When I try to remember back to the days of recordings on VHS tapes, my memory is fuzzy—a mixture of magical thinking and nostalgia. I can’t remember one single recording that was actually saved on a tape, all I can remember is opening up the VHS cassettes by pushing the tiny square button on the side and lifting the protective “lid” to look at the magnetic tape inside. My mind was blown every time I tried to understand how it worked. My favorite part of the whole VHS experience was watching and hearing the VHS player open itself up by popping part of its top. It was like a robot from the future. The satisfying sound of inserting a VHS cassette into the player and watching it close is seared into my brain. If I ever come down with Alzheimer’s, just sit me down in front of an old VHS cassette player and let me open and close it. Maybe the sound will trigger an old memory, like watching “How commercials are made,” something I think my mom recorded and showed to me when I was nine.
That show may be the earliest lesson I learned in critical thinking. It showed how commercials geared toward kids were made. Like sugar cereal. I learned that they didn’t use actual milk on screen because it looked blue instead of white; they used glue instead. To say this revelation expanded my reality is an understatement. The glue insight was a seed sown. It came long before my high school English teacher taught me “All that glitters is not gold” and I harvest its knowledge to this day.
I feel like learning how and why commercials are made caused me to receive them with curiosity rather than consumerism. And for this, I am grateful. As I grew older my focus shifted from paying attention to the animated Snap, Crackle, and Pop who could talk, to advertising tactics used by companies. And even though I knew the purpose of commercials was to sell stuff, that didn’t mean I wasn’t influenced by the standards they set and the fear they instilled. You know the fear. We all do, because it’s pervasive. It’s everywhere like air. Except air helps us breathe and this fear is toxic. A toxin that makes us doubt ourselves into believing we have to look a certain way to have worth and be valued; makes us paranoid that no matter where we are or what we’re doing, we’re missing out on something, somewhere else with someone else; and it makes us terrified of aging, sometimes so much that we alter the physical appearance of our bodies to resist growing older. This fear eats away at our self-esteem, so subtle and stealth.
I’m grateful to have what I consider a healthy level of self-esteem. I’m grateful for the constant choices and small responsibilities my mom gave me as a tod and child, that were sometimes annoying. I don’t know where your shoes are Megan, those are your responsibility. I’m sure you can find them. Choices and responsibility that established my self-efficacy. I am grateful that my mom wasn’t a helicopter mom and didn’t do everything for me. I am grateful that she empowered me to achieve small accomplishments; no matter how messy they looked to her, she didn’t “correct” things I did, she didn’t stunt my self-confidence from forming, they way it had to, chaotic and organically.