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.”
- 10 Things Every Woman Must Own (includes: leopard print scarf)
- Guys Must-Have Tees (includes: colorblock raglan T-shirt, plus more than 100 other shirts)
- 57 more must-have tech toys (includes: a $60 “Aromafork” and $200 earphones)
- Literally thousands of additional things
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.