Saturday, March 12, 2016

"Prawn addiction"

I hope Jenesa Jeram, a smart young woman from The NZ Initiative doesn't mind my posting her piece from their newsletter this week. She is a breath of fresh air. And this is very clever at more than one level:

Too many New Zealanders are walking around with a shameful addiction.

Your family members, colleagues or even spouse may be secretly struggling. Deluded by unrealistic expectations of romance and physical attractiveness, they should know it is okay to seek help.

I am, of course, talking about the embarrassing yet unshakeable addiction to TV3’s The Bachelor.

Just kidding. The Bachelor is awful, but apparently socially acceptable. Olympian Nick Willis’ prawn addiction* on the other hand? That’s shocking enough to make mainstream news.

My problem with this coverage is not that it made me feel uncomfortable. It is that the whole story is so utterly boring.

I probably should have stopped reading after such insightful gems like “It [prawn] is not sexy nor appealing.” Why watch it then? I don’t think The Bachelor is sexy or appealing, but I don’t expect the Herald will trip over themselves to publish my opinion. It’s a matter of taste.

More problematic is the modern characterisation of addiction: defined as pleasurable activities that become compulsive and interfere with normal life.

How very perceptive. People like doing things that make them feel good, and may even go out of their way to do them. Things that are pleasurable stimulate the pleasure centres of the brain.

But with such a loose definition, why just stop at prawn?

Last year health experts tried convincing us that cheese is as addictive as crack cocaine. Yet cheese-related crime rates remain low. Even in Remuera, where they supply the good stuff (Roquefort, of course).

Other addictive foods identified by Otago University’s National Addiction Centre include ice cream, muesli bars and mayonnaise.

I think I’d be more scared of meeting a methamphetamine addict than an ice cream addict at the end of a dark alleyway. And I can’t imagine a muesli bar addict experiencing Trainspotting-esque withdrawals.

Maybe Willis sharing how compulsive behaviour affected his marriage could help other couples going through the same.

But labelling everything enjoyable as addictive (thus dangerous) is unhelpful. Let’s not forget that love messes with the brain too, and can make people do crazy things.

Besides, what is problematic in one marriage may be the secret to another marriage’s happy ending.

*I’m not talking about prawns here, but the more common term for “adult entertainment” may not have made it through the work email filters. 

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