Treated Like an Infant

I am in the process of reading Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky. This book has reminded me that the proverb is false. You can buy happiness, of a sort. The hotel industry is all about taking care of your childish needs and making you feel as if you are special, so long as you have a sufficiently large budget. I am a cheapskate on a relatively tight budget, so the idea of participating in the service industry with its endless upsells and service charges and tips is horrifying and oppressive. But if you are rich enough that the price is no object, you can be treated very well.

Pop psychology teaches us that we all crave our infancy, because that was the one time when others unconditionally loved us and cared for us. Then we spend the rest of our lives trying to recreate those conditions, with little success. Eventually we learn that nobody else in the world really cares whether we do well or poorly, and that others are too busy attending to their own neuroses to put up with ours. This is probably for the best (have you seen how stressed and tired parents of young children are? Parents sacrifice a lot to provide that unconditional love) but it does not mean we stop looking.

(And of course, some of us don’t get that unconditional love as children. That tends to mess us up mightily. I think the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) framework reflects this.)

Many of us (myself included) are subconsciously looking for unconditional and complete caring. Some part of us wants to be as self-centred as infants, and find partners who will love us and care for us no matter how needy and unreasonable we are. This tends not to work out.

But if we are rich enough we can get part of the way there. We can live in hotels and get many of our needs met with a smile. Did we trash our room? Housekeepers will clean up after us. Do we feel like some food in the middle of the night? A game of chess? A furry companion? For the right price, all of these things can be made available. Depending on how far we want to regress, we can have others change our nappies and provide us with milk-laden boobs if we so desire.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell even this is unsatisfactory. We can get unconditional service, but not unconditional love. The love and good treatment are very conditional indeed — as soon the money stops flowing so does the service. People can pretend to like us or even love us, but that seems psychologically harmful as well, because then people cannot distinguish the people who genuinely care for them from those who pretend to care for the money.

On a shallower level, maybe being infantilized is harmful in itself, especially when it is prolonged and the recipients take it for granted. We hear enough awful stories about former child stars and spoiled celebrities getting into real trouble when they suddenly learn that they can’t always get their way and that actions have consequences.

On the other hand, it sure would be nice not to have to worry about money. And on days like today when I am feeling unhappy and stuck, it sure would be nice to be pampered. Even some time with a cuddle-friendly cat or dog would help (to say nothing of some time with a cuddle-friendly human).