A couple of decades ago, I went to my first and last car show. It was at the Birmingham NEC and I was quite excited. I’d been to exhibition shows before for work. I’d often pop into London to go to an IT show where all the next, best and brightest software innovations were revealed.
I didn’t really care much about the exhibits: my eyes would glaze over if a sales rep pinned me into a conversation about how his particular software was going to revolutionise the world. Blah, blah, blah.
Ha! I worked for government and nothing innovating or revolutionising ever happened there besides, I was only interested in picking up the free pens, free post-it notes and other marketing materials that fell loosely under the term ‘stationery’. I also collected plastic carrier bags.
While my boyfriend at the time was interested in the cars, I had plans on acquiring different free pens from the car show. Perhaps sleeker, smoother and shinier than the ones given away at IT shows. So while he pottered around looking at the latest cars soon to hit the market, I lagged behind trying to spot the freebie pens.
Honestly, save yourself the bother of going to car shows if all you want is free pens. They are far from generous.
Anyway, as I was scouting for enticing, yet mysteriously absent, free writing equipment, I noticed that most of the cars were surrounded by ordinary looking men and stunning, young women. In fact, unlike the IT shows where it was all suits-and-ties trying to wow you with techno-jargon, automobiles seemed to attract supermodels as sales reps. As a young woman myself at the time, I found it quite unusual that there were so many gorgeous young things choosing a career in the motor industry.
I think it may have been many years later when I realised that the women might have been casual employees of the car companies, brought in for exhibitions to complement the cars. They were there to increase the desire levels of the cars because when you drift off into the fantasy of taking a fancy, new, gorgeous car for a spin, don’t you want a fancy, new, gorgeous companion too? When you spend most of your time seeking (free) writing implements, you can overlook the obvious: sex sells.
Our society is focused on the young and beautiful. When you leave behind your twenties and begin to show the signs of actually living, our world devalues you. Actresses know this all too well as when they age, the roles in Hollywood dry up. You’re either young and vital or older and motherly (or old and slightly bonkers).
But what has this got to do with spirituality?
Nothing to do with spirituality itself but everything to do with advertising and how we’re sold spirituality.
Recently I followed a link in a newsletter to a new online spiritual group aimed to entice women similar to myself to join a spiritual sisterhood. The words were saying all the right things. It was looking inviting and then I noticed the images used on the sales page.
The photos were beautiful. Young women with long, flowing hair dressed effortlessly in boho-chic. The settings were in nature and the sunlight just right to give an otherworldly glow. From an artistic perspective, I couldn’t fault the choice in photography.
But then I realised that I couldn’t relate to the images.
The website was selling me the dream.
On a subconscious level, it was saying: “Come join us, Lyn, and you’ll be young, beautiful and free. We’ll run together through forests, we’ll laugh and toss our long locks in wild abandonment. And we’ll find our souls there too. C’mon, Lyn, c’mon… sign up. Join us.”
And what a beautiful fantasy.
Who doesn’t want to be young and lovely again (especially if you never realised you were young and lovely the first time around)?
But I then gazed away from my screen and looked at my legs on which the laptop rested. Hmmm…… definitely not gazelle like. Oh, and up a bit. The belly. More washtub than washboard. Stretch marks? Absolutely. Pert boobs? Nope, resting somewhere near the belly. Chin line sagging a little. Wrinkles. Grey hair. And to top it all, I wear glasses.
If the sisterhood were full of wild-spirit, gypsy-hearted beautiful models, I would feel intimidated because there’s no way I can be the person from the photos.
In all fairness, if you are using stock photos, it is difficult to find images that portray free-spirited older women. There isn’t a market for that type of photography because who would want to buy a product with normal looking women on it? Spirituality is an everyday affair and in reality, it looks a lot more like jeans, well washed sweaters and odd socks.
But marketing isn’t about reality, it’s about engaging the emotions and selling the dream.
Those guys who hovered around the new cars all those years ago were being sold the dream of what delights could be in store for them if they handed over their credit cards. That car would give them access to the open road and to women who were probably unavailable if they kept driving their old, dilapidated family wagons.
We’re being sold a concept that engaging in your spiritual life will restore your youth, make you super-attractive and light as a feather as you skip, hand-in-hand with your new spiritual bestie, through golden sunlight forests. It’s a game of seduction.
I’d like to see more realistic photography used in spiritual publications and in marketing. Look at the covers of spiritual inclined magazines or venture into the world of #witch Instagram – you don’t often see any models with mid-life mileage.
The message should be: You are spiritual and beautiful at every age.
Don’t let the spell of spiritual seduction stop you from realising your true beauty and your rather awesome spiritual core.