Everyone says the media’s ruining our kids. They’re given a warped sense of how people should look, how people behave, and what the real world’s going to be like when they get there. We like to blame the media like it’s new, like there’s been a management change on Madison Avenue and the new guys no longer know how to grow young people into wholesome, perfect adults like us. The truth is that the television commercials that were responsible for forming my worldview in the 1970s painted such a wacky image of what being a woman was going to be like that I approached adulthood with some trepidation. Here’s why.
According to the television of my childhood, when I became a wife and mother, the one thing I’d want above all things would be to keep ‘em home for breakfast. I’d stop at nothing to keep my kids from getting on that bus or my husband from escaping with his briefcase. I’d be desperate to keep them home — desperate enough to feed them commercially prepared cake at eight in the morning. Boy was I duped. As a wife and mother I fail to see any circumstances short of a nuclear disaster that would make me want to delay the blessed morning departure of my family. I now wonder what that woman was so afraid of, what was going to be so bad about being home alone. Truly, the only thing that delights me more than seeing those smiling faces return at the end of the day is knowing that they are going to leave again in the morning.
I was also taught that grown women have fetishes for sneaking around the supermarket in hopes of squeezing the toilet paper without the store manager seeing. They actually can’t bear to pass toilet paper without fondling it, and will go to any length to cop a feel. What mad world was I being prepared for? I have (almost) never had any such urge.
Alternatively, my TV told me, I could grow up to be a woman who chose to bring home the bacon. I would then proceed to fry it up in a pan and then do some unnamed thing involving perfume that would never, ever let my husband forget he was a man. I imagine my actual grown self returning from work and wrestling the spatula away from my husband, insisting that I be the one to prepare dinner. In my adult reality, I don’t bring home the bacon and I’m sort of tired of cooking dinner. Is there a perfume for that?
I don’t know what ever happened to Yuban coffee, but these commercials particularly freaked me out. They led me to believe that whatever my career path, I would eventually become my husband’s mother. If he was offered (gasp!) a second cup of coffee, I was to immediately jump in and admonish the hostess: “Jim never has a second cup at home.” Further, should he actually want that second cup of coffee, I was to be personally offended because I was going to grow up to be a person who was competitive about coffee. Not only do I not feel responsible for how much coffee my husband drinks, if I’m going to someone’s house in the evening, it’s not to drink coffee.
You can see why I was a little overwhelmed by all that womanhood had to offer me — the job, the chores, the neuroses. The lady at the nail salon was going to trick me into soaking my hands in dishwashing liquid. All this was going to be some sort of an improvement because, after all, we’d come a long way, baby.
Now when I watch TV, I think: so what if my kids grow up thinking that birth control is something to sing about while performing synchronized swimming routines? The media’s always thrown a lot at us. Calgon, take me away.