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The Geritol Generation


Remember laughing at Geritol and Ex-Lax commercials?
No, I don’t mean the Geritol ad from the 1970s where some guy, in awe of his wife’s domestic derring-do, states warmly, “My wife – I think I’ll keep her,” like she was a stray puppy. I’m going back before that, when both products advertised almost exclusively on The Lawrence Welk Show, which my grandmother would watch faithfully while my brothers and I snickered, cracked jokes and got smacked with the wooden spoon a lot.
We laughed because we knew “iron poor tired blood” and “regularity” were old people issues and we laughed because we knew what “regularity” really meant and we laughed because, as baby-boomers, we were never going to get old, tired and constipated.
Growing up, Geritol was used in any catch-phrase indicating an old person. The aforementioned ad that traded age-ism for sexism was the brand’s effort to shed its old-people-only image, but just its name doomed it to forever being the staple in the diet of every elderly sitcom character from Archie Bunker to Fred Sanford.
I thought of all this while engaging in one of my favorite weekend activities, watching The Food Network. Besides the constant commercials for fast food and diet plans (Does this not strike anyone else as ironic?), the most common commercials were for digestive aids. Only these commercials are not so cryptic in describing their function. Surely there is a more delicate way of saying “stool softener.”
At first I was impressed at how the characters depicted in the ads were not the doddering old ladies that danced with Mr. Welk at the end of his show each week that comprised every laxative’s demographics. How positive that the elderly were no longer being presented as fussy, whiney codgers having nothing to talk about during their bridge game than the movement of their bowels.
How nice that old people weren’t shown only with gray hair or wearing matronly dresses. They were shown as active and stylish. If I hadn’t known it was a laxative commercial or an updated version of Geritol, I’d swear that person on the screen was just like. . .
. . .me.
Hmmm. Let’s do the math. When I sat in my living room mocking my ancient grandmother’s musical tastes I was about eight or nine years old. That would have made her about 59. . .ten years – only ten years – older than my current age.
About then I realized that these commercials don’t run during the kicky, fun foodie shows like Ham on the Streets or Iron Chef America. They run during Emeril or Barefoot Contessa. (I will not go down the road equating Ina Garten with Lawrence Welk, don’t worry.)
Fortunately I’m usually alone when I watch The Food Network. But sometimes I swear I hear snickering from the Heirs.
I’ll keep my wooden spoon handy.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:48 AM | Permalink

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