Yesterday I was out running errands – not the fun kind, but out doing ‘essentials’. I had Sirius on as a distraction. The politics of these days are nothing, if not ‘distracting’! Anyway, it took me almost two hours to finish up what I had to do, and in that time, in between pundits discussing the spin-cycle we’re in until at least 2020, I noticed a different kind of insistent messaging assaulting my brain: authoritative voices telling me what ‘getting older’ means, and what it should feel like. Basically, a dire warning that I’m slowly losing everything that matters to my quality of life.
When I was fresh out of college and not yet employed as the teacher I would soon become, I took a summer job working as a sales rep for a rock station (I feel old, just saying that). I actually did pretty well in the role. I was fascinated by my how station ratings are dependent upon ratios of advertisements and music; the difference between “drive time” and “quitting time” ( we called it Happy Hour). And how messaging that is repeated so often as to be crazy-making is so effective in shaping consumer behavior (how we spend our money).
So the ad that was drilled into my brain (good work, Sirius) nagged at me three times in less than two hours, which is a lot, for a 60-second ad. The female voice was half-praise, half warning — another super- effective advert tactic. The lead-in was, “Good news: you’re taking such good care of your body that it’s going to outlast your brain!” (My own paraphrasing, by the way). Being the visual person I am, I saw myself on a tennis court, strong and fit…even though I don’t play. I felt the urge to quit my errands and make a beeline for the nearest pharmacy for this wonder-pill, before my brain did any more deteriorating.
I wouldn’t give these commericals any thought at all, if there wasn’t such a proliferation of them. They all begin with an authoritative “Research shows…”, which lures me into accepting what follows as Truth. Brain health, bone health, gut health, stability issues, digestive issues. I can hear and see that companies are creating and marketing products, based on the fact that people are living longer and better lives; and this fact needs to be addressed, they think, with medication. “If you don’t have it yet, trust us: you’ll get there.”
Back when certain congressional hearings dominated an entire news day, I had the television on in the background while I did some writing and housework. Nearly every “break” was punctuated by an advert for a medicine thought to be needed by “older adults”. By the end of the day, not only was I saturated and disgusted by the hearings, but I realized that the product messaging had invaded my brain and I found myself actually thinking…Is all this s*** (the symptoms and actual ailments) inevitable??
I’m trailblazing here, and maybe I’m alone, but I don’t think so. I don’t take medication and don’t like taking it even when I absolutely have to. I exercise every day and try to do the hydration and clean-food things. The last time I saw my doctor (whom I truly love), he laughed as he said, “It’s a good thing I’m retiring – people like you are about to put me out of business!” (A compliment to my age and relative health). I thought so. We are a healthier group, mid-life, than ever before. But companies know that this has us feeling just a wee bit insecure, as in, “I wonder how long I can make this last?”
My answer to that question is this: it’ll last a helluva lot longer if we don’t pay attention to the Grim Reaper brain-washing from media. I can’t totally avoid hearing the ads, without giving up the media services I enjoy; but I can, and do, talk back to them. In my opinion, we all should.