What are you like?

It’s an odd question, isn’t it?

And I don’t mean the teenage create-space-to-find-the-next-word sentence pause filler, as in “What are you, like, going to do with that, like, thing?”

I mean, when you think or talk about yourself, what are you similar to?  And when you meet someone new, what are they like?  Do you categorize them by who or what they are like, or by who/what they are?  Are you a like a man, or a man?  Is he like tall, or is he tall?  Is he like a lawyer, or is he a lawyer?

(seems even odder now)

We go all our lives sorting our memories, friends, experiences and knowledge according to what they ARE (well, by what we perceive them to be, really).  But when people try to sell us stuff, especially stuff for taking care of our bodies, they try to sell us on what a thing (or result) is LIKE.

Healthy looking skin.  Healthy looking hair.  A healthy looking smile.  (You’ll never ignore commercials quite the same once you realize this, I’m afraid.)

Musing (and fuming) on this over the years has left me with two questions:

  1. What would I rather have:  a healthy body, or a healthy looking body?
  2. If they can’t claim their product makes me healthy, only healthy looking, then is the image they are showing me a healthy person or (and I think this is more likely) a person who looks like what the company wants us to believe healthy should look like?

When they show the ultra skinny, lightly tanned, skin blushing, wrinkle free, tall, sporty supposed-to-be-mid-forties-something lady in a skin tight office suit sprinting easily across the street in three inch heels with her hair remaining tidily in place and a smile that could light your way in the forest at night, is that image they have created truly an image of health, or is it a manufactured, better-than-life ideal that is completely unrealistic?  (The running in heels alone should make us think, based on my own experiences.)

The problem is, I can never get my body to look like that.  The few times I’ve come close, it certainly wasn’t because I was using their products to do it and it created a lot of problems that took a long time to fix.  And I know a lot of people who have similar experiences.

So I chose, long ago, to seek health.  I hope that I look healthy, or at least, healthier than I used to look.  I know that I am healthier than I was when I looked like the woman in those commercials.  And I will continue to talk back to soap commercials, shampoo commercials that talk about frizz-free curls and toothpaste commercials that talk about removing stains as if their product is your only way to achieving the image of health that they are selling to you.

There’s no great leap, here… It’s a simple understanding of semantics.

  • If their product really makes you look like that, but they can’t say that their product will make you healthy (only healthy looking)
  • THEN either the image is healthy but the product can’t actually achieve that
  • OR the product can make the image but that result isn’t actually healthy.

This is an exercise in thought.  Not answers.  I am still trying to work out the answers to the many questions like this that have grown in my mind in the last twenty years and if you hoped I was going to have something snazzy for you that would solve all the incongruencies in your life, I am sorry to disappoint.  What I do know is that the answers aren’t where we spend most of our time.  If they were, we’d all be super healthy just as we are.

No…I tend to find answers in the quiet  and unusual corners of my days.  A thought found while admiring something in the garden, a new info-piece discovered while researching a strange plant, a chance meeting with an MLM marketer selling a product I usually ignore, a guidance session with a friend that I only took part in because I didn’t want to say no to her… a tweak here, a new idea there, a useful fact there… as with so many things, the whole is so much more than just the sum of its parts.

So, once again… what are you like?  If you are like me, you have many of your own questions and you have been  looking for ways to see past the gimmicks, fancy packages and carefully evasive promises to find those things and ideas that truly build health, real health and nothing but health.  And if you aren’t doing that, well, then I hope something you see and hear somewhere else puts a question into your mind, and you find yourself talking back to commercials one day soon.

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