Jewish World Review May 9, 2003 / 7 Iyar, 5763

Jerry Della Femina

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Consumer Reports

The updated secret of life | It's hard for me to be casual about this, but I discovered the secret of life on the supermarket checkout line the other day. It's too late for me but perhaps it can help you.

I was standing third on line, behind a woman doing her shopping. She had 10 of every item in the store in her shopping carts. Behind her stood a mean-looking 250-pound woman who resembled Ozzy Osborne. She had her basket filled to the brim with Heaven knows how many quarts of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

It was going to be a long haul. So my eyes wandered over to the selection of available checkout-counter reading material. That's when I spotted it on the miracle rack between a tabloid that was promising me news of a new miracle pill that could melt my cellulite overnight and a booklet titled "The Miracle of Garlic and Vinegar."

The booklet that caught my eye said nothing about a miracle. It simply was titled in big bold red letters, "STARTING OVER: How To Begin Again After Breakup, Divorce, or Loss of a Loved One."

I reached for the book and what happened was not unlike the scenes in "Touched By an Angel" when the hero finally reaches heavenly stardom. The blinding supermarket florescent lights (which we will some day find cause skin cancer in mice) prevented me from seeing the heavenly glow that had engulfed me the second my fingers touched the booklet. But I know from what followed that I was bathed in celestial light.

The little teenage checkout girl, who looked like she had lost a wrestling match with a bottle of Clearasil, saw it first and said, "That's a wonderful book. My mother just read it."

Miss Ben and Jerry's gave me a shy smile that said, "You poor dear, I know how lonely you must be." Then this Ozzy Osborne look-a-like turned and sweetly whispered, "Sometimes a book like that can make all the difference in the world." The invitation to have a sexy Rocky Road or a Cherry Garcia nightcap was dancing in her eyes.

What a discovery! I realized that had I been available (and, thanks to the beautiful Judy Licht, I'm not) I could meet thousands of women who would take the "Starting Over" title as an invitation to start a relationship. Best of all, I would never have to open the book and read a word of the feel-good tripe inside of it. There's something about the title that gives total strangers permission to hit on you.

The fact is that both sexes are looking for any sign that the person they have just met is eligible. When a woman meets a man the first thing she does is look at his left hand to see if he's wearing a wedding ring. When a man meets a woman the first thing he looks at are her breasts. Therein lies the difference between men and women.

The wedding ring is not an effective barrier to deter men who want to deceive. I've known hundreds of men, maybe thousands, who have, with little practice, been able to carry on a conversation with a woman at a bar or cocktail party while removing a tight wedding ring from their finger, with the same hand the finger is on. This is done while the left hand is casually resting in a pants or jacket pocket. I've known men, albeit extremists, who have carried bronzers on business trips merely to color that tell-tale part of their ring finger where the sun never shines.

I've decided to see if I've let my imagination run away with me. So I'm putting "Starting Over" to the test, outside of the intimate supermarket venue.

I am writing this while seated on a Delta Airline plane. As part of this experiment, I have removed my wedding ring. My seatmate, an attractive woman in her late 30s or early 40s, has ignored me for the past two hours. Either she's a lawyer or she's in a lot of trouble. She keeps staring at one legal brief after another. It's 2:05 p.m. I am about to reach for the "Starting Over" book in my bag.

2:16: The woman just looked at me, smiled, and asked if I knew when we were landing in New York.

2:20: The legal briefs have been put away. We are in a spirited discussion about our favorite restaurants in New York. I'm still holding the book. She can't take her eyes off the title.

2:31: The conversation has been interrupted. A flight attendant, noticing the title, just made a beeline for my seat and, ignoring my seatmate, asked if there was anything she could do for me. Was there anything I needed?

"This book . . .20 years ago," I mumble to myself.

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JWR contributor Jerry Della Femina was recently named by Advertising Age as one of the 100 Most Influential Advertising People of the Century. He's perhaps the most sought-after advertising expert in the country, there is no network, no publication and no organization on which, in which, or before which Mr. Della Femina has not appeared. He is also the author of two books, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor (a best-seller), and An Italian Grows in Brooklyn (a non-seller). Comment by clicking here.


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02/06/03: Media empowering terrorism?
01/31/03: Outed at McDonald’s
01/24/03: Fresh ink
01/10/03: Will his political career go up in smoke?
11/07/02: Here's a dirty little secret: Most Italians sort of like the Mafia
10/17/02: Bloomberg for Honorary Italian of the Year

© 2002, Jerry Della Femina