I’m 26. Can you hear me? I’m 26. When I was 18, the statement, “I’m 18” was exactly that, a statement. Here I am! Bold! Young! Ready to take on the world! And ever-so slightly sexually frustrated! Then by the time I hit 23, “I’m 23” was just an incidental fact, a mere detail. I whispered it. Now, I’m 26. I can say that boldly again. Like I’m in an American self-help group. “I’m 26. I’m not married. I don’t intent to marry. I don’t want kids. Help me, I’m obviously ill.” (Add the noise of whopping and clapping to complete the effect).
What’s made me feel like this? Well, the other day I updated some software on my PC and they asked me to fill out an online questionnaire. In true back-of-the-cereal-packet style, instead of typing in an age, there was a series of check boxes. Yes, you’ve guessed it – my mouse travelled sadly across the ’16-25′ box and clicked firmly in the middle of ’26-35′. Oh God, I’ll probably still be clicking that box when my fingers start feeling arthritic. I scanned down to the bottom of the list but unfortunately, the company did not have a checkbox for, “Would you like one of our sales representatives to come round and shoot you now.” It wasn’t Microsoft, then.
This questionnaire had obviously realised it had backed me onto the ropes, and went in for the kill. “How much money is coming into your household?” it demanded. Surely it’s more important to know how much money is going OUT of my household… but anyway, a scroll down list was provided. Well, technically, I should have selected “nothing”, as I don’t earn ANY US dollars, thankyouverymuch. Nonetheless, I knew what it meant, so I looked at the options. 10 to 15 thousand, 15 to 20 thousand… and it went on, all the way up to 70 to 80 thousand and 80 to 90 thousand. And now a feeling of deep-rooted personal failure set in. How specific does the marketing need to be to differentiate between someone earning 80 grand or 90 grand? How many people on 80 grand are thinking – “Can’t afford that Merc – that’s for people on 90K”? I scrolled back up, and up, and up, and selected my income. I could practically hear “100 grand and over” sniggering at me from behind the monitor.
Then, they wanted my marital status. I didn’t need to give it to them, but curiosity kicked in once again and I scanned the choices. This pull down list provided, Single, Separated, Divorced, Co-Habiting, Married, and Widowed. It suddenly struck me that it seemed to be in some sort of order of preference. I skipped over this part when I realised that it should have been check boxes – most people I know would need to tick at least 2 or 3. Design fault, obviously.
Finally, came the ultra-small text stating that if I did (or didn’t – it wasn’t entirely clear) check the following box, my in-tray would be chock full of ridiculous back-country US spam until I shut the account down, moved home, and changed my name by deed poll.
I glanced over my previous answers. So far I’d admitted to being a clapped out, worthless, social inadequate. Did I want attention from strangers who were only after my money? You betcha. If there was an ‘extra spam’ box, I would have clicked that too.