You are what you watch |

You are what you watch

On the evening news last night, one of the commercials ended with, “If you’re between the ages of 50 and 75, you may be eligible. …” and I started to laugh.

Who else do they think is watching the evening news? Teenagers? Newlyweds? Or do I repeat myself?

How else could you explain all the commercials for Cialis, face-lifts, hearing aids, AARP, understanding Medicare, vitamins just for men, vitamins just for women, hair dye and “mature” singles dating services that run between the stories about the national debt and the Mideast car bomb o’ the day?

And how many times do they think people between the ages of 50 and 75 have to see the same ad before it gets results? Fifty? Seventy-five? Three hundred and sixty-five? Infinity? Is there a man alive who needs Cialis who hasn’t heard about it? If he’s that out of touch, he’s probably not dating on the Internet, either.

It’s like all those beer ads during the Super Bowl — what do advertisers think most of the fans are drinking already? Do they really have to spend a million dollars a second to sell viewers something they already have in their hands? Do they think beer drinkers are that stupid? Yes, they do.

Maybe the nightly news gets older viewers only because of the ads. To anyone younger than 50, the commercials are a peek into their future at Hip Replacement Village, which scares them silly.

For all my complaining, the good news is that we can get hip replacements and face-lifts and Cialis. In the old days, you had to play the cards you were dealt. No longer. Bad liver? Get a new one. Don’t like your face? Get a new one.

Not long ago, my wife bought an old photo album at a garage sale that was full of newspaper clippings of the doings in our town 60 years ago. As she flipped through the yellowed pages, she stopped and asked me to look at a photo of a group of women. There were about 20 of them, some kind of club, the front row sitting and the back row standing.

“How old do you think they are?” she asked.

Sensing that it might be one of those trick questions Sue asks that always make me look stupid and foolish — like asking when I’m going to clean out my office right after I’ve cleaned out my office, or have I forgotten to gas up the car again, or whose turn is it to wash the dog — I took my time looking at the photo, because they can be hard to interpret.

Every now and then, I’ll read a true story about some famous figure in history, a person described as a great beauty or as devilishly handsome, and then I’ll turn the page and look at the photograph and cringe. The guy’s hair is plastered to his head with bear grease, yet part of it manages to pop up and curl around in an unattractive way. His eyes look beady because the camera flash washed out his eyebrows, and his clothes look ratty. There’s an expression on his face that screams “Why am I here?” because they told him not to move or blink for 30 seconds, and whatever you do, don’t smile. I look at this old portrait and wonder, “If that’s good-looking, what was stone-cold ugly back then?”

I looked at the group of women again.

“I’m guessing about 75.”

Sue took her hand off the caption. The oldest woman in the group was 55, the youngest, 42. Even overlooking the long-unfashionable clothing and the dated hairstyles, they looked worn out long before their time. No doubt a similar picture of a group of men would have fooled me, too.

It was a time before pacemakers, hip and knee replacements, laser eye surgery — all this wonderful stuff that can make us feel young again. But can a hip replacement make our faces look younger? Or are we just smiling more when they take our photographs?

Contact Jim Mullen at

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