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Jewish World Review March 29, 1999 /12 Nissan 5759

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Family values fall victim to advertising whims

(JWR) ---- (
I AM SO depressed.

My son and I were watching a television program and a commercial came on that made both our jaws drop. It was a commercial that demonstrated the sad and sick changes in our society in just 60 seconds.

You've probably seen the advertisement that shows a couple, holding onto each other, talking about their dreams and hopes to become a family. The wife (note the wedding bands) muses about past disappointments. All the while the husband and wife are close both physically and emotionally. They look at the home pregnancy test stick and laugh and cry simultaneously. "We're pregnant!" the wife screams in delight. He hugs her. It is a moment of joy and beauty.

Fast-forward to the other night. My son and I see a young woman sitting on the floor by herself all worried and concerned. She, like the wife in the scene above, is full of anticipation. She, unlike the wife in the scene above, is sitting alone. She, like the wife in the scene above, is waiting for the results of a home pregnancy test. She, unlike the wife in the scene above, is not wearing a wedding band -- not even an engagement ring.

From off-camera, a man's arm extends into the shot and hands the woman on the floor a home pregnancy test stick. She doesn't even look up at him. He doesn't sit with her, touch her or talk to her. One doesn't even know if he is the prospective father or just some guy.

She looks at the test stick and, like the wife in the scene above, shrieks for joy, "I'm not pregnant!" She tells us she is so relieved because this just isn't a good time for her to be pregnant. She smiles. She sighs happily.

She is alone in her joyful moment. The man is nowhere to be seen. She's come a long way, baby.

I was shocked by this commercial. To imagine that an advertising executive sees the population of unmarried folks playing Russian roulette with a third, innocent life as a major target audience is depressing. To diminish the miracle of creation between two committed people with a vision of themselves as part of something -- a family -- to an act of lust, recreation or desperation is pathetic.

I wonder what the next commercial will be? Will it depict the same woman, again virtually alone, discovering to her horror that she's pregnant? No problem! Back to the medicine cabinet for the abortion pill! At this point the same faceless male hand offers her clean towels to clean up the mess. With a new sigh of relief, she can explain again that this just wasn't a good time to be pregnant.

No kidding.

My 13-year-old son, by the way, was also shocked. Before I had a chance to say anything in response to the TV ad, he said, "How sad that she's so happy about gaining nothing."

What a clear summation. In fact, there is a lot lost.

I recently received a letter from a listener of my radio program who lamented a past similar to this woman's situation. She had many lovers, and often the sex was great. She had moments of worry that nature had caught her up short with a pregnancy. She had an abortion when it just wasn't a convenient time to be pregnant. She had it all! She had the attention, fun, sexual freedom and sexual pleasure. Now, these many years later, she is still full of pain and regret.

"I have a wonderful husband who loves me and is very patient. We talk all the time. But I still have trouble connecting sex with closeness. All those years of freedom with passion were not so free after all. I paid a price. I learned all too well to separate sex from anything meaningful. Now I am confused about feelings that should be clear. When I think of getting pregnant, I can't forget the baby I aborted. It's all so messed up."

I hated seeing the cavalier commercialization of unmarried sex on prime-time TV when families are watching. There is no question that the more our children see these behaviors as mainstream, the more normal a life choice it becomes. Is this really what we want to teach our children, and endorse ourselves?


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02/26/99: With power comes obligation to lead by example
02/19/99: National Prayer Breakfast inspires public servants
02/12/99: Overcoming selfishness leads us closer to human potential
02/09/99: Youth's difficult lessons make us better adults
02/02/99: Rituals, icons remind us of our obligation to G-d
01/22/99: 'Consenting adults' don't always examine consequences
01/18/99: Day care no substitute for love of mom and dad
01/08/99: Don't use others' misfortunes to build your self-image
12/31/98: Tracking HIV-infected people makes good sense
12/24/98: How can we teach ethics without defining morals?
12/18/98: Parents afraid of firm values leave their children adrift
12/11/98: Spread righteousness by refusing to accept the 'code'

©1999, Universal Press Syndicate