On the Subject of Infomercials

So who is it that invented the infomercial? Because they were smart. And mean.

Apparently the first product to be “infomercialed” was a Vitamix Blender in the 1950s. That was probably hilarious and weird. Some guy in a suit, holding the blender up and emphatically saying “VITAMIX!” over and over in a very serious tone.

I have seen my share of infomercials. The Shamwow, the Bowflex, the Food Dehydrator. I also enjoy a moment or two in the “As Seen on TV” aisle of my local Rite Aid. I know they are basically useless items that are poorly made and absolutely do not do what they claim to as well as they claim to. And yet…there is an allure to them. I have woken up at 3am, having left the TV on, when my ear catches a blip about a hair removal device, a bra-esque contraption or a nutritional supplement that, within about 3 minutes, I am convinced I not only MUST have, but that I must have been crazy to try and live without up until that moment in time. Fortunately, I do not cave to these impulses. Well, honestly? I parent a busy child and work a lot of hours, and sleep is a hot commodity in this house. So exhaustion always wins out before I can dive over my snoring husband for the phone and my credit card. In the morning, I wake up and laugh at myself, at how totally sold I was, in my sleep-deprived mind, on some scam that promised to change my life. Skinny! More productive! Better skin! No panty lines!

The morning often brings clarity, does it not? Perhaps you’ve made some bad decisions in the dark of night that, at sunrise, seem outrageously foolish. Public, solo dancing. Taking off one’s cardigan to reveal a sequined tank top and a lot of sallow, January-colored skin. A 1am run to the nearest Krispy Kreme location.

But back to the infomercials. I once actually bought something from an infomercial. It was a hammer that kept nails in a little compartment and when you pressed a button, it flipped a nail up and onto the head of the hammer where it was held magnetically. One handed hammering! Amazing! Imagine all you could be doing with your other hand when you no longer had to hold that pesky nail. I was especially enamored with the added benefit of not having to risk smashing your fingers when you held the nail in place. There were at least 30 shots of someone smashing their fingers and the announcer guy going “Ouch!” on their behalf. I was totally sucked in. “What fools we’ve been!” I said to no one, because I was the only moron up in the middle of the night watching this nonsense. So I called the 1-800 number and I bought one. It wasn’t until after it arrived that I realized a few things:

1. At that time in life, I had approximately zero reasons to use a hammer. I was in college and I traveled light – not so much as a calendar to hang on the wall.

2. You had to hit the hammer, with the attached nail, against the wall or whatever really hard, otherwise the nail went flying across the room, lost forever under the refrigerator. So…what I failed to realize (until well after the $14.99 plus shipping and handling was firmly attached to my credit card) was that there was no way to put the nail in any precise location. A general 5 inch radius, sure. But the exact spot where you wanted it so your picture frame could be level – nope. Impossible.

3. Did I mention I had no reason at all to use a hammer?

So, I learned my lesson and never bought another infomercial product again. Except for the one lapse in memory I had when I was deeply impressed with the before and after photos and testimonials of Hydroxycut diet pills. You know, because of the “science” behind it and all. I bought them, took them faithfully for a month with no results except some unsettling jittery feelings and a weird metallic aftertaste. But seriously, it’s been a solid 8 years since I’ve been a sucker. Well, at least insofar as it pertains to infomercials. While I’ve got a lot of years of clean time under my belt, I must ask you…if you see me get a faraway dreamy look in my eyes due to a P90X infomercial, please, just whisper the word “Hydroxycut” in my ear and gently point me in the direction of my running shoes.

The reason I thought of all of this is that i was given an As Seen on TV hair straightener called Simply Straight. Here’s the thing though: it totally works. Dry curly hair, to dry straight hair in 15 minutes. This may have changed my life. Thanks, Aunt Bernice!

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