Black Friday—or Black Hole?
When Black Friday comes,
I’m gonna dig myself a hole,
Gonna lay down in it
Till I satisfy my soul.
For the past few weeks, when I open my email in the morning, I see a long, long list of messages with subject lines containing the words “Black Friday”—from department stores I shop in, from online businesses I’ve bought from, even from nonprofits (e.g. the Metropolitan Museum). No one, it seems, is above the hucksterism that’s taken over the day after Thanksgiving. To me this has become second only to (the month of) Halloween in overhyped, excessive, self-indulgent manufactured pseudo-“holidays” for the sole purpose of making money. The day has become a black hole that sucks the gentle gratitude of Thanksgiving and the good feeling of Christmas into it and grinds it into sawdust.
It has not always been like this. There was a time when most people—anyone remember?—actually worked on the Friday of Thanksgiving week. Even people who didn’t work in retail.
When I was growing up, we usually had company for Thanksgiving. One or another set of aunts, uncles, cousins would drive up from New York or New Jersey to stay with us here in Rhode Island over the Thanksgiving weekend. On Friday my father went to work; school was out; and my mother, brother, and I would go shopping with our guests. My aunts especially enjoyed seeing stores they weren’t familiar with (before the days of cookie-cutter malls).