Real Cooking

“Are you the woman with the smallest bust line at your family reunion? Well, perhaps you’ve been blessed with less than what Mother Nature intended.”

“What is this?” I nearly steered my car off the road in my rush to turn up the radio’s volume. I didn’t want to miss this…this…propaganda passed off as advertising for nothing. The opening line suggested more stupidity was bound to follow.

“By using our product, you can safely increase your bust size,” the voice said. “Our all-natural product is doctor recommended.”

“Oh brother,” I said to the air. “Of course it’s ‘all-natural.’ You can’t sell a product anymore if it isn’t ‘all-natural.’ All-natural makes it perfectly safe, doesn’t it? Does anyone ever remember that marijuana is ‘all-natural’? So is tobacco, hashish and opium. So why don’t we just all go out for an ‘all natural’ smoke?

“And what’s this bit about being ‘doctor recommended’? I can’t remember the last time I had a doctor’s visit that ended by him or her saying, ‘I want you to watch your diet, get enough exercise and rest and…by the way, I recommend you increase your bust size. I think you would be far better off wearing a C-cup.”

You would think that they could at least use the correct language- doctor approved, tested by doctors-but doctor recommended? Come on.

It was then, as my rant drew to a close, that a small voice piped up from the backseat.

“Mom?” my son asked. “Why are there so many ads on the radio and TV that pick on women and their bodies?”

Good question.

“Men’s pattern baldness.”

“What, Meghan?”

“Men’s pattern baldness,” my daughter repeated. “The ads pick on men, too, only it’s about their hair. Men have to have thick hair and women have to have big chests.”

There it is in a nutshell, folks. Life in today’s American society. Scary, huh?

Way, way back in the mid-seventies, I took a “Women in Society” class at Wichita State University. In that class, we looked at how the advertising giants of Madison Avenue subtly mold what is and what is not acceptable in our modern society.

The fashion industry dictates what we wear. The weight-loss products, spas and fitness programs continually push us to be thinner. The cosmetic industry dictates what shades of lipstick should adorn our mouths and what shampoo should clean our hair.

Speaking of ads and shampoo, am I the only one in this world that thinks the ads for Clairol Herbal Shampoo are disgusting? It’s the one with the woman crying, “Yes, yes” while she’s washing her hair and then a male voice comes on and says something about it being an “organic experience.”

I don’t consider myself a prude, but there’s something about this series of commercials that I find down right tasteless. I can appreciate a good double entendre; a little bawdiness can be fun in the right setting. But these Clairol commercials just get under my skin.

The power of advertising. It’s what runs our media today. It’s what gives me a paycheck here at the Free Press. Most of it is good, alerting the consumer to a new product or a good buy. Some of it is thoroughly entertaining. I really like “Hi, Mrs. Peiffercorn…it’s me Steve” of Dell Computers.

But some of it, I’m afraid, can be harmful to the images that we see looking back at us from our mirrors. I don’t look like a swimsuit model and I have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of you, my dear readers, don’t either.

And I wonder, as my daughter and son grow into adolescence, how these ads will impact their lives. Will they be constantly striving to fit an image displayed in print or on film or will they be happy with the bodies that God and genetics have given them. Will they need big chests and thick hair to feel like they fit in?

When I was a young woman, I hit a point in my life where I wanted to lose some weight and get into shape. Not a bad goal in itself. It seemed healthy and every magazine and every television ad was telling me it was the thing to do. But what started out as a little toning gradually turned into an obsession.

I started to eat less and less and I increased the level of my exercise to the point that I felt compelled (remember that word) to keep moving all the time. I would walk over my lunch hour and then do stretches and calisthenics followed by a two-mile run every day after work. I would cool down with another hour or so of yoga.

And I lost weight. It became a sort of game to me-how low could I go. I was still eating, but the exercise had become a compulsion. It was at this point that I happened to see my family physician for a yearly check up.

“You lose five more pounds and I’m going to put you in the hospital,” came his grim warning. “You’ve got to understand, you’re not helping yourself. You’re hurting yourself.”

Fortunately, I took his advice and slowed down. Looking at me now, you would never know that I was ever so thin. Years later, I was talking about this time in my life with my brother’s wife, who is a therapist at Prairie View in Wichita.

“Exercise bulimia,” she said. “The person with this type of eating disorder purges their body not by vomiting but by over-exercising. It’s their way of controlling something-namely their body-when they feel like other aspects of their lives are out of their control.”

Looking back at my life at that time, I knew my sister-in-law was dead on. I needed to feel in control, and the way I expressed it was through the compulsive control of my body.

It can be easy to fall into these harmful traps. Maybe that’s why I feel the urge to rant against the commercials that deluge me and my children with images of women who are too thin and men who are too buff selling products that promise ultimate fulfillment if you just drink, eat, smear on or dose yourself up.

You too can be perfect. At least by white American’s standards-which, by the way is a whole different story.

So, as a parent, what am I teaching my children? Eat nutritiously, but don’t give up chocolate. Exercise, but have fun doing it. And love yourself-even if you’re flat chested and bald. It’s the foundation for healthy relationships.

* * *

Chocolate Nut Cookies

1 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. almond extract

2 cups flour

1/4 cup baking cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup vanilla baking chips

1 cup chopped almonds

Cream butter and sugars and then add egg and extract. Add dry ingredients to mixture, combine and then stir in chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 for seven to nine minutes. Makes about five dozen.

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