False Advertising


by Leah Peterson
© 2003 Leah Peterson
All Rights Reserved
Originally published on Writer’s Monthly

Words Overheard in the grocery store, a 7ish year old boy to his younger brother: ‘Oh. you don’t want that kind. it doesn’t really taste like fire.’ To which the younger brother looked dubiously at the packaging which was red and made the outrageous claim in black, bold letters. ‘Really. Just believe me. I’ve tasted fire so I know!’

I looked in my cart at the health bars I had just grabbed off the shelf that claimed to taste like Double Chocolate Brownie Swirl and Grandma’s Dutch Apple Crumb Cake and wished I could ask that boy if he had tasted them before. Last week I had bought one claiming to be as yummy as Strawberry Cheesecake which, quite frankly, in this universe and any other tasted like recycled paper covered in old strawberry scratch n’ sniff. I was suspicious of this new brand of health bars, but what’s a girl to do but try them all until she overdoses on carob? I was bound and determined to find a bar made of flaxseed and protein powder boost that tasted like mom’s home made chocolate chip cookies.

I remembered a time when I was young that I sent away for my first ‘mail’ item. I think everyone has a memory similar to mine where the item you thought you were getting and the item you actually received were as different as Godzilla and a salamander. You rip open the box and ask yourself where the other 6.8 stories of height are. ‘No, this is not what I ordered, mom. This little toy is not what the cereal box promised me!’ You stamp your foot and feel gypped. Congratulation. You’re one step closer to becoming the jaded adult you’ll someday become.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could believe what we see and hear instead of second-guessing and reading between the lines? What if we could take everyone at their word? If we could look in the magazines and see what real people looked like in clothes and jewelry instead extremely malnourished women or images that have been Photoshop-ed out the ying-yang to the point that the model doesn’t even look as good as the model? There are 8 year old girls out there getting eating disorders for heaven’s sake.

I’d like to just once see a commercial that claims to be just pretty good. Not the very best ever. Not the train-stopping, coolest in the universe, mind blowing end all. Just pretty good. ‘Buy our stain remover. No, it’s not going to get out every single stain. Give me a break, people! But it will get out a good deal of them. And that’s pretty good!’ Or ‘This toy isn’t going to be more fun than a long piece of string and an empty cardboard box on a summer afternoon, but it will be pretty fun. Especially in the first 2 days before you get bored of it and go back to playing with the box and string. But we’re only charging 5 bucks!. Not bad for 2 days of semi-fun!’

Instead of the ultra-sexy woman in the clingy red dress with long flowing hair flirting with the dashing man with the sly smile across the bar in the alcohol ad, let’s show the older, gray-haired man out in the parking lot that is too drunk at 6:30 in the evening to hold his head up while he pukes out his car window and has vomit dribbling down the door.

Or instead of meeting your friend’s friend that ends up being a drug supplier who is in his early twenties and is rolling in the dough and who you can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy about, let’s have the kids meet the guy who used to be the dealer 6 months ago and is now either in jail for the second time or homeless, sick, too thin and begging ‘old friends’ for a fix.

I’d like to buy some dish soap that gets my dishes clean but doesn’t also claim to have the power to massage my hands or change my kitchen into a field of flowers based on the scent. And if I order some sea-monkey’s, I want them to look like little sea horses with a King complete with crown because that’s what it looks like in the picture.

But possibly before I buy another one of these health bars packaged as a delicious, tasty treat, maybe I should admit to myself that it’s never going to taste like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and just be happy with what it is: flaxseed and protein powder boost.

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