Posted by: nickgerlich | July 1, 2008

What’s Your Story?

Everyone has a story these days. Maybe that helps explains why narrative nonfiction books (aka memoirs) are selling like hotcakes. We love joining the story of others, while at the same time creating our own.

I have heard it said that the products and brands a man or woman buys are all part of a personal narrative, with story arcs, plots, twists, turns, and unexpected endings. Which means that what we buy is determined in large part by agendas, motives, drives, and all sorts of intangibles that perhaps even we do not fully understand.

MirrorBut maybe the story we are trying to tell to others we are simultaneously trying to tell to ourselves. No longer enamored of what we see in the mirror, we try to write a compelling tale not so much for the public, but for an audience of one: Ourself.

So let us think about the products and brands we buy. I won’t even approach the subject of whether the item was a need or a want. To borrow a page from the gaming playbook, beauty is in the eye of the Wii holder.

When I purchase a certain brand of trousers or shirts, am I trying to tell myself I am stylish? Oh-so-professional? Is my vehicle an extension of myself, or am I an extension of it? Does my choice of microbrew make me a connoisseur, or a common sewer anyway?

And is anybody else really even watching or listening when I spin this tale for myself?

Probably not.

Even a dog brand can suddenly do a 180 and become hip and cool in spite of the fact that yesterday it lay dying on the beach. Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) comes to mind, a historic but long-faded relic of the post-Prohibition era that was rescued by counter-culture youth a few years ago because it was not marketed. And in the process, it became an overnight success. Again. Seventy years later.

So I have to wonder what this says about us all. Are we just a bunch of insecure babes in the woods trying to convince ourselves that we’ve got it all together? I think this may be truth.

And it may go a long way toward explaining our obsession with MySpace, Facebook, blogging, and even Twitter. It’s not the world we’re trying to impress, it’s US.

So does this mean we all face a term in the loony bin for talking to ourselves?

Dr “Just Don’t Answer Your Own Questions” Gerlich

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