What’s that all about?
When I first moved to the US five years ago, I was struck by how many cures there were advertised on TV for conditions I never knew I potentially had. What fun I had trawling the aisles devoted to female hygiene in my local Rite Aid, as opposed to the 12 inch shelf in my local Boots Pharmacy back in the UK. Now, though, it seems to me, there has been a sea change: forget the cures, it’s all about drawing your attention to something not only you never knew you had, but for which there is no cure.
Take this pelvic mesh scare. I have no idea what pelvic mesh is, because every time I hear the word “vagina”, I tend to put my hands over my ears. Unlike a lot of women, I am a much bigger fan of the C word than the V word. The V word sounds like you’re offering a nice little boat trip around the coves of a Greek Island; the C word actually sounds like what it is: a whacking great cavernous hole whose main job is to trap unsuspecting penises and never let them out until the alimony cheque comes through.
The States is far more graphic than the UK on BTW (Below The Waist) problems both for men and women. In the UK, women’s monthly cycles on TV are still represented by somebody pouring coloured ink on an all too absorbable material, as opposed to the advertised product, which could, according to the pictures, absorb a Hewlett Packard ocean of ink before you can say “Replace this cartridge now”.
Durex has come a small way (geddit?) to change the nature of TV commercials, but they are still on the tame side. Among the most recent, a man and a woman are in bed, both in rather nice nightwear, and then . . . To be honest, I’m not sure what happens then, because I’m always distracted by the glamorous nightie (do people still wear clothes to bed? Heck, I don’t wear underwear in the daytime, having worked out you could save eight years of your life by not buying and donning unnecessary clothing – but that’s another story). I’m also distracted by the mystery of how anyone, without eight pints of Stella, would end up in bed with either of these people.
I have managed to glean that the commercial is for a gel that will get women excited in a way they have apparently never been before (again – what’s wrong with Stella?). Trust me on this: the price of said gels when you look at your receipt will quickly diminish any excitement you might have anticipated before you reached the other side of the cash register.
By far the biggest BTW problem in the US appears to be an erection lasting over four hours (or is it six? Or eight? I forget; when you’re used to the UK average of 40 minutes - or 40 seconds, in some cases), including tea and biscuits, I’m hardly going to call 911 for a couple of extra hours.
These commercials are quite terrifying in their graphic descriptions, but apparently there are even greater horrors out there on the BTW front. Aaron Spelling’s widow, Candy, has just published a new book, Candy at Last, in which she describes dating a man called Larry who, owing to his “penile implant” (I believe the correct word is penial; penile is about slavery . . . actually, on second thoughts . . .) could keep at it for five or six hours. No one, she says, wants to have sex for that long. Speak for yourself, love. I would imagine that having been married to Aaron Spelling, she would have been well used to non-stop serial drama (or should that be penial?).
The reality is that all these commercials represent an inherent fear of growing older, especially for men. In the UK, when men start to lose their sexual prowess, they just shrug their shoulders and spend more time in the pub, ogling women they couldn’t even get the first time around, let alone with the melting wax candle between their legs in these later years. But in the US, the ability to keep going is what makes not only men, but women, keep popping pills, because hey, if you’re still having sex, you must still be young. Right?
Sex is the cross we hold to the vampire of death to keep it at bay for as long as we can.
Never mind about the warnings – do stop taking X, if you suffer blurred vision, cramps, muscle weakness, forgetfulness, numbness, or have an erection lasting until Christmas – we all want to believe that we will live forever; and, whether it be good or bad, sex is the one thing that makes us momentarily forget that we won’t.
Another pint of Stella, please.