. Well, unless Oliver Twist is your mentor.
On the one hand, my lack of need to prove anything or to feel productive just for the sake of it, is hugely liberating. On the other hand, it might be the thing that hampers me making a go of this new lifestyle. I’ve chosen a path that requires me to be enthusiastic, proactive and self-starting. And then I’ve basically covered myself in quick-setting tar and feathers and wondered why I’m struggling to move off the sofa.
I’m essentially living the life of a still-sprightly octogenarian. Those little chores that used to sit on the periphery of my life (the supermarket run, online banking, hoovering) are now right up top of my to-do list. I haven’t got to the point where I need an afternoon nap yet, but it can’t be far off.
But I’m not worried (well, maybe a teensy bit). Because I know that the longer my state of apathy and paralysis lasts, the more anxious I will become about it. And one day soon, the fear of losing this lifestyle will force me into action. I just don’t think it’s a job for today… I’ve got some washing up to do.