Stop Treating Yo’ Self

Modern greed and what to do about it

Aaron Mayer

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[Originally posted on Substack — consider subscribing if you want, but don’t if you don’t]

I grew up in NYC, so I’m accustomed to waiting in lines for everything. In a city of 8 million people with everyone in a hurry, I’d wait on line for bagels, elevators, concerts, you name it.

But when I went to Brown, on the sleepy streets of College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, I had to wait on line for one thing only: PVD Donuts.

These donuts were exceptional. Like, seriously marvelous donuts. Perfectly baked, sometimes still warm out of the oven, with flavors like strawberry balsamic and salted caramel crumble. Godly donuts.

Emblazoned on the side of the PVD Donuts building in bubble font was the commandment: Treat Yo’ Self!

The line comes from the TV show Parks and Recreation. Never seen the show, but the line is self explanatory. Here’s a gif for you.

Not to be a complete buzzkill, but we have to recognize that slogan for what it so obviously is: a capitalist mantra designed to get us to spend more money.

From 2001 to 2006, the marketing execs at Citibank spent a billion dollars on their “Live Richly” ad campaign. The campaign encouraged people to take out home equity loans (essentially a second mortgage) and “open a cravings account” — advice that couldn’t read as more tone deaf in the wake of the financial crash that would follow (a crash that was, in part, precipitated by people defaulting on their mortgages).

Treat yo’ self is the modern incarnation of that same idea — spend, and spend lavishly.

Designers of luxury items like Rolex and Rolls-Royce have long used this type of language, but we now see it everywhere up and down the market (like at your local donut shop). It’s the same appeal to flagrant consumerism by urging us to indulge.

Now, I hear the crunch of the avocado toast munching brunch mimosa guzzling hipster yogi Millennials out there (of which I am a member) who grew up with Parks and Rec and are incensed that I would dare to blaspheme against the holy scripture of treat yo’ self. After all, aren’t we overworked already? Aren’t we stressed out enough about…

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