This penguin shirt and faux-jewelry purse fall into the category of “needs” rather than “wants.”

I was with Betsy at Kohl’s yesterday, looking for baby clothes, when a sign caught my eye. It was advertising MUST-HAVE fashion accessories. I was shocked, then terrified, as I realized that I owned none of these strictly mandatory items. What would become of me? Nightmare visions flashed through my head: Cranial gout? Hair cancer? Inflammation of the homunculus? I simply didn’t know; the sign provided no details.

Betsy noticed me twitching on the tile floor and helped me to my feet, assuring me softly that I would be okay.

The sign, it turns out, was lying.

And thank heaven. Because it isn’t just those Kohl’s products that are labeled “must-have.”

That last link, with the tech toys, is from 2014 – and I don’t think I bought anything on that list. Two years later, I have yet to suffer duodenal implosion. Was the headline, perhaps, misinformed?

The really striking thing about the “must-have” label is that it’s never applied to anything that is actually must-have. When was the last time you saw an ad for “Water: The Must-Have Liquid of 2016”? Or “This Season’s Must-Have Parenting Item: Unconditional Love”? I studied my depression medication bottles carefully – you know, the things that prevent me from spiraling into a horrific pit of self-loathing and apathy – and was unable to find the phrase “must-have” on them anywhere.

In fact, this arrangement is rather convenient for you, the consumer.

Because “must-have” is never applied to things you must have, it follows logically that anything labeled “must-have” is automatically something you do not need to have. Think of it as a badly mistyped warning label that says “Unnecessary.”

It’s a public service, really.

5 responses to “Must-Haves

  1. I, too, visited Kohl’s this weekend…why, oh why, couldn’t this article have been posted sooner…

  2. I’ve also found that some time can be freed up every day by never reading anything marked “Must Read!” on social media. It may be just a few minutes a day, but it adds up.

    (It’s not a good idea to apply this more generally in life. A communication marked “Must Read!” from your cardiologist is a different matter.)

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