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Pardon My Delusion!

Posted Feb 01 2010 7:59am

I love ads for junky products. There’s something fascinating about watching a commercial for a product that is so utterly useless that it cross over into another realm and leaves you thinking “That would be fun to have.”

Like a Chia Pet for example. They are ugly, silly, pointless and yet millions of people have them and apparently love them.

So, the other day when I saw an ad on the back of a bus for a support garment I followed the bus for several blocks just to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was.

The ads shows the body of a woman wearing a pink t-shirt. The woman was clearly several pounds over her prime weight because she had a big belly straining against the seams of her shirt.

The second picture shows what is apparently the same woman, but this time instead of a bulging belly she had a flat, trim figure. The ads promised to help you look 20lbs thinner in under ten minutes.

My first thought was how complicated was the garment if it took ten minutes to put on. My second thought was what was the point, who are you kidding!

OK, I understand why you might get one if you were going to a high school reunion and wanted to look as close to your old high school self as possible, for one night only; after all, you are going to see any of those people for another ten years. But for everything else there doesn’t seem much point. Sooner or later you are going to have to take it off and so sooner or later your real self will emerge.

Say you wear it to impress a date. And it works. Then you have to wear it on the second date. But how long do you keep up the pretense? At some point you are going to have to take it off and reveal that you are less Princess Leah and more Jabba the Gut.

The same applies to men who wear lifts to make themselves look taller, or a toupe to look less bald. Sooner or later the shoes will come off and the truth will out. So what are these men hoping for? That the woman they are dating, enchanted by their sparkling personality, will suddenly decide she really does find short, bald men attractive after all. Not very likely eh! Not bloodly likely.

What I love about ads for all these products is that they are unabashed appeals to the delusional part of our psyche – the part of our brains that let us believe if we pretend hard enough no one will notice that it’s not real or true.

You see it in so many different ways, on so many different levels; the middle-aged man whose hair is thinning on top but who still has a pony tail because he thinks it make him look younger and hipper than he is.

Yet one way or another, on one level or another, we all do it. Maybe we don’t buy a support garment  and think it will make us thin, but we may delude ourselves into thinking we are smarter than everyone else around us, or that we have all the answers.

Delusions take many forms, but like the support garment, sooner or later you have to take it off and face reality. So maybe the key is to decide not to try and mask our real selves with girdles and wigs and high heels and superior attitudes. maybe if we just showed ourselves as we really are we’d find out that we’re not so bad after all.

But that doesn’t mean you get to keep those Chia Pets. They still have to go.

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