The poem, “What She Said,” by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins (found in his most recent book, horoscopes for the dead), opens this way: When he told me he expected me to pay for dinner, I was like give me a break. Collins goes on to tease the narrator about her use of “like” by inserting definitions of the word in the poem, as in, I was just similar to give me a break or I was not the exact equivalent of give me a break.
Few things annoy me consistently, but those that merit “Give me a break” without equivocation are the ubiquitous TV commercials for prescription drugs. Give me a break every time one of them airs and offers this piece of advice: “Tell your doctor if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, a heart condition, or arthritis.” Wouldn’t you hope your doctor might already know this about you, and maybe even have been the one who told you that you suffered from one of these conditions? Give me a break when the narrator names possible side effects of many drugs: nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, heart attack, driving a motor vehicle while sleeping, and death, and the famous, “Certain infections have been reported, some fatal.” These make me want to hang onto my insomnia, treasure it as an alternative to driving my car during the REM phase of sleep. And give me a break when the commercial shows all sorts of happy people holding hands, laughing, riding bicycles, playing tennis, and sitting in a hot tub, but doesn’t bother to tell you what condition the drug it’s advertising is treating. That is, unless it’s accompanied by the warning that says, “See your doctor if you have an erection lasting more than four hours,” which gives me a pretty good clue. Maybe I’m like better off not knowing.
The message sent by the constant barrage of these commercials, says blogger Crabby Old Lady is that aging is agonizing, suggesting that osteoporosis, back pain, cholesterol, acid reflux, Alzheimer’s and false teeth are the only things anyone over sixty has any right to expect. She says she’d like to see an elder hawking laundry or dishwashing detergent on TV– anything but drugs. Her wish hearkens back to the fifties when those were among the only commercials women appeared in and doesn’t sound like much of a solution. Maybe the better one is to turn off the television, laugh, ride a bike, play tennis or sit in a hot tub.