In my post on midlife, I talked about how I formed my plan for coping with aging by watching TV commercials. Sadly, I also used TV ads as a guide for how to be normal.
I have always been rule-abiding. Hence, the good grades, the fear of going to hell, the obsessing about following guidelines for sleep and stress management. And because I grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere, I was sensitive to the fact that my Filipino family did things differently from other people. To children, different means bad, and I didn’t want to be bad.
Remember those Aqua-Fresh commercials, with the stripes for extra cleaning action and breath freshening? I made my mom buy that toothpaste. And I tried to swirl it on my toothbrush exactly like they did in the commercials. My mom scolded me for using too much toothpaste.
Now that I think about it, this was probably a ploy to get you to use more toothpaste so that you would run out sooner.
My first husband–the one who referred to himself as a poor, half-breed, bastard–was also sensitive to being different. He, too, was influenced by the Aqua-Fresh commercials and also tried to create the swirl that used too much toothpaste. This is sufficient evidence to convince me of the detrimental psychological effects that TV commercials can have on children.
You would think that knowledge of these detrimental effects would make me immune to their ploys. But no. I still owned the Ab Crunch. I still use Oil of Olay. I hear that Crest is coming out with a chocolate-flavored toothpaste. At least I’m not falling for that one.
Often the makers of these products justify their ads by saying that they’re just giving consumers what they want. No one wants to see fat, ugly, old people. Those images don’t sell products! Since I did research on body image, I can say with some authority that advertising may not have created our insecurities, but they definitely exacerbate them.
And there really isn’t a good solution to this problem. Avoiding advertising is like avoiding oxygen; ads are ubiquitous. The best I have been able to do is to limit how much advertising I expose myself to. I no longer buy beauty magazines. I primarily watch TV for sports and the news. I don’t pay much attention to celebrities.
As a result, I didn’t know who Honey Boo Boo and Kim Kardashian were for the longest time, but media illiteracy is a small price to pay for self-acceptance.