My life isn’t lived on Madison Avenue

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

I turned 47 a few weeks ago, which means I am firmly ensconced in that state of life known as “adulthood.” I don’t know how it happened, but here I am – a grown-up. And like any grown-up, I take a moment every now and then to reflect upon whether things meet the expectations I had when I was a kid.

To be quite blunt, they don’t.

Don’t misunderstand. I am quite content with my lot in life. I have a wonderful and loving wife, two beautiful children, and a nice home in the suburbs with a well-kept lawn. I have a great job, drive a reliable (knock on wood) American car, subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and support my local public radio and television stations. I work hard, but I am also exceptionally lucky.

But it’s still not what I pictured, and for this I blame the alcohol and cologne industries.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, my frame of reference for life as a grown-up was fixed by television commercials. I can think of three particular commercials that presented a far different picture of adulthood than the one in which I am actually situated.

The first commercial was for Lowenbrau, a beer that hasn’t been produced in North America in nearly 15 years. But at the time, Lowenbrau was considered quite the gourmet brew. The scene is an upscale steakhouse replete with dark, wood-paneled walls, red leather booths and tuxedoed waiters. Our hero strides in, doffs his overcoat and joins three companions who, we come to find out through their friendly banter, are about to take in a live sporting event. 

At this juncture, our hero orders “the biggest steak you got, and a bottle of Lowenbrau.” We are led to believe by the amazed reaction of his companions that this is the first time someone has thought to pair a sophisticated beer – in a bottle, no less – and a large slab of beef. Steak and Lowenbrau for all!

So many things about this commercial simply don’t measure up.

For starters, all four of these game-bound gentlemen are wearing suits and ties (fully knotted ties, at that). Outside of ushers and the odd broadcaster, it’s very rare for me to see anyone wearing a tie to a sporting event. In most cases, even the team doctor is wearing a sweatshirt! 

And nobody is complaining about traffic or the cost of parking. With rates verging on extortion that most lot operators charge, who has money for steak, much less a bottle of premium beer? For that matter, who has the kind of time to sit down in a fancy restaurant to eat a steak before game time? This isn’t a couple of hot dogs or a greasy slice of pizza we’re talking about. One doesn’t cram a sizable hunk of charred meat down one’s gullet in order to beat the crowd through the turnstiles. This is not my pregame reality.

The next commercial that comes to mind is for Martini & Rossi. Actress Angie Dickinson strolls onscreen, resplendent in a white pantsuit. She is hosting a gathering in her Malibu home. She extols the virtues of Martini & Rossi vermouth as she walks toward a piano whose ivories are being tickled by legendary composer Burt Bacharach – from whom Angie was estranged and soon to be divorced.

I will first address the absurdity of the consumption of straight vermouth. In my 47 years, I know exactly one person who enjoyed vermouth outside of a martini – a guy from my fraternity who, when last I checked, was employed as some sort of a sideshow character on a public access wrestling show in New Jersey.

I don’t have anything close to a Malibu estate. I do, however, entertain at home on occasion, but never in a white pantsuit. And   I don’t have any estranged or former spouses to speak of. However, if I did, I certainly wouldn’t expect them to come over and entertain my guests. I do have a number of friends who do have former spouses, and I can count exactly zero of them who have secured the services of their exes to enhance the atmosphere with lilting piano music. This is simply not my reality.

The final commercial comes to us from Charlie, a cologne that  retails for about eight bucks, or roughly the same price that a bottle of Lowenbrau would sell for if Lowenbrau was still available. A glamorous model, a pre Charlies Angels Shelley Hack, spritzes herself in the driver’s seat of her antique convertible Rolls Royce. She then sashays into a swanky club to the bouncy vocal and piano stylings of lounge singer extraordinaire Bobby Short (I don’t believe Hack and Short were ever married to each other), spins into the arms of her gentleman companion and then into a cozy leather booth (again with the leather booths).

This simply does not compute. 

My wife – whom I do, in fact, find quite glamorous – drives an SUV, not a Rolls – new or antique. It does have a sunroof, though. By the time the sun is down, as it is in this commercial, she is wiped out from a busy day at work. She does not sashay, and any spinning that would be taking place would be my head as she whacks me in the noggin for having the audacity to make her drive herself to dinner when all she wants to do is go home and put on her pajamas (glamorous pajamas, to be sure). 

I am sure there are some couples out there who do enjoy this type of a carefree night on the town, but I don’t know any of them.

No, friends, my reality is not like a 40-year-old television commercial. The good news is that it is truly better than advertised. 

And now I return you to your regularly scheduled life.