I was speaking to a friend on the phone the other day. He was telling me that his wife had been ill and that he had been doing housework and making evening meals. No big deal there. But he then went on to say that he had received very little recognition for his achievements, despite his long hours at work and extra efforts at home. “Don’t you think that’s good that I did all that?” he asked. I didn’t quite know what to say to him, but I did eventually reply “So what?”. Throwing a vacuum cleaner around a lounge or dining room isn’t the most manual of labours, and cooking dinner for your sick wife is unlikely to put you in consideration by the Nobel Prize jury, but it seems that any task we do that is outside our norm should be recognised, appreciated and met with unending gratitude. Whatever happened to just doing something because it needs to be done?
The praise culture is on the rise. Human beings are at risk of turning into performing dogs desperate for a rub on the belly with the constamt need to be validated. It’s nice to be acknowledged for things you’ve done that are of great importance or significance, but making a shepherds’ pie after a 12-hour day, which isn’t even up there with ‘doing a favour’? What do you want? A bouquet?
Or how about a delicious cupcake as a token of goodwill? It’s increasingly difficult to move without encountering a cupcake of some description. Almost every bakery that isn’t Greggs is giving over shelf after shelf to the not-so-dainty, over-decorated behemoths of sugar and icing. Cupcake businesses are springing up faster than Starbucks and McDonald’s, as starting your own customised cupcake-to-your-door company replaces f*cking the tennis coach as a pastime for moneyed, bored housewives. To feed this new obsession, bookshops are flooded with cupcake recipe tomes and guides on how to decorate them so that they look pretty despute the fact they don’t fit into your mouth because of the small construction site going on atop all the sponge. And now, hell has finally frozen over and the cupcake monsters have all but taken over the world – a well-known deal-a-day discount website now features an offer for a series of lessons in cupcake decorating.
The main issue with cupcakes is that, well, they don’t actually taste very nice at all. Once you have got through the mound of oddly-coloured icing, and have managed to avoid being poked in the eye by whatever sparkler, firework or leg of lamb is adorning the top of it, you’re left with a rather ordinary little bit of sponge in a brightly-coloured, eco-hostile box and a price tag that equates to a three-course meal at your local Harvester. See you at the salad bar.