‘Tis the season to shop for products we rarely ever purchase in our normal day-to-day lives. We venture out on missions to find truly special, unique gifts for our friends and loved ones, and find ourselves browsing merchandise we would normally ignore. We also see products and promotions that just don’t seem to be around the rest of the year. Classic example: Hickory Farms. Magically the Hickory Farms booth appears in the middle of the mall around Thanksgiving, and just as mysteriously disappears by the New Year. I remember when I was a kid, Hickory Farms products were a year-round thing. My mother used to buy the H.F. Beef Stick to have on hand for pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres…. Yes, perhaps kind of gross to consider now, but affordable and accessible then. The other weekend, I asked the bored young man working the booth, where all of the Hickory Farms product goes during the other 11 months of the year. He looked at me as if I had asked him my question in a foreign language, and in his seasonal-part-time-employee tone, he said “uh, well, like, I think you can order it online anytime…”
If we real women feel challenged at times to find the right gifts, the men in our lives struggle even more. So tv ads aplenty pop up to convince them that apparently the best options are jewelry and perfume. I’m somewhat amazed by the really quite ugly and expensive baubles that are shown in all their glittering ostentatiousness in ads during the morning news and often wonder who really would wear most of them. Are we to wear that diamond pendant to work? Or to the grocery store? Perhaps when cleaning the house? I think not…. But what amuses me even more are the perfume ads. Generally we women have certain fragrances and brands that we prefer, and sure, receiving a bottle as a gift from time to time can be a nice treat. Yet during holiday time, the perfume ads become more and more bizarre and unrealistic.
There is a Lancome ad airing now that features Julia Roberts. She is in a beautiful white gown, and apparently is at some strange nightmare-induced party where everyone else is in black, and all tied up in marionette-like strings. Julia calmly smiles, breaks out of her strings and walks away. Umm…. Okayyy….. So first of all, HELLO, none of us look like, or have the life of, Julia Roberts. I am very certain that none of the R.W.’s in my life will be attending a formal party in a sparkly white full-length gown this year. And what the hey is the deal with the marionette strings? If we wear that perfume we can leave all the other losers behind and float off into the night?
Then there is the Dior ad staring Natalie Portman. Again, not a typical real woman. Even better, she is a bride about to be married at a ginormous mansion in perfect weather and a gorgeous dress. But no, that won’t do. She quietly says “sorry Daddy”, tucks a flower in her father’s lapel and does the Runaway Bride thing. But wait, there’s more. She dumps her gown off in a field, conveniently wearing an ever-so-comfortable skintight black dress underneath, and goes into James Bond mode to scale a ladder into a moving helicopter to take over the controls and fly away with some other stud. Alrighty then. Just another day at the office, right ladies? Come on, really with this?
What I don’t understand, (besides the ads themselves because they always leave me saying “huh?”) is who these ads are supposed to be targeting. Certainly not us real women. None of the ads convince me to wear whichever perfume is being promoted because I’m sure it will make me wealthy, gorgeous, and able to escape an already unrealistic life. And if they are targeting the men in our lives, can you imagine how confused THEY are? I would think they’d come away with the thought that “ok, so if I buy my woman this perfume, she’ll look like a super model, then she’ll run away.”
I would be much more impressed if any of these ads showed a real woman, heading out the door in the morning for her regular mundane job, or running a dozen errands on a weekend day, or a young mother struggling to get her kids ready for school, or a frazzled woman trying to make dinner and get her teen out to sports practice… and she pauses to spritz her favorite perfume. For a moment, she smiles and feels calmer, and better about herself, just enjoying the scent. And perhaps her very real man walks by and pauses and says “hey, you smell good.” Now THAT would be realistic. THAT would be believable. THAT would make me consider going to shop for something I normally don’t.
Yes, it is that time of year. Time to be beguiled by splashy ads and be convinced to buy items we otherwise wouldn’t. I do have fun shopping out of the ordinary, and going into stores other than my usual grocery store, pharmacy, and discount clothing store. I like finding unique merchandise online. But there still, for me, needs to be a purpose and a reason to make the purchase. And wanting to be Julia or a female James Bond is not it.
As for you, Beef Stick Guy, I’ll pass, thanks. But I’m sure I’ll see you same place, same time, next year. Enjoy wherever it is you go in between.