I have a confession to make -and I almost feel like it should be done behind a curtain in a soft, contrite whisper to someone who promises not to tell… It’s not something of which I am particularly proud, nor is it something that might not resolve itself over time -I honestly hope it does- but for now, it is an albatross. What I am so hesitant to disclose is that I don’t like health product ads -especially intimate ones. No, that’s too tame, too polite. They offend me. Some of them, anyway.
It could be my age: increasing frailties with their incessant demands immediately draw my attention to remedies for aching backs, or wobbly knees. Still, that’s old news, and not particularly personal. I can tolerate them, but they are the thin edge of a rather large wedge. Next in line I suppose are the legion, fail-safe bowel aids offered by actors with far more wrinkles than I could possibly fit comfortably on my face. This verges on profiling: not all older people are constipated, although I have to admit that their skin is not the best.
Some ads, despite being personal are more bearable I have to admit. I don’t notice them as much online, for example; one develops a blind spot for things that flash, and focal deafness to pictures that address you personally when the little mouse arrow happens to traverse their otherwise invisible boundaries on the screen.
Ads are far more difficult to ignore on TV, though. They appear suddenly -and purposefully- in the midst of a particularly interesting segment of the program, and unless you are constantly on guard with a thumb hovering over the mute or channel buttons, they are hard to keep subliminal. And yet, to be clear, it’s not ads per se that I am against; companies have to survive and people have to know there are choices.
No, it’s more subtle than that. My sense is that there are some things that should be kept private, left unsaid. Of course maybe my wish to shade certain problems -certain areas- from public interrogation is merely an idiosyncrasy. Maybe the world has a right to know that there is now an effective treatment for private itch, or off-putting personal odours. Maybe people nowadays feel comfortable sharing these types of things: advocating antifungal creams on their Facebook pages, or Tweeting the ecstasy of their newly discovered intimate online depilatories. But I don’t.
Fortunately, sometimes repetition breeds indifference. I no longer shudder during those bowel commercials, although they do tend to focus my thoughts. I’m a doctor though, eh? I’m supposed to transcend emotions when it comes to the gastrointestinal system -although I hasten to add that the system in which I pretend expertise tends to produce more babies than… well, you know. Perhaps I am more tolerant as well of male hair-removal products nowadays, although I do not understand the need, nor do I personally know anybody who openly aspires to metrosexuality. I am open to face-shaving products, however, and am always on the lookout for improvements that don’t involve adding more blades. My kids have promised to text me if they come across anything.
The line begins to harden when the ads step across gender lines. I’ll admit this is probably a guy thing -an over-fifty me-thing, even- but I struggle with advertisements about stuff I would rather not think about. Maybe I’m just being delicate or old-fashioned; maybe I just haven’t travelled far enough along the information highway; or maybe I’m simply being fussy and curmudgeonly, but I have difficulty with cheery messages about such things as, say, feminine hygiene products (as they have been euphemized to get them on television). And I am annoyed when I am forced to see female incontinence clothes being modelled on the screen as if they were summer shorts. Forgive me, but it strikes me that these issues should be prime topics at the next health care visit, not vaunted, not bannered for all and sundry, not foisted upon them unawares. Unchosen. That someone can actually skate, or dance wearing retention panties is probably a plus, but come on… There are treatments that preserve dignity and don’t involve diapers -even other non-surgical approaches- that the companies would rather obfuscate.
Now I realize that industry needs to publicize its brands, and they even seem to travel a parallel road to public health at times. The inference -the message- is often: ‘Don’t just complain about your problem; try our product.’ And then the disclaimer: ‘This product may not be right for you… Ask your doctor.’ But as one of them, I would still wonder why she had come to ask my opinion about her pants if she were not also wondering about some other treatment options as well. In fact, she may already have chosen what was best for her -she may be wearing the best brand- but I wouldn’t know.
So that’s why I think I have to get over my ad squeamishness. Get over this Western Medicine scientific approach stuff. Embrace the alternatives. Decondition my antipathies. After all, some day, I might develop a personal problem I’d rather not admit to the health clinic at the Home – an embarrassing stain when I laugh, say, or maybe an undue concern over the stability of my teeth. And at that age, I don’t think I’d go to a surgeon anyway… they’d all be too young to know what they were doing. The stuff I’d see on the little silent television mounted on the wall over the card tables, though -I mean what would I have to lose? Something I could slip on and wear unobtrusively at the next sing along would be just the thing… maybe I could laugh again. Safely.