Never before has one home improvement firm caused so many people to evaluate their philosophical approach to life. Nottinghamshire-based Synseal punted out a press release earlier this week featuring a list of "50 Signs A Couple Has Made It", a collection of achievements, possessions and status symbols that might mark two people out as being notionally successful.
As this list unexpectedly went viral, it was placed under scrutiny on Facebook, Twitter and the traditional media; we ticked off the few things we'd done ("Yep, I've shopped at Waitrose") and gawped at the hilarious things that were deemed to be indicative of social status ("Has an orangery").
I was intrigued by the methodology of a survey that ended up with "has an orangery" on its list of findings, and also noted that the 2,000 participants deemed "41" to be the age by which you're supposed to have "made it". I'm 43, and have no orangery! If I ever save up enough money, though, I note that Synseal does, in fact, sell orangeries.
Even if you dismiss the survey as a piece of PR fluff drawn up by bored people in the marketing department, you can't help but study the list and marvel at this extraordinary testament to middle-class consumerism. Amid the public schools, nannies, first-class flights and skiing holidays, you find things like driveways extending beyond 200 yards, sit-on mowers, designer luggage and "a small orchard".
A company spokesman described the list as "an aspirational look at the things many of us would love to have", but it's more like a document designed specifically to foment class war. In at number 43 with a bullet is the Lazy Susan (because we're all judged according to whether our cakes can revolve), while "owns many gilets" appears at 46. (Not only do I not own any gilets, but I had to type "gilets" into Google to establish what they were and then conclude that I didn't own any.)
Synseal seem to have confused "signs you've made it" with "signs that you have loads of cash", which isn't the same thing – although what constitutes having "made it" is so subjective as to be utterly meaningless. I thought I'd "made it" at the age of 21 when I received £200 for doing a John Peel session on Radio 1, but in the subsequent weeks my girlfriend left me for a man called Paul and I got tonsillitis. This was rubbish, but that's how life is; our relationships with others and our wellbeing – both physical and mental – totally eclipse, say, a change in job title that recognises additional responsibilities, or indeed owning a picnic hamper (number 44).
Indeed, the idea that anyone could ever "make it" is faintly revolting; I never want to reach a point where I sit back, satisfied, having vaulted the final hurdle and won at life, giving me plenty of time to stare wistfully and poignantly at my tennis-club membership card (number 34).
Of course, we live in a system of rampant consumerism, where it behoves us to buy more stuff in order to keep the whole sorry machine ticking, and even those of us who believe that we're impervious to marketing messages have had moments where we've bought expensive stuff in a desperate attempt to make ourselves feel better. But we're not defined by what we possess, and anyone who judges themselves in such a fashion is dooming themselves to permanent unhappiness.
In other words: the one sign that you haven't made it is worrying that you haven't made it, because, you know, there's always a bigger orangery. Fortunately, the survey admitted that only a fifth of people feel the pressure to "make it", meaning that 80 per cent of us can regard the survey with the contempt it deserves, concentrate on not hating each other, not worrying too much, and eating plenty of lobster (number 30). Everyone eats lobster, right?Reuse content