When I'm in the US I always love to watch those paid advertisement programs on the television. You know, the long programs that are commercial in nature, and so addictive to watch because you start discovering all the problems you have with your body, your face, your life and other horrific things which, prior to that moment you never knew exised. But now you know you have them, life seems incomplete of you didn't get your hands on the solutions being offered. From things to fix your house with to products that transform your bodies, these ads come complete with testimonies from satisfied customers, a convincing before and after comparison and scientific explanations from experts, that it wouldn't surprise me if everybody on the land didn't rush to get them after watching them. They are that persuasive! Or maybe I'm just gullible.
For example there's one product that purports to change the shape of your body and make those with wide girths drop down a couple of sizes in their clothes. Just by putting tthis so called 'body shaper' on, people with huge, unsightly bulges at the most unwanted places like stomach, waist and behinds, which is quite the majority these days, could suddenly become svelte with an attractive silhouette. Yes, by just wearing this little piece of garment, fat people with big paunches and butts that stick out like a the rear end of a bus could suddenly shave off a good few inches from their waists and wear their favourite clothes again. And all for a mere $39.99 or your money back!
Not only that, but if you call to order within the next ten minutes they would throw in extra garments in different colours. If you order within two minutes they would send you half a dozen for free! I could feel myself physically yearning to reach out for the phone and wallet for my credit card. I mean, those big people with ugly bodies that suddenly look presentable are real proof that that the stuff works. And everybody has a problem with unsightly bulges right?
Changing the channel however, there's an offer for a thing called the 'genie bra'. Immediately I'm all eyes and ears. Are you unhappy with your bra? The attractive lady who was a former news anchor asks on the television. I never thought about it, but go on. Do you struggle with hooks and do your bras make you look lumpy, not give you a proper lift and show off your back fat? Back fat? Some ladies unhappy with their regular bras are shown airing their grievances I didn't know bras could produce. And now looking at it, why yes, my bra does indeed enhance the back fat I didn't know I had and is definitely not giving me the kind of lift that I'm entitled to.
The magic bra on the other hand, not only gives the wearer a smooth appearance even with the tightest and flimsiest piece of clothing, but could actually give you the perkiest and gravity-defying silhouette. Without the slightest hint of lumpiness and back fat. Now, what lady on this planet doesn't want that? I certainly want one, or even two or three in different colours. Especially if they are only $29.99 and if you call to order within the next three minutes they will give you extras that will live last for three generations. Plus, throw in a garment that could make your backside look perky for good measure.
My instinct protests. Magic underwear? Why didn't they make a whole ten minutes spiel on the wonders of those underpants that could show off the curves of your behind in a flattering way without the dreaded visible panty lines? I want them. I need them and I must have them. None of my underwear could do any of those things. And here is something that could answer the problems that I have. I'm convinced that with the body shaper, the magic bra and the magic underpants I would henceforth go through life with increased confidence. I make a mental note to have my wallet near me next time. You have to be fast in order to take advantage of the amazing special offers.
But what's this coming up now? It's ex super model Cindy Crawford. And who doesn't want to look like Cindy Crawford, the ex-anchor turned saleswoman on the screen asks. (So that's what happens to news anchors. Old anchors never die, they become TV product endorsers!). Cindy has looked the same way since she was in her twenties. A picture of Cindy at 28 comes up, next to the present one at 48. Yes, indeed, she hasn't aged one bit. I nod in admiration as do all the ladies gathered and clapping in the studio on the TV. So, what's her secret? By this time I have no desire to change the channel.
I want to know Cindy Crawford's beauty secret. In comes the still glamorous model. She's more than happy to share with the world her fountain of youth discovered by her skin doctor. Who happens to be French and rather good looking. Whatever they're using I want it too. The doctor, with his irrepressible smile and irresistible accent, tells the audience the secret lies in the melon. A special melon grown in the south of France that doesn't age. Pictures of juicy looking melon rich with anti-oxidant properties flash on the screen. I want to be that melon! It's the very same melon that has kept Cindy Crawford a real life, female Dorian Gray. And now you too could be like Cindy, because she is sharing the product created for her by the handsome French doctor for you, ordinary mortals, at a price you could afford. Something that ends with .99 and if you call within the next few minutes they would throw in other amazing extras etc.
By now, I've caught on to the pattern of this method of advertising. A bunch of testimonials, a before and after, expert comments and satisfied customers and bingo, I am completely convinced that these are products that would change my life. As a matter of fact, watching these things I could feel myself emotionally manipulated and even physically feel the desire rise within me for these incredible products. What is saving me from reaching for my wallet fortunately, is the sheer number of incredible stuff being offered at the same time.
I change the channel. There's a product called the 'body contour'. It's a belt that gives you the perfect abs...
(Desi Anwar: First published in The Jakarta Globe)