We live in a marvelous-type world, where there are nine thousand different ways to cook chicken and you can buy every single one of them for under a fiver. We live in a confusing world, where everything you want, or need, or some combination of the two, is available to you from one hundred different outlets, all within walking distance.
What this means for someone like me, with some small bits of disposable income and disposable time, with a chronic inability to make up my mind and a predilection for the nearest, shiniest thing, is that the best way of selling something to me is to couple it with a gimmick.
Want me to buy your food? Make me eat it in pitch blackness. Make me shell out fifty quid for something I won’t see until it comes out the other end the next day. Make a short man in dark glasses guide me to my table. Make sure he spills my wine, just a little bit. Make me smear my fingers across my plate, identify the bits of meat beneath my fingernails as crab. Tell me afterwards that I ate crocodile and springbok. Ensure that I know that it could have been the fingers of babies, the heart of my mother, and I’d never be the wiser.
Want to me to stay in your hotel? Make it a love hotel, with a garish sign, next to a sushi bar in an alleyway that smells of fish. Make my room classroom-themed, so I can have sex on the same kinds of desks my students sit at every day. Put a locker in the corner and lay out a plaid skirt on the bed. Cherry-flavoured lubricant isn’t exactly on-theme but I won’t complain if it’s free. I’ll still enjoy writing crude messages on the blackboard with the chalk I hate.
Want me to go to your cinema? Best make it a multi-sensory cinematic experience (yes, really). Give me a little cardboard tray with numbered pottles that sync, in the form of dramatic flashing digits, with events onscreen. I want to eat spun sugar studded with black pudding at the very moment that shard of glass enters Mercutio’s body. I want to drink poison with Romeo. I want to eat Juliet’s heart. I didn’t know that I wanted this before, but I do.
Want me to drink your cocktail? Use words like “infused”. Turn it upside down. Freeze it. Heat it. Dance naked around it and filter it with your eyelashes. Fill it with things like rosemary, which isn’t drinkable and is therefore confusing. Infuse my drink with rosemary smoke, so that I choke as I drink, so that my insides melt, so that I’m convinced that this is the best thing I have tasted, simply because I have never tasted anything like it before, even though it tastes terrible. If you can serve it to me in a birdcage, so much the better.
Want me to go to your party? Don’t have it in a bar. Don’t have it in a house. I’ve been in many; I have my own. No – let us celebrate whatever needs celebrating in the abandoned train tunnels under Waterloo station, so that brackish water drips into my drink. Make a forest of pine-trees; create an underground lake complete with flat-bottomed boats – make me row it after several glasses of bad white wine so that I nearly drown in water up to my knee. I want to be cold. I want to be confused. I think I want to be a train.
Want me to buy your lipstick? It’s not enough that the shades are beautiful, that they suit me, that your prices are reasonable. There are so many for me to choose from in this reeling rainbow, how could I possibly know that yours is better? Make a star sign her name to it. Convince me that this is how they became famous, this one slash of colour. I need the smack of celebrity about it, I want Rihanna on my face, Lady Gaga smeared across my lips. I want to look like Maleficent. I want to be Angeline Jolie. This one, the red one, does it taste like Brad Pitt?
Want me to run your 10k race, the expensive one, when there are so many others for less, for charity, when I could run that distance for free in the park near my home? Give me a DJ. Give me smoky tunnels of flashing lights to run through, so that I might forget that I can’t breathe. Don’t give me a medal at the end – give me a dainty necklace in rose gold engraved with a bird. I can fly. I am a bird. I think I’m going to vomit.
I’m going to have to get married in space, and be buried in a clear Perspex box suspended across the Thames. I’ll live my life wearing clothes constructed of real pieces of fruit and used condoms. I’ll breathe cinnamon-scented air that makes me choke and have live grass sewn into my scalp in lieu of hair. I can’t do anything normal anymore. Roast meals with my family, a chick flick, a walk in the park. What’s the point? I’ve done it before.