Suicide-inducing billboards and television shows and a few good reasons to stay…

I drive downtown every single weekend, and in the past two months, I’ve seen some really shitty billboards out there.

For instance, within about two miles’ distance, the following four billboards were pinned up, each of them hazardously competing for my attention (when I should have my eyes on the road):

  1. Freeze Away Fat! (photograph of a relatively thin person pinching “the unsightly fat” on their side)
  2. Levy’s Fine Jewelry (a presumably naked woman marketing a fancy necklace)
  3. Friends from College: Coming to Netflix! (I watched the first episode and am sharing my opinion of it further below)
  4. Grapico (something about being older than dirt but a whole lot sweeter)

 

So Grapico, whatever, but the other three — BOY did they disrupt my peace. First of all, freeze away fat? What the hell is THAT process like? Is literal freezing involved? I couldn’t resist Googling it.

SO, per Google, when you freeze away fat, this is what happens:

The FDA-cleared procedure suctions in the skin surrounding the area of fat you want to freeze, then uses controlled cooling (aka cryolipolysis) to drop the temperature of the skin down to where the fat cells die. The body then eliminates the cells in the following weeks. 2. There is a tendency for uneven removal.

(Involuntary internal thought: Or you could NOT freeze your fat off and just lighten up on the sugar-dense Grapico…)

Okay. So keep that billboard in mind.

Now, let’s throw “naked model advertising for jewelry company” into the mix. This gal is – without words – telling me that, to be desirable, I need to be thin, naked, and bejeweled. What if I’m broke? I could take out a loan, I guess (TERRIBLE idea, btw)… but what if I’m not thin enough? Heyyyyy, I KNOW! I’ll JUST FREEZE MY FUCKING FAT OFF! Problem solved!

Synopsis: drink the Grapico; now you’re fat; lose the fat in this weird and likely expensive way; then buy this jewelry.

Body shaming people is disturbing enough, but when you use body shaming to market products and services and make a profit, you’re operating on a whoooooooole other level of evil. And think about how many places do that. Really — think about it.

I can remember (back in the early 2000s) the Clearasil commercials that would come on while I was trying to watch Drake and Josh on Nickelodeon. The commercials:

  1. featured some red-faced, insecure teenager who seemed miserable,
  2. gave a side-by-side comparison of what they looked like pre- and post-Clearasil, and then
  3. wrapped the commercial up with the the guy or gal looking happy and confident and picture-perfect.

I remember asking my mother to buy the stuff so that I could look “normal.” This was around the same time that I realized that, as a budding woman, my naturally-growing body hair was, for whatever reason (none were given), unacceptable, and that a push-up bra would be required to put me in the running with my female contemporaries (all of us vying, at the ridiculous age of 15, for a mate). I continued unhappily shaving my legs and underarms and sensitive, upper thighs until the fall of 2013. It’s been a great four years.

And as far as wearing a push-up bra is concerned — forget about it! I’ve learned to love the body I’m in, and truly, my body suits me; I love being active, and being small-chested enables me to run around without feeling any sense of discomfort… so go me! On the weekends, I don’t even bother with wearing a bra, and it’s not because I’m a hippie; it’s because 1. I like being comfortable and 2. I despise how this strange society weighs women down with senseless restrictions and rules pertaining to beauty standards and ideals.

Beauty is so subjective. A comfortable, welcoming, and kind person is, in my eyes, the most beautiful person.

 

Anyways, I could list about thirty other body-shaming-rooted marketing ploys, but I won’t bother; you get the idea.

Companies first point out why we should feel insecure, lacking, or bad, and THEN they provide the “solution”. The whole thing — our materialistic consumerism and costly vanity and how, through studying humans, the mercenary brains behind corporations know how to easily influence our wants, needs, and perceptions of self — sickens me. But then again, I blow hundreds of dollars on tattoos and, come the end of my life, will have spent thousands of dollars on fancy shampoo, “inspiring” necklaces, and “cool” clothes… is wanting your face to be clear, or painted, or thinner any different? Not really.

My main point: Do what you want — what makes you feel good about yourself — but please take some time to ascertain that it’s an organic desire and not one that you’ve subconsciously adopted slash internalized because of bossy family members, opinionated friends, or the soul-crushing media.

 

What about billboard number three, you ask? The “Friends from College” one?

UGH. I watched the first episode of that show last month (while the plot didn’t really intrigue me, I like to stay somewhat in-the-know when it comes to what’s trending… if nothing else, I do this so I can relate with coworkers, especially new hires) and I hated it.

First of all, the opening scene was a sex scene (gross), where I stared awkwardly at my German Shepherds, Silo and Tycho, and waited for the “suggestive noises” to cease.

Secondly, within 5 minutes of the show, the viewer learns that the two people who were engaging in coitus are both married to OTHER people and have been sustaining their affair for twenty years. 

 

Holy shit, I thought to myself. So THIS is what people watch now. 

 

Why it depressed me: Normalizing infidelity (this show is, by the way, a comedy) is OBVIOUSLY terrrrrrrible, but my heart really goes out to the partner who is in the dark regarding their spouse’s infidelity. The emotional devastation resulting from the betrayal would be heart-wrenching enough, but what’s really repulsive and sickening is the fact that that innocent person has been exposed to the biological chemistry and spiritual energy of another human being without knowing it and against their will. It’s absolutely horrific. Cheating on a partner is probably one of the most selfish and hideous decisions you could possibly make.

 

And in the show, we laugh at it. Oh boy… when are these two going to get caught! 

 

I couldn’t stomach another episode.

 

And the messages on these billboards (that promote being thin, and sexy, and bedazzled, and entertained) just weigh me down, because they really suck the joy out of life. They burden you with things you need to fix and change; things you need to watch (rendering you a consumer instead of a producer, which robs you of your creativity); and things you need to take out loans for so you can buy them and have them and wear them… meanwhile, life passes you by; the whole principal amount of it, and you accrue zero interest.

 

Didn’t you also mention a suicide-inducing television show? 

Yes, I did. That 70s Show.

 

I discovered the sitcom a few months ago (super late to the game, I know), and ohhhhhhhh, I fell in LOVE with it! I enjoyed watching the characters develop (especially Hyde, Jackie, and Fez) until one DREADFUL episode played across my television screen. It was so disappointing and infuriating that, out of principle, I had to drop the show.

The plot: Donna discovers dirty magazines underneath her boyfriend, Eric’s, bed. She is understandably furious. “Am I not enough for you?” she demands. Donna storms out of the room and consults with a few of her guy friends on the matter.

“If you were in a relationship, would YOU look at that sick stuff?” she asks them.

“Of course,” Hyde answers. Damn it, Hyde… I liked you so much.

“Uh, I once had TWO girlfriends at the same time and STILL looked at those magazines!” Ashton Kutcher volunteers. But he was already a moron, so his response didn’t surprise me. 

And then Fez mumbled his assent, admitting that he, also, would still buy these dirty magazines.

SO, armed with this new knowledge, at the very end of the episode, Donna walks upstairs, enters Eric’s bedroom, and apologizes for being a prude. “You’re a guy, so it’s normal for you to like this gross stuff!” she jokes.

 

“Are you sure?” he asks, flabbergasted. “You… really don’t mind if I keep looking at them?”

 

“Nope!” she smiles. “And to make up for how mean I was earlier, a naked lady will be in shortly…” (referring to herself).

 

I almost physically vomited

 

How could you, Donna? How COULD you, That 70s Show writers?! What the fucking FUCK?!!!!! Progressive? Yeah RIGHT! This is NOT progressive writing; this is deplorable! 

 

What they did wrong: They took a strong female character and totally destroyed her in less than 30 minutes’ time.

With Donna’s words, they said: Pornography is acceptable. You can’t get mad at him for it.

Through Donna’s actions, they set the standard for other women: If you want to be cool like Donna, don’t be a prude. Remember… SHE ended up okay with the magazines. And btw, porn totally isn’t infidelity (even though the only real difference between it and an in-person sexual encounter is that the guy or gal you’re cheating with is stuck on a piece of paper or behind a television screen). That’s the only difference, but it’s a damn important one, because it means that your guy or girl isn’t REALLY cheating on you and that means that you CAN’T get mad at them.

 

Buuuuuuullshit. 

 

This subject hits close to home, because I used to have a close friend who caught her boyfriend watching pornography a few years ago. She was absolutely devastated when she realized it and spent the evening at my apartment, crying her eyes out and refusing to eat.

They got back together within a week, and while I was very disappointed with her, I said little.

She caught him looking at porn again about a year later — I guess he’d forgotten how badly it affected her; how him looking at unrealistically perfect female bodies exaggerated her already low sense of self-esteem — and after he apologized again, their relationship returned right back to normal. This time, I was furious. She ended up marrying the guy, and I still worry about her; if he knew it hurt you the first time and yet he STILL did it again, how the hell can you trust that person? And if they’re willing to chance hurting you by stealing looks at a TV screen or a magazine, how do you know it will always end there? 

It’s disturbing beyond words, honestly. Our society is so degraded, so morally bankrupt now, that all of this is the norm, and I’m just that conservative prude. 

 

“I think it’s hilarious that you, as an agnostic, have higher moral standards than most christians,” a close friend joked (when I shared my outrage with her).

 

Tagging onto what she said, I believe that morals are mostly intrinsic; that we’re born with a soul that holds its own moral compass, and that we can – independently – figure out which direction is the right one to go in (without the input of people or books or gods or goddesses). But I think that a lot of people train themselves to be moral — that they discipline and mold and sculpt themselves to, even if their thoughts and desires betray them, ACT morally — but for me, it’s more a matter of intuition, compassion, and empathy.

Your soul knows what’s right and wrong; what’s fair and decent and respectable and heartwarming and what is NOT. 

And the fact that the media is polluting people’s hearts and souls and chemically altering the organic makeup of them fills me with fury — fury that I have to shape into a ball and then hurl into a song or a blog post. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing much, but that’s where the fire goes to burn and die, because I’m just Jace… an opinionated 26-year-old living in the good ole’ South.

 

The world’s gross and it’s only getting worse, and on top of that, I have no faith in a soul-redeeming afterlife… so where’s my consolation?

I take comfort in a few things:

  1. I don’t know what religion is right; to a degree, they read like fairy tales, and I notice a number of similarities that they all share, but I really like the idea of reincarnation: reappearing in the past or future as something else. Hopefully, I’ll return as a planet, a rabbit, or a river. Or a German Shepherd! I’d hate to be a person again.
  2. I enjoy food. Paneer tikka masala warms my heart, burritos make me laugh, and a slice of tiramisu is cool on my throat.
  3. I love all animals… especially rabbits and German Shepherds. I was staring at a picture of Bruster last night (I keep it beside my bed) when I thought to myself, he wasn’t mine… I was his. And I was the lucky one. Then, I was petting my other German Shepherd, Tycho, this morning; she was wet and gross from splashing around in the pool, but I rubbed her tummy anyways (she loves it). “I’m so fortunate to know you,” I thought at her, smiling.
  4. I love (and hate) people. Humans can be downright awful, but some people are very, very wonderful. I have a small circle of friends — genuinely good-hearted people like Shelby, Ivey, Jarrod, Kiley, Frank and others — and my bestest friend, Charlie, is one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known. The world might be shitty, but we’re all in it together, and when we’re together, we make it so much better.
  5. I feel the most alive when I’m A. being creative or B. experiencing new places. Right next to writing a story or playing music, traveling is, for me, the most magical thing you can do; you get to see so many lovely and interesting things when you’re off exploring, and it’s almost like you can feel your soul wake up, lift its head, and open its eyes when you take it somewhere special.

 

About two months ago, I began forming tentative plans to study abroad next May (in Salamanca, Spain), and as I renewed my passport at the post office and scheduled early-morning meetings with counselors and coordinators at UAB, I foolishly began to raise my hopes higher and higher — watching videos and reading blogs and articles so that I could learn all about the country’s culture, scenery, public transit system, social happenings and – most importantly – cafes. But because of my work schedule, I was unable to finalize my plans, and for two days, I was really down in the dumps. (Some of you might be thinking, why not just quit your job? Well, I really love my job, so for me, that just wasn’t an option.)

I was talking with my mom on the phone (on Thursday) when I casually mentioned my disappointment to her; I generally don’t like talking about sad stuff, because I hate the idea of bringing other people down, but it was something I knew she already knew about (I’d been talking about the idea for weeks), so I wanted to go ahead and permanently cap off that conversation.

“Oh Rose — I am sooooooo sorry!” she whispered into the phone. “I know you were really looking forward to that…”

“Yeah, but it’s okay; I’m still going to take these college classes locally — it’ll just take me eight months to complete them instead of five weeks,” I replied, beginning to feel heavy again. “I’m mostly sad that I won’t get to experience this country’s culture, but hey, everything happens for a reason, right?” I offered, smiling weakly at the strange sound of my voice endorsing the old cliche.

She paused. “You know what you should do? Go on a trip ANYWAYS! I know you wanted to go, specifically, for this school thing, but you could at least take a little vacation next year! Go somewhere you’re excited about… have some fun! I want you to be happy. Please make plans to travel.”

 

My soul stirred in its sleep. I could feel my pulse quicken.

 

“Wowwwwwwww…” I exhaled. “Oddly enough, I hadn’t even considered that. Sierra, this is a SPLENDID idea!”

And you know what? Her encouragement slash idea has made all the difference.

 

The next day, I spent my lunch break in the car with Charlie. We both spooned leftover, home-cooked navy beans out of plastic containers while I rested my feet on the dash and purchased two plane tickets to Quito, Ecuador.

 

“This is going to be an absolute adventure,” I breathed to Charlie; I was thrilled to the core, and I could feel my soul swaying contentedly within me. It’s nice to have something you can look forward to… you know; something other than blowing money on stupid shit or feeling like you have to do weird things to improve your already wonderful, capable, and perfectly lovable body.

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

Sidebar before publishing: I fully realize that there are lots of weight loss methods and programs out there, and I respect that; my beef is with how they are marketed. I don’t think that anyone should be made to feel like they need to take drastic measures to look more beautiful, and – being the holistic type – I, of course, think that if someone DOES want to lose weight, going the natural route (IE reevaluating your diet, increasing your time spent exercising, etc.) is preferable. With that being said, I had a brother who, for biological reasons AND thanks to the score of medications he was stuck on, inexplicably gained weight while eating virtually NOTHING, so I understand that drastic measures are sometimes the only ones available to a person.

My main point (reiterated): Do what works for you, but don’t feel like you can’t love the skin you’re in if you’re not stupidly thin. Basically, I hate the “freeze fat away” billboard and hope that someone (not me bc I’m not about that #vandalismlife) launches a bunch of cow manure at it.

 

Like my blog? Read my book!

I self-published my first novel in August 2017 — a delightful tale called “Jinx the Rabbit.” Whether you’re 5 years old or 500 years young, I feel sure you’ll enjoy it. Purchase the book by clicking below and then I’ll ship your signed copy to you within two business days! (Or, if you’d prefer to order the book on Amazon, you can easily do so by visiting the website and searching “Jinx the Rabbit”!)

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