Jen Michalski is author of the novel The Tide King, winner of the 2012 Big Moose Prize, the short story collections From Here and Close Encounters, and the novella collection Could You Be With Her Now. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is the founding editor of the literary quarterly jmww, a co-host of The 510 Readings and the biannual Lit Show, and interviews writers at The Nervous Breakdown. She also is the editor of the anthology City Sages: Baltimore, which Baltimore Magazine called a "Best of Baltimore" in 2010. She lives in Baltimore, MD. She tweets at https://twitter.com/MichalskiJen.
While Supplies Last
Did you know the can of women's shaving cream I used this morning is a limited edition? So is the candle I got on sale at TJMaxx. Just about everything you can buy boasts a limited edition style or flavor. But why? Am I really going to hoard Skintimate shaving gel at the thought that I won't be able to purchase the neat holographic shaving cream can in the winter, when my SAD kicks in and I'll need the sparkling, rainbow-trail fruits the most? And what about the green tea leaves candle? Will I feel a pain that will cause me eat small children if I never again smell the synthetic-crafted scent of green tea?
I don't understand the whole limited edition shtick. Except that I do. The advertising world understands our fears of a fleeting life, of happy memories, of so many things, in our instantaneous world, that seem gone forever. Their solution? More anxiety. Buy now, or forever hold your peace. Spend more, or don't blame your unhappiness on us. Hoard these products and stop time, and forever have access to objects we have decreed to be limited in quantity (as if anyone ever melts down the die or deletes the recipe). Suspend your life, your face, your olfactory sensations. Live now, always.
I suppose this could work on some level, except that you first need an emotional attachment to the said object. If you are creating new signature, limited-edition scents; limited-edition collector's pins of new Disney characters; a limited-edition Blu-Ray of a movie that went straight to DVD last year; or a limited-edition gold iPhone, what emotional memory is the company mining? I can only conclude that they're only mining some vague fear of loss. And what have we lost because we didn't buy that limited-edition NSync Monopoly game that now sells for a penny on eBay because limited edition actually meant 1 million units? This type of advertising in particular is deceptive, predatory, and cynical. It's the reason why television shopping networks make some much money off of invalids and homebodies. Preserve your present through physical memorabilia, aka life, the living souvenir shop. And we wonder why there are so many hoarders.
Perhaps advertising executives should devote their attentions to the real limited editions in our lives—water, clean air, land suitable for farming. Because that limited edition Furby has little hydration value when the rivers dry up and the landfills over-floweth. But by then we will have all purchased Dune-esque hydration suits that recycle our fluids into drinkable water. Some of them will even be limited editions—gold ones that turn your pee into champagne. I'm eyeing the one with the hologram on the back.