It's that time of year again, when people everywhere finally recover from the holidays only to realize that another "special occasion" is just around the corner.
But if you think the flower, greeting card and candy companies have turned love into a commodity, you haven't heard of www.seekingarrangement.com, which purports to put Sugar Daddies and Sugar Mommies in touch with willing partners who "want to be pampered" for anywhere between $1,000 and $20,000 a month.
The site's most recent localized pitch was a list of colleges that were the fastest-growing "sugar baby" schools. Arizona State had 204 signups in 2012, making it No. 6 on the list, and the University of Arizona ranked No. 22 (there are 141 students pursuing the "sugar baby lifestyle" at UA, according to a Seeking Arrangement spokesman).
Listen, different strokes for different folks and all that - if these "arrangements" work for both parties, more power to you and I wish you happiness and great fulfillment. Or maybe these women really are being savvy about paying for tuition, fees and books while avoiding student debt, as the website claims.
I just can't get past the "baby" part.
I don't want to date a "baby." Who would? Who would choose someone who needs constant pampering over an adult who's smart, funny and capable of handling his or her own life, with or without partner to help out?
Still, it's been a while since I was in college, so I ran this marketing campaign past a friend and University of Arizona alum who, back in the (more recent) day, was known as the "Tucson Tomcat."
Okay, that last part's not true. As far as I know. At any rate, he wasn't impressed.
"The fact that 204 ASU students out of a student body of more than 72,000 signed up for this probably isn't that surprising," he said. "I'm sure you could find just as many students who would be willing to sell a kidney, eat [deleted] or [deleted deleted deleted] to pay their way through school.
"As long as we beat ASU in basketball, I'm fine with falling short on the sugar daddy list."
And that's a healthy attitude, because this entire exercise in what's basically Internet prostitution is just as denigrating and dehumanizing to men as it is for women.
If this process reduces women to objects prized for their beauty, availability and willingness, it also transforms men from human beings into wealth units who only have value so long as they can act like ATMs. It's like a strip - er, "gentleman's" - club, which is pitched as the ultimate male fantasy but is actually his greatest nightmare: A roomful of people who are only interested in his money.
It's easy to mock a Sugar Daddy/Mommy website. But it's only one of the more extreme examples.
Think of all those Christmas ads pitching luxury cars, diamonds and high technology as the only gifts a decent spouse would give.
Think of our obsession with the ephemeral daily gains and losses of the stock market.
Think of a culture that promotes athletes and celebrities over the scientists, artists and intellectuals who sustain a civilization instead of simply entertain it.