Say “treat yourself” to me one more time.
There’s a certain anger I reserve for made-up holidays. It’s on a special little shelf in my psyche, next to the rage I save for people who lean against the entire subway pole. Made-up holidays are designed to make us spend money, and while I certainly don’t mind our country throwing a little cash into the stream of commerce, I do mind the sentiment under which we’re doing it.
Single’s Day, or 11/11, originated in a university in China in the early 90s. It references the fact that all the numerals in the date are ones, and was intended as a celebration of single people. In 2009, Alibaba turned it into China’s version of Black Friday. I say this just so you know it didn’t begin with a bunch of single people standing around talking about how unfair it is that Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day get all the hoopla.
This year, Alibaba made over $25 billion on Single’s Day. I have no idea how much money our fa’cacta country made, but Alibaba’s number is double what the US did on Black Friday AND Cyber Monday combined last year. So that shit is working.
Here’s what crumbs my cream cheese:
Just like US versions of the shopping holidays, Alibaba offered discounts on a variety of goods, from household items to electronic gadgets to clothing to beauty supplies. Quirkier items meant to nail in on the joke about the nature of Singles’ Day were heavily promoted, such as a one time payment of 11,111 yuan (roughly $1,672 USD) for a lifetime supply of baiju liquor. Source.
What. Fucking. Joke. I’m sorry, is being single so shamefully miserable that not only does a lifetime supply of baiju liquor need to exist for purchase, it also needs to be discounted? The joke. The joke of Singles’ Day. Omg it’s so funny, all the numbers are ones and so are you! Because the norms of society don’t make a single person feel like enough of an outsider or failure (both of which are horseshit, my loves) a day named after us is all premised on a joke. Being single sucks. Buy yourself a lot of shit and drink.
But the joke goes further. In the US, we’ve taken a “treat yourself” approach to Singles’ Day. Go on, you deserve something nice. Call me crazy but a “holiday” that’s supposed to celebrate single people shouldn’t really be suggesting that their lives suck to the point that should engage in retail therapy. Valentine’s Day doesn’t highlight the annoying, frustrating parts of being in a relationship, does it?
Here’s one I don’t even know how to unpack right now, one of my favorite brands on the planet, Oak + Fort, held a Singles’ Day sale, but only on pink items.
Pardon?! Is that…like…for women? Like…hey this day is all about single women (men aren’t single, pshhhhttt), so we’ve discounted your color. [Insert retching noise.]
Here’s another gem, Photobook America (I have no idea why I receive these emails, I assume I entered a contest for a free trip to the Amalfi Coast), used “spoil yourself” messaging.
Because we haven’t yet been cut down like so many rainforest trees, let’s remark for a moment on the actual value of the discount:
You’re single, that must be very difficult for you, so we’ve discounted our fall inventory by 11%. ELEVEN! Not only are we going to demean you for being alone by saying you deserve a cookie, we’re going to discount it by a whopping 11%. Honey I don’t get out of bed for less than 20.
So you might be asking, what then, Shani, is appropriate Singles’ Day messaging? Oh looky, I found one:
See that kids? How should you message a Singles’ Day sale? Maybe just like any other goddamn sale! Maybe we don’t need to demean single people by making a day that “celebrates” them full of “give yourself a treat little girl” messaging that implies our lives are awful and instead let all the single digits be enough of a “joke.” Maybe the made up holiday that’s about single people doesn’t have to make them feel bad about it. I don’t know. Maybe I’m alone on this.