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Monday, February 15, 2016

"How to be Single" - and Unbelievable

There are many ways to diagnose a helicopter mom. But I am pretty confident I meet and exceed all relevant criteria.
Consider my performance as an audience member watching "How to be Single," a Valentine's Day treat movie for me and my husband that quickly turned into an ESPN-like bout of self-expression on my part:
"WHY IS SHE BEING SO CHOOSEY, HE LOVES HER"
"YES IT'S VERY FUNNY BUT THIS MOVIE IS ALSO SO SAD"
"IT WASN'T LIKE THIS WHEN WE WERE GROWING UP"
"TALK ABOUT A SCHMUCK"
"WE TAKE EVERYTHING WE HAVE FOR GRANTED, DON'T WE"
So sue me. I never stop worrying about the kids, no matter how old they get. I never stop thinking about how will each of them get married to a nice normal stable loyal person who will take care of them when we get old and live in Depends, which by the way cost more than fifty cents apiece.
I've read a million articles about how every other Gen X parent is just like me, they won't let the kid so much as cross the street by themselves. But even so it is a little bit jarring to go from having the raw-bear-guts-eating attitude of Leonardo Di Caprio in The Revenant to walking fearfully through the mall like a little old lady worrying about the fact that 95% of Jewish people 18-29 are single and 28% of those in their 40s are too.
But that's not what this post is about.
If you go to see this movie - which I really think you should for about a thousand reasons, but Rebel Wilson in particular, who will make you need one of those pairs of Depends by the time the show is over - you'll meet the character of "Tom the Bartender" (Anders Holm).
Tom is very much the generic bartender character who's affable, seen it all and knows it all, and can pretty much get any woman he wants because he knows how the bar scene works and how to work the bar scene. Remember He's Just Not That Into Youwhere Justin Long worked his magic on the clueless Ginnifer Goodwin? It's sort of the same except that Tom tells us his many secrets for keeping his bachelor-hood intact.
While sleeping with everyone.
The thing about Tom, though, is that he's a caricature. And even he knows it, just like in the Robert Downey, Jr. classic, The Pick-Up Artist, where a smooth-talker can't smooth-talk the sharp-eyed Molly Ringwald.
Point is, no matter how "sophisticated" your communication techniques are - whether you're trying to pick up a girl, sell a car, or trying to convince someone to vote for you - most adult people do see right through the act, and quickly.
And even though most people aren't necessarily rocket scientists, we are wired for survival and can smell a rat sniffing for bodies to bite pretty damn quick.
If we ourselves can't get the picture, someone else is watching - whether it's our parents or a reporter or some blogger out there with seemingly nothing else to do but observe - and they will point out inconsistencies and a lack of credibility, also at the speed of lightning.
As a mom I think the lesson of the movie is a thing that one of the characters said, or something like this: "You want to control everything but you can't control anything at all" - so your job is to do the best you can.
If you're making the most of your options, if you care for others and allow them to take care of you back, then you are fully living. Single or not single, you can be proud of that, and happy.
But as a communicator it reinforced for me the immortal words of President Abraham Lincoln, may he rest in peace:
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
We can do better than aspire to be a sleazy guy, running a sleazy bar.
Let's admit that playing games and using cheap psychology tricks is not the right way to win our customers over, nor is it especially effective. 
Begin with the truth and pretend that you are talking to me and my husband, the customer's helicopter parents.
What are you going to do, that leaves them better off than when they met you?
How will you care for them when they are old?
If you can't answer either of those questions or you just don't care, then you're not the type of person who should be branding, marketing or selling anything.
________________
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here.
Screenshot: Movie trailer, "How To Be Single," (Warner Bros., 2016)