Today, an email from a public relations company asked us: "Did you know that November is runaway prevention month?"
Actually, we hadn't known. And it was a good occasion to examine some rather stark statistics. For instance, one in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And more than half of the young people in shelters and on the streets reported that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn't care, according to DoSomething.org.
Then the email offered an interview with an expert at "identifying the warning signs" and "ways to address the topic with children." At this point, our BS-meter started to redline. Given the statistics, it seems pretty obvious what the cause of running away from home might be: The main warning sign that your child will run away is that you provide an awful home, or told the child to leave, or didn't care when he left. Meanwhile, did you notice how, in just two paragraphs, we went from actually raising awareness to marketing a service?
As a person who receives hundreds of emails teed up with honorary designations and commemorative months, I've just about had it. In the beginning, back in the 1970s, ideas like "Black History Month" were certainly valid expressions of a desire to examine understudied aspects of American history, and I can respect that. But, like all good ideas, it was appropriated by marketing experts, who dreamed up such commemorative designations as "National Codependency Awareness Month," "Financial Literacy Month," "Motorcycle Awareness Month," "Hemiplegic Migraine Awareness Month," and "Pain Awareness Month."
Bear in mind, November isn't just "Runaway Prevention Month," it's also "National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month," "Men's Health Awareness Month," "Prematurity Awareness Month" and "National Adoption Awareness Month." There appears to be no logic to any of this, as there are designations for things ranging from those we're all aware of (National Novel Writing Month") to things even experts can't understand or explain ("RSD/CRPS Awareness Month").
Is anybody else upset about all the countless hours of effort humanity is putting into this nonsense? It seems to me that if people can be up in arms about Columbus Day, somebody should get upset about this profusion of poppycock. I mean, I'm posting this blog on "World Toilet Day" during "National Blog Posting Month" and nobody bats an eye at that?
Why don't we get rid of about 99 percent of this honorary bunk and do what we used to do: Find an actual, pressing, widely relevant reason to discuss the thing we want to. Sure, it might pose a challenge to today's public relations professionals who have a whole campaign planned for next week's Parfait Day, but it just might get us talking about why something really matters when it really matters, instead of bringing up irrelevancies because there's an official time reserved for them.