Wednesday, July 25, 2007

and now, for a message from our sponsors...

Having grown up in the golden era of network television, my generation has collective memories centered around three to five primary channels of broadcast programming. We can sing to you what a conjunction is, tell you how to get to Sesame Street, whisper in your ear who shot JR, tell you the blues of a bill on Capitol Hill, and recite the ingredients of the Big Mac in rapid succession. While there were many programs that continue to be sentimental touchstones to my childhood, it is the commercials that come back the quickest, and at the oddest moments.

I must admit I have a warped nostalgia for the commercials of my youth. I can sing, in one breath, the entire Oreo cookie song, and do so pretty much every time I see one. My daughter asked me one day how I did something, and I told her it was an "ancient Chinese secret." She looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. And to this day, I cannot watch a sunset without hearing in my memory, "going, going, gone..." "Do it again, Daddy!" At a time when I was naive to the evils of advertising, commercials were fun ("No, silly, I'm talking to the toilet paper") and lighthearted, and I was easily and eagerly impressionable.

I don't feel that way any longer, now that a commercial has ruined my life.

Many of you are aware that, despite my childhood nostalgia, I do not watch much television at this point in my life. I wish I had not been watching this particular night, as well, as the images and ideas refuse to leave my mind and probably never will. This is why I don't watch television, I have reminded myself. But the damage has already been done.

For the life of me, I don't remember where I was when this occurred, nor do I remember what I was watching at the time. Someone was trying to get me to buy something, and then suddenly there was a woman in front of a mirror, gazing intently at her face. The woman raised one finger to each temple, and then very gently lifted up her cheeks. And then another woman. And then another. I cocked my head to one side. Another woman. My eyebrow went up. Another woman. I began to think about how I was going to get nonchalantly to the bathroom. Ten or fifteen women, all told, all around my age, examined themselves in the mirror in that 60-second, million-dollar spot. And then one more got up and excused herself to the bathroom.

Eyebrow still raised, lips pursed, I stood in front of the mirror, knowing I should just turn around and walk away. But like a dieter drawn to the buffet, I could not help myself. One arm lifted, then the other. I placed my fingers to my temples. I looked deep into my eyes. I lifted.

I gasped.

Today I turn 37. They tell me I will be at peace one day with the wrinkles across my forehead, the jowls around my mouth, the salt beginning to mix with my pepper--but not today. Today I am 37 in a world of 27 year olds, and I wish I'd started using the Mary Kay a whole HECK of a lot sooner.

And I wish to God I'd NEVER seen that commercial...

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