Tuesday, June 29, 2004

But wait! There's more!

There’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a while now, but I still hesitate to type the words. It’s something that very few people know about me, and I don't really even talk about it with the select friends who do know. It’s kind of like we have an unspoken understanding.

I was afraid to tell my parents for years, not because I thought they wouldn’t love me. I just worried they would look at me, well... differently. But now it’s just becoming more and more difficult for me to keep this a secret so I need to let it out: I am completely and dangerously addicted to infomercials.

I love watching TV, but I don't have cable. I am weak, and get sucked into bad television shows very easily, so I cannot allow myself to live with the temptation of 127 channels. Sure, this has meant sacrifices. I have never seen Sex and the City, The Sopranos, or Six Feet Under. Without MTV, popular bands remain phantom voices over the radio. I may have eaten lunch next to the lead singer from Coldplay last week, but how would I know?

Without cable, I’m left with eight working channels including Telemundo and the Jesus channel. In between all the Sabado Gigante variety shows, the Jerry Springer transvestite brides and the Maury Povich who's my baby's daddy episodes, my only refuge is the welcoming embrace of the infomercial.

There’s something so familiar, so unpretentious about the infomercial. Whether they’re selling tighter abs, smoother skin, or the perfect rotisserie chicken, I feel like they’re speaking just to me. Like they somehow know exactly what I need, and can see inside my soul.

I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw the Ginsu knife commercial. Are you insane? You can’t cut a tomato after you just tore through a tin can with that knife! But by god he did. He sliced through that ripe, tender tomato like a hot blade through butter. I still get a little tingly thinking about it.

I didn’t see any of this as a problem, until one Thursday afternoon a few weeks ago. I had just learned how to save hundreds of dollars a month in groceries by vacuum-sealing my own meats when I flipped on a few minutes of Dr. Phil. The topic of the day was addiction, and Dr. Phil was holding what he likes to call a “structured intervention” with a 20-year old drug addict and his family.

At first I just rolled my eyes, but as I listened more carefully, I started to recognize some similarities between this junkie and me. The cravings, the denial, the late-night phone calls, the shame. Suddenly I started to wonder what would happen if my family and friends ever tried to stage one of these interventions with me:

Dr. Phil: “Now Jenny, your family wrote to me for my help in getting you to recognize your addiction. I’m here to help you hold up a mirror and look at what your dependence on infomercial products has done to you and your family.”

Me: "I don't even believe this (bleep). This is private stuff. Mom, why did you have to talk to me on national TV? You lied to me to get me here, and now you want me to trust you?!"

Dr. Phil: "Mom, Dad. You're not dealing with your daughter right now. You're dealing with the addiction."

Mom: “Honey, we love you, but you do have a problem. We have your credit card statements, and in the last month alone you’ve spent over $1700 on George Foreman grills and accessories. And just look at what we found in your hotel room!”

One of the producers would drag out a giant box on stage. With a dramatic flourish, Dr. Phil would pull the black cloth off the top of the box, revealing my secret stash:

1 Jack LaLanne Power Juicer
1 Ab Roller
2 Ultimate Choppers
1 Showtime Rotisserie Grill
1 RonCo Food Dehydrator
4 Pocket Fishermen
1 Flowbee
3 Tubs of Nads Hair Removing Gel
1 Hairigami
1 Thighmaster Gold
2 Nail Dazzle French Kits

I’ve seen enough Lifetime dramas starring Meredith Baxter-Birney to know that admitting you have a problem is the first step. But where do I go from here? Is there some sort of Suzanne Somers Rehab Center for the Infomercially Dependent? And if so, do I get a money-back guarantee? A free solid flavor injector?

And what exactly would I do there? Maybe they would teach me how to function without the aid of revolutionary infomercial products: I’d re-learn how to chop vegetables with a regular kitchen knife, do sit-ups with my feet under the couch, and cut my hair without the use of a vacuum cleaner.

This all probably sounds silly to people who’ve never had an addiction. But I have to admit, some nights when I’m having trouble sleeping, I still like to think about genius inventor Ron Popeil’s sweet, loving voice saying to me, “Just set it… and forget it.”