Month: November 2013

Beck and Call

A word about cats!
Anyone who thinks that cats are aloof never met Tahji! This cat is the opposite of aloof! While he is not what you might call a lap cat (he’d sooner nip than snuggle), he greets every newcomer and is a constant companion though not always in a good way! When I’m in the computer room, he walks across the keyboard tapping keys of his own accord and leaving long white strands of cat fur stuck to the monitor. He sits on the printer tray when I’m printing and luxuriates under the desk lamp, stretching his huge furry paws, scattering neatly stacked paperwork onto the floor. He knocks whacks the mouse across the room, bits the phone antennae, scoops paperclips from their magnetic holders and rubs his face on my fingers as I try to type. And that’s just what he does in the computer room! Purring constantly and begging for affection he enters a calm efficient space and leaves destruction and chaos in his wake.

So, you might ask, why not just lock him out of the room? Well, you see, a closed door is a personal affront to Tahji! It’s a challenge! He simply will not tolerate it. First he’ll try the polite approach. He’ll meow softly a time or two, just to notify me that he’d like the door opened. Then he escalates, scratching on the door a few times, just to let me know he’s getting impatient, then he’ll start aggressive carpet shredding, stretching his talons underneath the door determined to dig his way into the room, and for his final act he’ll take running leaps and launch himself against the door banging feet first, the feline version of a battering ram, till I open the door for him. Then he walks in tail high and slowly swishing, slanted blue eyes watching me impassively.

Tahji is a huge handsome cat, imperious in fact and he carries himself with great self-assurance. As I walked through PETCO one day, this Himalayan mix called out to me and as I walked over he extended one huge paw through the bars beckoning me to take him home. I did and since that day he has never failed to remind me that I am at his beck and call!


One of a Kind

I was on the phone talking to my grandson today. He was at the bagel shop with his Mom and no doubt smelling the unparalleled mouthwatering aromas of freshly baked bagels when he said “I don’t think there’s anything more delicious than a bagel!” I agreed that it was one of the most perfect foods and he countered with “I wonder if we cut a hole in a piece of bread would it compare to a bagel!?” I said I doubted it. A bagel was a bagel and there were no substitutes. And that got me thinking about how many things are irreplaceable ‘one of a kind’ somethings that are just that? If you look in your grocery store you can easily see that manufacturers are constantly trying to outdo themselves. Make it round, make it square, stuff it with something, coat it with something else, put it in the toaster, put it in the microwave, mix it with something and bake it in the oven. I could go on and on but you get the point, right?
From crossover vehicles to designer dogs we are constantly reinventing things to make them more marketable or more palatable or more appealing to children or more nutritious for our elderly. The marketplace is a place of constant reinvention, discovery and innovation. Buy cards for every occasion and have you noticed there are more and more occasions? Well there have to be because the card makers can’t rely on birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas anymore to keep them financially robust! Ah such a skeptic! But it’s true. Have you ever wished for the ‘good old days’ when life was simpler, shopping was simpler, choices were less and maybe we were more satisfied. Not sure about that one but it’s something to think about. Could it be that the more things there are to choose from the more obsessed we are with those choices? The more brand conscious we become?

I was treating an adolescent girl some years ago and it seems that the majority of her fights with her mother revolved around such things as the brand of boots her girlfriends had and that her mother wouldn’t buy her. From that topic she went on to purses and cell phones. It seems theirs were better or cuter or more expensive than hers. Her mother, trying to ‘make ends meet’ was about to tear her hair out over all this! The girl was relentless and hysterical the mother entrenched and beleaguered. Of course changing society would have been harder than changing this family, but at times I wondered about that! I can see how if the world we lived in were simpler at least this particular manifestation of this child’s problem would have been simpler too!


Low T

When former Senator and Presidential Candidate Bob Dole went on TV to talk about ‘erectile dysfunction (aka impotence), it was a landmark moment for the American male. Men with erectile dysfunction never talked about their difficulties. Public disclosure and awareness had been an unwritten prohibition. Sexual dysfunction, especially male dysfunction, was a deep dark secret and the cardinal rule with deep dark secrets is they fester and create problems. Senator Dole’s appearance did set a precedent for men to talk openly and publicly about their sexuality. Heretofore, our highly elected government officials gained public attention by acting out just how well their ‘erectiles’ functioned!
While one might question his personal judgment, we can still applaud Senator Dole as a pace-setter, helping men to be more open about their sexual difficulties in a world where men are defined to project their sexual potency and attractiveness. Since that time sex-driven commercials have thrived.

Now we not only have Viagra and Cialis ads galore, we also have ads for testosterone patches in which ‘the problem’ is transformed from a shameful deficit depicting inadequacy to a ‘homey’ little insufficiency, “we call it ‘Low T’.”  Now that sounds harmless, right? After all anyone could have a low something. And many ‘low’ things are good, right? Low cholesterol is better than high cholesterol! Low blood pressure is better than high blood pressure…, right? So ‘low T’ can’t be all that bad! Hey we can even talk about it on TV! Big masculine men can talk about ‘low T’ and how simple it is to fix while they play baseball or gaze into the eyes of their flirtatious female counterpart.

Perhaps former Senator and Presidential candidate Dole did us all a favor by de-stigmatizing this issue in a society where male competence is equated with sexual prowess = personal power = personal success. ‘Low T’ (aka ‘erectile dysfunction,’ aka impotence) can in fact lead to numerous social and personal problems ranging from domestic violence to depression and multiple addictive behaviors. It has destroyed many relationships, contributed to an increase in our national divorce rate and sometimes has led to extreme behaviors as men strive to alter their ‘erectile’ behavior via the nearest pill, teeny-bopper or erotic asphyxiation.

So as we suffer through ad after ad about sexual anything we should remember that social change does not come easily and is often facilitated by the unexpected.


Child Hunger

How about those commercials showing desperate mothers chasing after their kids coaxing them to eat breakfast? You’d think children refusing to eat breakfast had become a national health hazard. Here we see mothers’ smiling as they spread Nutella on toast and rushing after their kids with breakfast drinks or Pop Tarts, smiles emerging as their children accept the food. Perfect, let’s appease our children with sweets and carbs!
We do have a problem in this country with food and hungry children but it’s not one that Nutella or Pop Tarts can solve. The problem of child hunger is a large and serious National health concern. It’s a result of poverty and happens when families don’t have enough money to buy their children food, may be homeless or may be too dysfunctional to provide care. In these cases children are truly deprived and neglected and need to be fed, often relying on school meal programs; these children are rarely fussy about what they will and will not eat. They eat what they are given because they are hungry and have the good sense not to whine and complain about it.

The kids who are fussy, refuse to eat and complain about what they are eating are those who know there is a ready supply of food. These have somehow and for some reason managed to turn the table on their parents. In this instance food has become a reverse commodity and if that happens, the food issue has nothing to do with food per se but is about something else entirely. Perhaps it has become a bargaining chip that allows the child to manipulate other resources. IE) child agrees to eat her eggs if she can watch TV.

If children become increasingly demanding and their hapless parents end up begging their children to eat, and find they are moving closer and closer to the junk food categories, there is a good chance a power struggle is underway. Let’s use a little common sense. If they are hungry they will eat (that is unless they find that they can use food to manipulate their parents or if they develop an actual eating disorder.) Some advice is to relax, provide food and some limited food options and let the child chose among those options. Do not bend over backwards to get your child to eat. If he or she gets hungry enough and parents have not created a crisis by over-reacting to this issue, it will in a short time resolve itself.

Since we are surrounded by commercials in every magazine and on every TV show, wouldn’t it be nice if marketing folks assumed the role of the appropriate authority and designed commercials wherein parents make good and reasonable choices about how to manage their children’s problem behaviors?