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RBC I “Anything you can do, I can do better,” was a common refrain among my siblings and I.
We were exposed to it not from the 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun, as one might imagine–our interests ran more towards repeated viewings of the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy–but from an early 2000s Tide commercial.
In the commercial, actors smear different substances across a white t-shirt, cut it in half, and then wash one side with Tide and one side with Oxi-Clean to reveal that Tide works best … allegedly, of course. I think maybe I remember the video so vividly because Oxi-Clean was a staple in a house with four children, and we were mildly incensed that Tide, of all the overpriced detergent brands out there, would dare to smear the name of Billy “THAT’S THE POWER OF OXI-CLEAN!” Mays.
We watched the ad spot a ton during all those hours of Lord of the Rings and “Anything you can do, I can do betterrrrrr; I can do anything better than youuuuu!” became a refrain quite useful for annoying the heck out of each other.
We’ve all grown up and are generally much nicer to each other these days, but that commercial still pops into my head occasionally. In the end, sans advertising gimmicks, the goal is a washed shirt and a happy customer. Does the shirt really need to be covered in various grime and cut in half to see who “does it better”?
Apparently, yes. In fact, that principle and its accompanying jingle seems to apply to multiple situations, even in the realm of adulthood. We still lock ourselves into tiny little subgroups of humanity (i.e. Team Tide v. Team Oxi-Clean) and try desperately to claw some sense of identity out of those restrictions, forgetting the end goal (Team-clean-and-not-chopped-in-half-shirt) completely.
It reminds me of middle school, or at least my limited experience with middle school. Cliques, subgroups, gossip, lies, backbiting, constant comparison and endless one-upping. Why anyone would ever want to repeat those experiences, I have no idea, and yet here we are.
The thing is, we’re no longer dealing with problems like whose haircut is, “like, the worst, ohmahgawsh,” or who has the cooler pair of Steve Madden slides (I can still feel the ankle sprains from those bad boys).
We’re facing serious issues socially, economically and otherwise, and it feels like all we’re doing is angstily picking at our sparkly nail polish while comparing our sixth grade science project to Sally-Mae-with-the-better-slides much cooler project.
If there’s one thing we could all stand to remember, myself included, it’s that pettiness doesn’t pay, and the “anything you can do, I can do better” mentality just leaves us all depleted, discouraged and burned out.
Whether it’s your side of the shirt, or my side of the shirt, the thing to remember is: it’s the same shirt. If we can set aside the inconsequentials and choose to put our collective efforts toward a common goal, my sincere hope is we don’t end up ripped down the middle just to make a point.
By CAITLIN WALKER | firstname.lastname@example.org