I have been a teacher for most of my career. So, as if by default, I like to learn, I believe information is a good thing, and being an informed consumer is a certain source of pride. But every once in a while I turn into the stereotypical “back in my day” codger and pine for the old days of advertising? At 52, I feel very nostalgic as I long for the mysterious quality that personal hygiene ads used to possess as exemplified by the tagline “Not so fresh feeling.”
My parents had me as child number six when they were 40. Another sibling would follow. They were Catholic. It was the fad of the time. Needless to say, my house had a gloriously repressed vibe. When that mysterious, and now long absent, douche commercial would come on the TV, you could literally feel the tension in the room build.
Breath may have been held in anticipation of hearing the long feared question, “What’s a douche?” My father invariably found something to hide behind, like a large newspaper that he had already read, whenever a “female problem” was addressed. I remember asking my mother, just once, the dreaded question. She answered with a very clipped, “You don’t have to worry about that,” while avoiding eye contact. The douche topic would fall under my mother’s list of uncomfortable topics classified under “This is why you ride the bus with the public school kids.”
As with all matters remotely sexual, it was our well-worn Merriam-Webster Dictionary that provided the answer.
Douche: verb, a jet or current of liquid (such as a cleansing solution) directed against or into a bodily part or cavity (such as the vagina).
I still didn’t understand what it meant, but I at least had an answer. And so it went.
When television advertisers were allowed to sell a bra and show it on an actual woman, it was groundbreaking. This had been allowed in print ads, but for TV, women’s undergarments such as bras and girdles were usually shown on a mannequin. The progression to a model wearing the bra on top of a black turtle neck was pushing the envelope. The idea of showing a woman wearing a bra as it was meant to be worn signaled the beginning of the end. At least in my house anyway.
My father went on a rant that “All decency is gone!”
There was arm waving, “For the love of God!”
His voice may have cracked while asserting his outrage with, “No one wants to see that!”
If he only knew what were to come. Now in the age of “an erection lasting longer than four hours” and “rectal leakage may occur,” I long for the innocence of Mr. Whipple secretly squeezing his toilet paper. To think that we live in an era of “Can we talk about your bum?” is a conversation starter. Sometimes, I just want to have my morning ritual of coffee, bagel and find out if I need to wear rain boots without hearing about the potential for “gas with oily discharge.”
Sometimes, hearing the graphic list of side effects, seeing a family of bears with toilet paper stuck to their fur and watching strangers talk about feeling clean enough to “go commando” leaves me with a, I don’t know, “not so fresh feeling?!”
Marilyn C. Toms is home renovator, blogger, teacher, and survivor of fifteen years of Catholic School education. She has lived under threat of earthquake, tornado, wildfire, tsunami, blizzard, volcanic eruption, and now hurricane. She is attempting to thrive after 50 because it’s about damn time.