I watch a really wide variety of TV programming. I know this because the commercials that I see have such an obviously varied demographic, that I must be something of an outlier in the shows that I watch.
For example, I normally spend my lunch break on the treadmill, which has a TV. Finding the perfectly engaging but mindless show to watch is key for getting through my workout sometimes. If I settle on a salacious talk show or small claims court program, the commercials are usually for an 18-month trade school, debt consolidation, or a personal injury lawyer. So apparently I share my love for baby daddy/mama drama with the unemployed and/or financially strapped population. Other times, I’ll want to gawk at the various definitions that people have for “small bathroom” and watch House Hunters on HGTV, and will see commercials for Home Depot, satellite Internet service, or diet programs. So, I get the impression that the normal audience for that show is most likely women with a penchant for gardening and body image issues and who, perhaps, live way out in East Jesus Nowhere.
Then, at home, I’ll watch shows like Mad Men, which has commercials for luxury cars. We have a used, 2006 Chevy Malibu, so we are obviously not in the target demographic for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
However, none of this really inspires any kind of anxiety in me. The commercials that do get me riled up are for insurance.
So, after this commercial ends and I’ve been reduced to sobs, I start having life insurance envy, which I think is like penis envy. I have life insurance through my job, but it’s like the bare minimum, default plan. I am one of those people who more or less lives paycheck to paycheck, and often times falls short. I have a meager savings, but really can’t squeeze anything else out of my wages to set aside for my kid. And then I have flashes of some terrible tragedy befalling me and my husband and, for whatever reason, our wonderful families are unable to provide for him. He becomes a ward of the state or is raised by a single woman with doubts about her maternal instincts, like Katherine Heigl, or Kate Hudson, or Diane Keaton, all of whom played essentially the same role in Life As We Know It, Raising Helen, and Baby Boom, respectively.
The one that really puts me in a sour mood, however, is the commercial for the Gerber Life College Plan. In it, a bunch of parents are sitting around talking. I’m not clear what the occasion is. A playdate? The pediatrician’s office? An underwhelming luncheon? And what planetary alignment allowed all of the parents, both moms and dads, to be able to gather together in the middle of the day?
Anyway, perhaps off-camera a game of Truth or Dare had been started or these people are totally boring, because one dad asks if they’ve all started saving for college yet. Do these folks know how to party or what? Everyone’s like, “Pssh! No! Time for keg stands!” because they’re all irresponsible and clueless about their kids’ futures. Except for this one couple, who already have everything figured out. And because they have their shit together so thoroughly, they managed to get a savings plan that’s both a college account and a life insurance policy. Which means these other parents are doubly inferior.
My favorite part is when the Gerber mom gets excessively smug about their savings prowess, like she’s just been dying for someone to ask her how she got to be so wonderful, and the dad points to her like, “Take it away, honey. School these idiots.”
But this commercial also makes me anxious because, again, I just don’t have the extra money to start these savings plans for my kid. My plan for paying for college is using the tuition benefits through my university job and scholarship funds that he will have access to through the city for attending a public school. Granted, it’s probably more than a lot of people can claim, but seeing these commercials makes me feel like I should be making more money if I really cared about taking care of my kid.
In other words: my insecurities, let me show you them.