Generation Medication

My grandfather grew up during the Great Depression, and he fought in World War II. As of this moment, he is alive and lucid and self-sufficient and, per Tom Brokaw, a member of the “greatest generation any society has produced.” Mad props to Granddad. Since then, lesser generations have spawned the title of Baby Boomers, as well as Generations X, Y, and Z. But what comes after Z? Look, I’m no Tony Danza or Bruce Sprinsteen, but if I were the Boss, I would suggest this: Generation Medication.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to fill you up with staggering statistics of how sales and consumption of prescription meds have increased exponentially over the past several decades, but you evidently have access to the internet, so you can do that yourself. But just to humor you, here goes: Back when flannel shirts and Nirvana were en vogue, 9 million prescriptions were written for anti-depressants alone. By 2009, more than 39 million were written. In 2000, pharmaceutical companies spent $2.5 billion on advertisements, and by 2003, it had increased to over $3 billion. That’s half a billion in three years, if I did my math right.

But you don’t need these statistics. You have friends whose kids are doped up due to ADD. Your parents might be struggling to afford all their meds, even generic ones. And heaven knows there are a handful of people at your job who are flat out crazy. You may thank God that they ARE medicated. You’ve overheard their phonecalls. And each of us knows someone who’s tried Viagra or Cialis. The point is, most of us are medicated. Even now I’m on a “severe cough and cold medicine,” and two hours into it, it has failed to relieve any symptoms. Granted, it’s not prescription strength.

I admit I have never been a fan of medication. Never even liked taking Advil or Tylenol, even when high school cramps clean laid me out, propped against the cool tile of a bathroom stall, begging sweet Jesus to take me, please take me. But when insomnia came knocking at my door several years ago, everything changed. Desperate for remedy, I discovered that doctors LOVE doling out meds, as well as mousepad and pen freebies, to make you feel that much more special. And when I called to tell them that the medicine, days later, had still failed to put me to sleep, they never apologized. They simply phoned in another med to try, at another $45 or $60 co-pay, depending on how desirable and recently released the med was.

I spent hours reading the drug information sheets, becoming well-acquainted with their side effects, many of which contradicted each other, like constipation AND diarrhea. And almost all the side effects included death. Really? Isn’t death enough of a deterrent for anyone to opt against a drug? In addition, I began to discover that many of the drugs I took weren’t even intended to cure insomnia; that was just a common side effect. I became so familiar with these drugs that when I discovered a blue drug rep pen on stage at church during last week’s band practice, I couldn’t help but yell out, “Whose Seroquel pen is this? Which one of you bipolar schizophrenic freaks is on Seroquel?”

After a year of dozens of medications, including Lunesta, which offered an aftertaste kin to fresh acidic wretch, and Ambien, which actually gave me six hours of sleep for a few weeks, but with the added bonus of vise grip headaches, I officially gave up on western medicine. And all of the doctors and pharmacists who lied to me. But I am in the minority. Drugs are so prevalent, so commonplace, that I think I can safely assume that the new generation will be entirely medicated. Maybe they will name their kids Zocor and Zestril to make a little side cash. Farfetched, you say? Remember those kids in the U.K. who sold their space face to advertisers to pay off their student loan debt?

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I am reminded of all the tobacco ads I used to see in print. In my teens, there was an ad for Newport cigarettes that portrayed two men carrying a pole, with a woman hanging upsidedown from it, one arm dangling down to the ground (read into that what you will). The intention, I suppose–like all Newport ads–was to show friends and lovers (almost always young and vibrant) “alive with pleasure.” I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but it has never even occurred to me to catch a free ride on a pole being schlepped by two buddies, especially since I know the intense pain of bulging discs that could cause. But at some point in my adult life, cigarette ads disappeared from magazines.

There was a lull. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, prescription drug ads appeared, or DTC (Direct-To-Consumer) ads, intended to appeal directly to patients, rather than doctors. All we had to do was fall prey to the ad with the lady spinning on a hilltop of flowers, mention the name to our doctor, and the bottle was in our hands faster than you can say, “Why didn’t I buy stock in Walgreen’s twenty years ago?” It was great for drugstores, great for doctors who declined to educate themselves, choosing instead to memorize and spout off the pharmaceutical company literature, and seemingly great for the consumer, because we got to self-diagnose and self-medicate, and frankly, alcohol hasn’t been doing the trick. I admit it’s easy to get caught up in it: The actors singing “CELEBRATE! CELEBREX!” are enough to make anyone wish he had arthritis.

Pick up any magazine, from Bon Appetit to The Family Handyman, and you will be barraged with DTC ads.  And not just one page ads, like the cigarettes used to be.  No, thanks to the good people at Pfizer, these are three and four page ads.  And who doesn’t want their magazine full of filler trash?  Who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon reading about NSAIDS and Botox?  Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to open up a new Bible and find Humira ads tucked between Galatians and Ephesians–for when a miracle just isn’t enough.

But as for me and my home, we will steer our kids away from medications that address the symptoms, but rarely the cause.  I want my kids to know emotions are natural, depression is natural, pain is natural.  Does it suck?  Yes.  But the answer isn’t always pills.  Don’t get me wrong; drugs are not innately evil. Drug companies, perhaps, but not drugs. I know a little girl who is alive today due to the grace of God and the miracle of modern medicine. Her medicines don’t clutter the pages of my Marie Claire. The issue here is so many medicines being overprescribed, unnecessary, and ill-researched. And what about user error? Check out the stats on prescription drug-related suicides and accidental overdoses.  Now that’s a bitter pill to swallow.

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Guy Fieri and Odium Ova

The truth is, I couldn’t find a word meaning hatred of eggs. Amidst severe coughing fits that bring to mind the image of a novice broncrider being wildly hurled from Gilley’s mechanical bull, it is hard to think about anything except the fact that the only drink I’ll be slamming during tomorrow night’s New Year’s celebration is Grapefruit Airborne (and this only due to the fact that Theraflu has mysteriously vanished from all drugstore shelves, gone the way of Drixoral). For that matter, why did they–as my son would say–“disappear it”? Mind you, this is the same son who got carded at Wal-Mart two days ago while trying to buy Sharpies for an art project. Sharpies? Really? Are kids inhaling them like Liquid Paper back in the day? Does Liquid Paper even exist anymore? It was so messy and ineffective. Remember dipping the brush in and applying it over and over, and you could STILL see the letters underneath? Meanwhile, your paper is getting wetter and wetter until it eventually wears a wet hole clear through it. Hey, maybe that’s what happened to Drixoral. Teens were misusing the pseudoephedrine the way they misuse Liquid Paper and Sharpies.

So why can’t they just card me for Drixoral now? What’s up with that? My head fills with reverberations of Kenan Thompson singing, “What’s Up With That?” on one of the lesser recent sketches on SNL. Which reminds me of Kristin Wiig’s departure, which means the only saving grace now is pure aesthetics–Jason Sudeikis’s face. Or a surprise visit from J.T. bringing it on down to Omeletteville. Omelettes! Ah, yes, we were talking about eggs.

This post is not to slam the Captain of Flavor Town (the media has done that enough lately), his spiky bleached highlights, or his two different shirt styles (the Charlie Sheen character on 2 1/2 Men, which is essentially the Kramer shirt from Seinfeld–or the one with flames that always makes me want to launch into a rendition of “Greased Lightning.”) I genuinely enjoy the show, and I don’t want Food Network to “disappear it” the way they did Throwdown with Bobby Flay. At the end of each show, Bobby would inquire, “Ask yourself this? Are you ready for a throwdown?” I speak for many American women, when I answer affirmatively. Yes, Bobby. Yes, we are.

Sorry, back to Guy. My concern is that a purported connoisseur of diners, one-third of the show’s title on Triple D, should love eggs. Not even just LIKE eggs, but love eggs. Incredible, edible eggs are what make or break a diner. How can one so vocal of his abhorrence of them possibly assess the merits of any establishment whose reputation rests on its ability to prepare eggs?

Does he have a right to detest eggs? Absolutely. Everyone out there loathes something. I’m not keen on ketchup-swathed meatloaf or plastic-y processed Kraft Singles. And I imagine there exists a Gentile somewhere who doesn’t like bacon, perish the thought. I suppose my beef with Guy is that eggs are so versatile. I get it if you don’t like sunny side up, if you don’t want a runny yolk hardening up in seconds on your plate. And I accept that egg dishes cool down very quickly, so you’ve got to shake a tailfeather if you’re going to consume them, and not dawdle about. But there are so many options, so much variety to choose from. It’s the first question your waitress asks. “How do you like your eggs?” Scrambled, hardboiled, poached, over easy, over hard. Oh, what about eggs in a nest? Where you put the egg inside the toast? I’ve seen this done with a heartshaped egg inside the bread. Just precious.

Maybe I didn’t grow up in Flavor Town, but I did grow up in Austin, so maybe that counts as Brunch City, USA. Every weekend, we ate brunch. It was a given. We never tolerated a restaurant waiting list (we’d stomp right back to the Nissan Sentra and go elsewhere), unless it was for The Omelettry. It was worth the wait, worth the smell of patchouli wafting off aging hippies reading The Chronicle under ball moss-infested oak trees, worth the teensy graffiti-riddled bathroom with Jenny’s number on the stall. A broccoli sour cream omelette with gingerbread pancakes! What tops that? I don’t know. Maybe migas? Mmm, migas. Scrambled eggs with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos, cheese, and tortilla strips, with a side of black beans and home fries. THAT is what’s really money! And the waiter brings you out that round plastic container filled with piping hot tortillas, so warm you want to hold them to your face like a compress and take in all the floury goodness.

Understand that the issue is not about how protein-packed eggs are or however high in cholesterol, and it’s certainly not about the superiority of free-range chickens; it’s about TASTE. Why would anyone’s tastebuds say no to eggs? Even my eyes love eggs. I’ve actually ripped a page out of Martha Stewart Living just because the photograph of deviled eggs was so simplisticly beautiful: just smooth scooped-out egg white filled with gorgeous yellow fluff, sprinkled with paprika. Sigh. I noticed that my April 2011 Food Network Magazine has a two page spread of “All-Star Deviled Eggs,” with recipes from a dozen notable chefs. Guess who’s not represented? Go figure.

Nonetheless, Guy has a standing invitation to my home for brunch. He can fuel up on bacon, biscuits, and hash browns, and wash it down with freshly-ground coffee. And when I try to entice him with a plate of delicious Tex-Mex migas and he politely declines, I won’t be offended. Flabbergasted, but not offended.

Egg Nog

It’s only December 29, four days after Christmas. Our tree is still up, the lights on our house are still blinking. But the grocery store today posted this sign on a refrigerated shelf: “Sorry–no more egg nog. It’s out of season.” How long was the season? Did it end at midnight Christmas day? I realize that the demand for eggnog gradually increases during the cold months, throughout the holiday season, but surely they could stock it up to New Year’s Eve?  This graph from www.slate.com shows sales clearly decreasing, yet still existent.

nog sales

What if Ted Danson, Jude Law, or Mary Tyler Moore wanted to celebrate their birthdays today with some egg nog and brandy? This is America, after all. That shouldn’t be too much too ask. What is wrong with a little residual Christmas spirit? We showed up at Hobby Lobby on the morning of the 26th, just HOURS after Christmas had ended, and employees were frantically tossing reindeer and snowmen aside to make way for red sequined hearts for Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day! That’s not until the month after next. And don’t get me started on how insignificant THAT holiday is. The pressure to effectively yet forcibly express your love through Russell Stover boxed chocolates, Hallmark cards, and dinner reservations.  I’d rather drink egg nog.