Saturday, March 14, 2009

I’m a Winner! (Hic!)

A few days ago the owner of my local wine store called to tell me that I had won the monthly drawing for a $25 gift certificate. “Thanks!” I said. “You’ve made my day! I’ll never be able to say ‘I’ve never won anything’ ever again!”

When I hung up, I felt weird. An entire sentence had been barred from my repertoire. A tiny piece of my identity had been stripped away.

What is winning, anyway?

I don’t know why any of us feel that we ever should win anything. Or why we don’t think of having a roof over our head or enough food to eat as winning.

I began to wonder when “I have never won anything” emerged as a familiar phrase.

It occured to me that the popularity of these words may have risen in conjunction with the expanding universe of coupons and sweepstakes, both of which burst into vogue in the Depression years of the 1930s and boomed in the 1940s and 1950s.

Scrimping and shopping were a housewife’s work. I’d bet that “I’ve never won anything” has been repeated exponentially more often by women than men.

My mother said it all the time.

Back in her day, women didn’t “win” by dint of their labor. They won by random drawing. Homemakers could only hope that their diligence and frugality would somehow yield a material prize—and if not, I suppose you could say, their virtue went unrewarded.

In theory, “I have never won anything” is strictly a statement of fact. But in our culture, it seems like so much more. When my mother said she never won, it felt as if she were suggesting a genuine deficiency. In other words: she was one of life’s losers.

Well, that’s not me. I shopped regularly enough to fill up a wine store’s card, and as a result I got a 99-cent bottle of excellent booze and a chance to win something much more.

Thanks be to the gods of commerce, for I am now officially someone who has won, and for whom winning will always be a possibility.

This calls for a drink!

1 comment:

Gerry Gomez Pearlberg said...

Nice post, and I like those fancy, wine-colored letters that start off each paragraph!