Saturday, February 17, 2007

I guess "The Get Cancer Now! Diet" just didn't have that certain je ne sais quoi.

Some of you may have seen last night's 20/20, titled "Promises, Promises," the subject of a post I put up at 8 p.m. and then took down, later, when I realized that the show didn't have the tight focus on SHAM-type subjects that its teasers suggested. Still, it was worth watching, albeit in a depressing sort of way—maybe even more depressing than this blog—because it really drove home the degree to which the American consumer marketplace is driven by stupidity, greed and, above all, outright lies.

Correspondent Lynn Sherr was especially hard on Suzanne Somers—who I don't think was expecting it—challenging her on the science behind her wildly popular diet and anti-aging books and plans. (Of course, if you're looking for good advice on health and well-being, who else would you turn to but a former Three's Company star?) In particular, Sherr skillfully dissected Somers' "bioidentical" hormones, which have never been proved clinically effective at combating the aging process. Somers' comeback, essentially, was this: "Look, I use the product, so I'm your living proof. If you like the way I look and want to look like me, you'll try my system."

That argument is flawed on so many levels* that I almost don't know where to begin. But we'll give it a try, and I'll use myself as an example. In a few weeks I'll be 57, and I think I'm in pretty decent shape. I still play hardball, competing mostly against guys at least a decade younger; I also jog, swim, lift weights, and am no heavier than I was when I played college football. As it happens, I also love chocolate, which I manage to consume in some form daily. Therefore, using Somers' logic, I could promote a new diet plan wherein all you need to do is eat chocolate every day, and you could attain the same level of fitness I have. She is picking out one single aspect of her life, controlling for no other variables, testing it in no other living human beings, totally ignoring heredity and other factors, and yet positing that that one thing is what's responsible for her (presumably) "girlish appearance." Bottom line, we don't even known that Somers' hormones are what's causing the effect in her, let alone whether they'd have any benefit for anyone else! But it gets worse. As Sherr pointed out last night, bioidenticals have been linked to a host of health problems, up to and including many female cancers. Somers herself battled breast cancer a few years ago, after she'd been taking bioidenticals for a while. Overall, then, she might have been on safer logical ground if she'd said, "Look, I use the hormones I recommend, and I got cancer. So if you want to get cancer, too, try my system...."

Shifting gears, the showstopper, for me, was the segment on the danger of buying expensive products online; seems they often turn out to be counterfeits. At one point Deborah Roberts explained, with an apparently straight face, how women who "buy a $16,000 Hermes Birkin handbag [pictured] for $1600 online may not be getting the bargain they thought they were getting." At which I felt compelled to say to my television, aloud:

Are you freakin' kiddin' me???

Let me tell you something, folks. Any woman who pays $1600 for a handbag deserves to get hosed, especially if she's doing it to make other women think she actually spent SIXTEEN GRAND. Yeah, I know, guys like to buy pricey cars. But look at the value equation this way: A new, ultra-basic-transport car costs around $15,000. So if a guy blows $60K on a Corvette, he has spent maybe four times what he needs to, in order to get from place to place. That's a lot of money, and even though the Vette can do some things the basic car can't do, I'm not saying the added expense is justified; let me make that clear. On the other hand, a stylish, perfectly serviceable Tommy Hilfiger handbag, that carries keys and phones and purses approximately as well as any other handbag, can be had for around $20 at Burlington Coat Factory. (I know this for a fact.) So, a woman going to Corvette-like extremes on a handbag purchase would spend the grand sum of $80 ($20 x 4). Not $800. Certainly not $8000. And nowhere near $16,000.

In fact, a $16,000 handbag, in guy/car terms, would be the equivalent of me buying a $12 million car. Do the math.

The more I think about it, the fact that 20/20 could even do a segment like that without making some editorial comment on the folly of buying $16,000 handbags in the first place... It shows how far afield we've gotten in our thinking, and maybe it provides a bit more insight into why so many people in other parts of the world hate us as they do.

* Starting with the superficial fact that Somers looks pretty bad, to my eye, anyway.


Cosmic Connie said...

I would think that bioidentical hormones, compounded specifically for the individual patient, could (in theory anyway) be marginally safer than traditional HRT, since it would be easier to adjust the dosages in order to prevent an excess.

Even so, from what I've seen of Somers' claims, they are exaggerated to say the least. I didn't see last night's show, but if Somers is implying that bioidentical hormones are solely responsible for her youthful appearance, that is contrary to what she's published. Besides her bioidentical hormones, she is also very conscious of diet, exercise, etc., and has been for years. And there's one advantage she enjoys that may not be available to the average woman (I mean, besides unlimited access to cosmetic surgery): I think I remember reading that Somers receives regular injections of HGH, or human growth hormone, which, apart from being pretty risky, is formidably expensive.

As for a $16,000.00 really have got to be kidding. I just don't know what to say to that.


Renee said...

Yeah, I choked on my wine when I heard the price of the handbags. Insanity. I didn't think Suzanne Somers looked all that bad, but I think she would look better if she went with a more age-appropriate look, rather than trying to look younger. As a woman, I find it depressing to think that aging is something I'm going to be expected to fight against. When I'm 60, I don't want to spend time and energy trying to look like I'm 10 or 20 years younger. Why can't we just look our age, and spend time on other things? My mother is 68, and she spends close to two hours grooming each morning - hair, makeup, etc. - and yet comments frequently that life is too short and she doesn't have time to do the things she wants to do. INSANITY.

acd said...

"Next on 20/20... Your kids may not be getting the drug deal they thought they were getting! We'll talk to these poor victims who paid big bucks for bad weed..."

Hey, it's not a far leap.

Anonymous said...

Not going to touch the hand bag, but let's face it folks.

If we follow the advice of The Secret, we're collectively creating bad vibrations in the cosmos, which may have adverse affects on our well-being.

I just think that after a 20/20 episode like this one, the only vibrations I want to be creating in the cosmos are the gruggling sounds of me chugging a cold stout.

a/good/lysstener said...

I guess I must be hopelessly gauche because I didn't know $16,000 pocketbooks existed. I got the one I'm using now onsale for $15 at TJMaxx and it suits me just fine. I also applaud you, Steve, for keeping in shape the way you do. I wish a lot of college guys paid that much attention to their physiques, although truthfully I don't think we ought to be as obsessive about aging as we are in this culture. People have stages of life. Our culture generally celebrates the fact that age looks good on a man but we're a lot less accepting of women. I was watching a Harrison Ford movie yesterday for a while and they paired him with a love interest who couldn't have been more than 25, and I just accepted it as perfectly normal until I thought about it. It goes without saying, you would never see the opposite pairing in a movie, i.e. 50 yr. old man with 25 yr. old woman, unless they were trying to make a point or being ironic about it.

Cosmic Connie said...

Alyssa, I agree that our culture is way too obsessed with aging, and I've always been annoyed by the double standard re older men/younger women v. older women/younger men. Hollywood, which both reflects and creates (or at least perpetuates) popular culture, has always taken this double standard for granted.

In the real world, though, not just any "older man" can have his pick of attractive young women. He generally has to be rich and powerful. Being good-looking is a bonus, but it's not a necessity. Money and power are the real babe magnets.

Which brings us to another double standard: even though society may sneer at the "gold digger" (e.g., the late Anna Nicole with her late billionaire hubby), we are still more accepting of gold digging in women than we are in men. We may find it contemptible, but somehow it's just not as much of a "sin" for a woman to be after a man's money as vice-versa.

I'm definitely with ya on the purse issue, Alyssa. I'm still shaking my head over the notion of a $16k handbag.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I discussed the same double standard on aging just the other day. And, last night we saw a spot on Katie Couric. Emily commented that Couric should lay off the Botox.

She said that it's perfectly normal for us to accept a wrinkled, weathered and flabby-faced achorman, but our achorwomen must look youthful and spry.

Then she found a grey hair on me.

Does anyone have some extra hair color for men they can spare?

Just joking...I'm okay with being 25 for the rest of my life.

Steve Salerno said...

Rodg, is that a Freudian slip? Did you originally mean to say that you're OK with NOT "being 25 for the rest of [your] life"? Or did you end up saying what you did, in fact, subconsciously mean?

Anonymous said...

I'm in my early 30's, but I jokingly tell people I'm 25. I say that was a good year and there's no reason to leave it behind.

For the record, I'm okay being in my early thirties, and I'll be okay with my forties and fifties too ... but I'll always be 25 because that was a good year.

It was conscious!

matt dick said...

On aging, there are all sorts of double standards. We certainly don't treat (or think) the same thing about a 26 year-old woman having sexual relations with a 15 year-old boy the same way we do with the genders reversed. And honestly, I'm not sure we should. At least as things stand today, I wonder if young women aren't easier to damage with such a perverse event in their early lives. I've always said it's the height of silliness to pretend men and women are *exactly* the same. Now, I don't think the perversity of the described relationship is normal or healthy or good in any way for either circumstance, I just think the results may indeed be different.

For instance, think of it from the predator's point of view. We often describe a 26 year-old woman who is attracted to mid-teen boys as mentally ill, depressed, confused, etc, while we see the same aged man as an evil, purposeful sexually evil monster. I think on some level those are appropriate labels, in other words I don't think they come out of nowhere. We do need to stop the behavior in both cases, but the emphasis of the intervention might be legitimately different for the two cases.

Now as for $16,000 handbags, let me also be a sort-of contrarian. Steve, while your math is solid, I don't think it's extensible into the real world example. It's the same reason a simpe flat tax is not reasonable. While $16,000 is indeed 20,000% more than a reasonable $80 purse, and $12,000,000 is 20,000% of a $15,000 car, their relation to most net worths is not equivalent.

In other words, buying a $16,000 purse, while damaging to my annual savings this year, and not very advisable, is not going to take food away from my children or significantly damage their chances at health care or a good education. $12M for a car certainly would. So it is substantially more responsible to buy that purse (for me) than to buy that car.

Now, do I think buying $16,000 purses is smart?

No, and I thank my lucky stars every day that my wife is much more likely to blow 16 grand on a new stereo than a new purse.

moi said...

Don't get me started on the aging double standard. Even though I am 41, I can't get a date with anyone under 51. I have no prob with older guys, but I resent being considered too old by those my own age. Guess I should get some botox (just kidding).
French women are a good model to follow when it comes to aging.

Steve Salerno said...

Matt, you make good points, as always, on purses and predators. Not to be glib, but why don't we just devise a dating service that would hook up the male and female sexual predators with each other? I guess that wouldn't really solve the problem, huh? Btw, have you seen Bill Maher's riff on the whole Deb Lefave episode? Not unlike many observers at the time (though most were constrained from saying so publicly), he argued that the average 14-year-old boy "would kill to be abused" by a teacher who looked like that, and would never have any problems fitting that event, later, into the psychological landscape of their sexual histories. I'm inclined to agree...though what do I know?

As for $16,000 stereos: Is the average ear sufficiently discerning to be able to isolate the aural advantages a $16,000 stereo provides over, say, a $2000 one? Or even the top-model Bose wave radio? Just askin'.

Steve Salerno said...

Moi: You need to go with the overtones of your current blog moniker, perhaps, and move to France, where, of course, "older women" (though 41 hardly qualifies) are a prized commodity. And please don't be upset at my use of the word "commodity." It's just an expression.

More seriously, I have heard the complaint you voice from many women, and I still have a hard time believing that so many men in their 40s and 50s insist on "dating down" by at least a generation--by which I mean that they simply REFUSE to date women their own age. Sure, I can see a guy being attracted to young women, but I never understood why that attraction exists to the exclusion of not-as-young women. Is it really either/or? Or is the phenomenon you describe more a form of insecurity--a state of mind--on your part, as a result of social conditioning, the relentless ego-battering you take from advertisers, Hollywood, etc.?

Matt Dick said...

As for $16,000 stereos: Is the average ear sufficiently discerning to be able to isolate the aural advantages a $16,000 stereo provides over, say, a $2000 one? Or even the top-model Bose wave radio? Just askin'.

Well mine can't but I was just making the point that if I had to have a spouse who overspends on purses, or overspends on stereo equipment, let's all just rejoice with me that I have found the latter.

Of course, in conversation this little hallelujah is normally followed by the Really Big Wrench story, in which my wife is revealed as the Mechanical Engineer she is.

moi said...

Steve, I may be exaggerating somewhat. I don't think men unilaterally exclude the idea of dating women their own age. I am just going by statistics. I started to do internet dating about 5 years ago and I can't remember more than once or twice being contacted by a guy my own age. Most are at least 10 years older. I think some of them contact me because they sincerely feel a compatibility, others because of my red dress (lol). I just find it strange that almost all of the ones I have received messages from are 49-55. In real life, I have dated a person younger than me, but usually, at least in my experience, when younger guys date older women, it's not for the long run, but because it's cool in some circles to date older women. BUT, if the woman has a lot of money or prestige, and the man does not, that may change things a bit.
I've read some blogs about this issue and could forward it to you if you're interested.

acd said...

"I still have a hard time believing that so many men in their 40s and 50s insist on 'dating down' by at least a generation--by which I mean that they simply REFUSE to date women their own age."


How does anyone find that hard to believe?? Men are naturally going to look for the younger, more attractive, and (from a biological perspective) most fertile women they can find. If they are at all successful at dating these women, then why would they date anyone who is second best, in their eyes? I'm sure there are plenty of middle-aged women who wouldn't mind dating a man who is a decade or two younger. However, 20-something males are too busy chasing after 20-something females, and they will continue to do so into their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.

So the fabulous industry of cosmetics steps in and convinces women that they can suddenly look 10 years younger. Then maybe a woman who is 40, who looks 30, will be lucky enough to attract a few guys who are at least 50...

Anonymous said...

Dating up for men (that is dating a woman a generation older than he is) has it's advantages.

There's nothing better in bed than an undersexed middle-aged woman. They appreciate the fair lad for his vibrancy and enthusiasm between the sheets.

If the young lad has his head on straight, has a stiff self-image and is not intimidated by a successful, older woman, she can teach him a lot, in the bedroom and in the boardroom.


Steve Salerno said...

Ohhh-kay... Btw, anon, one of our regulars wants me to ask you, what are your day rates?

(just kidding, JUST KIDDING!)

RevRon's Rants said...

I had a dream last night that I think could provide additional insight into the attraction a younger woman has for an older man. In the dream, I was standing next to a table at what I assumed was a party, and an achingly lovely young woman was seated beside me. She was looking up adoringly at me, and announced that I was her hero.

I felt so powerfully drawn to her, and wanted so badly to actually *be* the hero she perceived. But I was also saddened by the realization that I was not - and could never be - the hero she so worshipped.

I think that the desire to be that hero, that knight on a white horse, is deeply embedded in the male psyche, whether by social indoctrination, instinctive role patterning, or both. And many men seek to find their damsel, someone who will idolize and adore them. Realistically, a mature woman knows better than to look to a man to fill such a role, yet finding such a man is the archetypal dream of most young girls.

Perhaps men are aware of the fact that they can never achieve hero-ship with a mature woman, and seek out the naivete of youth to fulfill that yearning, oblivious to the inevitability of their fall from their perch upon that white horse.

I cannot speak for all males, but for myself, that desire to be someone's hero is much more powerful than any desire to bed a nubile young woman or to parade her around as my trophy. I am constrained from acting on that yearning by the depth of my relationship with Connie, combined with my awareness that a relationship based upon worship is doomed to failure. But still, the dream - and the yearning - live on.

Just a thought...

Heather said...

An anecdote about America's designer handbag hoopla: I recently purchased a fire-engine red bag that looks designer from Target for less than $15. One morning, after I was finished showering at the gym, a hoity-toity woman (typical of Hilton Head Island) admired my Target purchase, looking extremely impressed yet puzzled as to why my glasses are broken and my shoes are, well, 1-year-old sneakers.
"Nice purse," she said.
I laughed and whispered, "It's from Target ... on sale!"
She looked horrified!

moi said...

"Is it really either/or? Or is the phenomenon you describe more a form of insecurity--a state of mind--on your part, as a result of social conditioning, the relentless ego-battering you take from advertisers, Hollywood, etc.? "

Steve, my ex secretron boyfriend said something similar to this to me when I complained about the issue. He insisted it was a state of mind and that I would attract the same if I continued to dwell on it. However, I agree with the REV's asessment of the situation and appreciate ACD's comment. And the hollywood industry certainly doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

Speaking to the point of a man’s desire to be a hero – we’ll call it the knight-in-shining-armor complex – I think that it’s a personality characteristic embedded in the male(ness) of men. If we look to history, there is evidence to support that. Men have been considered providers and protectors. The rise of women, their assertion of independence, their taking of leadership roles traditionally reserved for man, at home, in the marketplace, and on the battlefield, must weigh heavily on the collective male consciousness. Men are becoming obsolete for the most part. We are still good for helping with procreation, but that’s about it.

Men are as much at fault for this as women, however. We’ve dropped the ball in many areas of our lives as evidenced by high divorce rates, single mothers, corporate scandal, and government corruption. As men, all we really want from the fairer sex is for them to appreciate, approve and accept our efforts. Those efforts must be notable, worthy and provide a sense of security, however. And that’s where we have failed. And women are disappointed because we don’t appreciate, approve and accept their efforts too. (I’m particularly speaking of women who, for some reason, feel the need to pick up the slack of lazy, self-absorbed men.) They aren’t responsible for men’s failings. Instead they should hold men accountable.

Men, on the other hand, have failed miserably to appreciate, approve and accept women’s efforts too. Whether in the home, in the boardroom, in government, or on the battlefield men need – no they must – demonstrate that the efforts of the fairer sex are good, noble, even worthy. It is this mutual encourage that builds the solid foundation on which men will feel like heroes.

My wife has told me that he appreciates that I go to work everyday – that I vacuum, even. And she accepts me without prejudice and approves of my efforts (most of the time). And I feel a sense of true heroism and pride in providing her with the things she needs and wants. Although I’ve been laxed in my appreciation, approval and acceptance of her over the past three years, which has led to conflict, I’ve learned that if I hold my end, give her the support she needs, she returns the favor. The need for another, younger woman to affirm my efforts diminishes because I’m focused on her. She is my heroine, I am her hero.

moi said...

Anon, that is a wonderful post. Thanks.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, well, I think the breadth of your comment is a bit sweeping, implying as it does fairly straightforward causes and solutions to some pretty complex latter-day socioeconomic/sociopolitical/gender-identity issues. But like "moi," I admire the lyricism of what you say here, and certainly applaud your feelings on your bond with your wife, which actually read very much like a valentine (a true, heartfelt one, as opposed to the usual pre-fab, store-bought sentiments). Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us; I hope you've seen fit to share them with your wife.