Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dove Promises and the Gender Divide

My girlfriend Deena gave me a bag of Dove Promises for Christmas. Until I bit into my first Promise, I thought Hershey’s Kisses were good. Dove, however, has spoiled me, and I won’t waste the effort of chewing a Hershey’s Kiss ever again. Each time you unwrap a Promise, you get to read a fun little saying on the inside of the wrapper; Hershey only has that white flag thingy, which is not nearly as interesting. Sucker that I am for anything inspirational, getting a saying in addition to deliciously creamy chocolate is like having icing on cake. My grandma’s icing. Which was actually fudge. Oh my goodness, ….

Sorry. I zoned for a minute. Fudge has that effect on me.

Deena’s Christmas gift put a brand new monkey on my back, and I’ve been stockpiling supplies of Dove Promises for the next hurricane. We have hurricanes in Ohio, you know. Really.

Not all the sentiments that grace the inside of Dove Promise wrappers are equally appealing. Occasionally, the sayings are thinly veiled advertisements. It’s such a disappointment to read “Enjoy a Dove Promise with a friend.” I don’t share a chocolate—I’ll share chocolates (plural) if there are enough to go around, but the message clearly uses the singular. These mini-ads make me toss the wrapper aside and reach for another Promise in hopes of finding a better saying: an example of marketing at its most insidiously delicious.

Some messages are sappy and should come with a side of insulin. These saccharine statements resemble what you might find in a bad self-help book written by someone on heavy prescription medication or really fun illegal drugs. Consider these examples:

Count your blessings not your worries. Does anyone really do this?

Make the most of today. The "most" what? Don’t you think Charles Manson probably “made the most of today,” at least from his point of view? This is too vague to be useful.

Life is all about making memories. I’ve made memories that I would like to forget. How are they inspiring? And is life “all about” any one thing? I prefer to think it’s much richer than that. Like dark chocolate. Or Grandma’s fudge icing.

Create peace for yourself. I wish the Dove wrapper would tell me how to do this.

Despite the obvious shortcomings of these examples, they still grab my attention because, sadly, I am a sappy girl. I’m also a former English composition teacher who stood in front of 28 freshman composition classes at four universities spouting the mantra “Be SPECIFIC!” The folks at Dove may have hired a stoned self-help guru to write some of their vague messages, but they must have also hired one of my former students to write these refreshingly specific and useful tidbits of advice:

Take 5 deep breaths. This is ALWAYS a good idea, especially for those of us who don’t handle stress well.

Buy yourself flowers. YES! We shouldn't need permission from a chocolate wrapper to do this for ourselves, but we do.

Learn to say “hello” in another language. (Why not? Hola, Buon Giorno, Bon Jour…add your own translations in the comments, please!

Chocolate therapy is oh, so good. YES! And it’s cheaper than psychotherapy.

Make a pledge to get 8 hours of shut eye. I so totally WISH I could do this.

I love these messages so much they make me SHOUT! Sorry about that.

Finally, some sayings have a bit—sometimes just a bit—of philosophical depth and sincerity:

Believe in and act on your dreams. This one works if your dreams are nice dreams and not Charles Manson’s dreams, but I generally agree with this.

Success is the sum of many small efforts. It’s hard to argue with this one, and I like how it makes all the small efforts of my life seem so much more important…because they are.

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. This borders on psychobabble, but I’m starting to believe that, unless your brain chemistry is messed up by PMS or mental illness, you pretty much determine how happy you are.

Remind yourself that it’s okay not to be perfect. The people at Dove wrote this one for me, personally. How did they know?

You may be wondering by now what all this has to do with the gender divide. All of the above is pretty girly; Dove clearly markets its Promises to women, which makes sense seeing as we eat more chocolate than men. George, however, loves the Dove Promises as much as I do and reads his wrappers with an active Y chromosome that drains all the girly out of them. Consider this snippet of conversation over dessert:

Me: This one says, "Give of yourself to someone who needs you." Do you need me?
George: I need you, baby. For three to five minutes.

See what I mean? He sucked the girly right out of that sentiment and dragged it down into the gutter. He did this instinctively, too, with no need to pause and think about his response. He has also invented his own sayings to replace the girly stuff he can’t relate to. If Dove hired George, many more men would eat chocolate:

Go find somebody smaller than you to pick on. It’ll make you feel better about yourself.

Road rage is a virtue.

Crush your competition.

Believe the best in yourself. Assume the worst of others.

Success is the sum of many small efforts if you want your success to be small.

Of course this anti-motivational, Y-chromosome talk amuses me, but there are times when I long for the presence of double-X friends and relatives who will not turn road rage into a virtue and will experience the same blissed-out state of well being and oneness with the universe as they savor fine chocolates (plural) with me.

In our house, however, Y chromosomes dominate, as demonstrated by the following conversation over a dessert of Dove Promises last week:

Nick: Mom, Dad hit me!
George: Nu-uh.
Nick: Ya-huh.
George: Nu-uh.
Nick: Ya-huh.
George [to me]: How does it feel to be the only adult in a house with four boys?
Me: Please pass me another Promise.

Create peace for yourself…any way you can.


  1. I linked over here from Paperlicious when I saw that you are LateBlossom (one of my very favorite stampers on SCS). I really enjoyed reading some of your posts, and look forward to coming back. And I definitely agree on the sayings in the Dove Promises--some of them are awful! Hope your Autism blog goes well. God bless!!

  2. heheheheh!!! I love this. believe it or not...I have never tried a Dove Promise. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be picking some up today while we are out looking for a bday present for a freind.. as well as some of that cream...what was it again!??? Oh and, btw, nice compliment from Victoria on your SCS blog ... gotta love when someone validates like that!! Yeah!!!

  3. Yes, Donelda!

    Victoria, I hope you check out these comments again because I want to say THANK YOU!!!!

  4. Hi Susan,

    I wanted to comment last week, after I read your post about expanding your chocolate horizons. But I didn't because I couldn't feel right telling you about another variety that might not be available to you. I take chocolate recommendations seriously, whether I am making or receiving them.

    Well, I was at Trader Joe's last night and I can safely say that what I wanted to tell you about is, in fact, back in stock. There were many tall stacks of these chocolate bars and I only bought two. Bars. They are called PoundPlus. More than 17 ounces of 72% Belgium dar chocolate, pre-scored into bite sized pieces. They do have other varieties ... some with nuts and some with a lower percentage of cocoa. But they are all good, and each PoundPlus bar is under $4.

    Healthful and ecconomical! And delicious.

    I just found your blog just a bit ago, so I haven't read everyting, but I've had fun getting started. Your husband mentioned it to my husband, at work.

    You'll have to tell me about your Target eye cream. The only "beauty aid" I use is hand lotion. And I'm sure it shows, but I can't bring myself to care too, too much. I don't want to spend the time and the money and I don't like feeling like a petri dish for the combination of all the different chemicals.

    Thanks for some enjoyable reading!


  5. I just found your blog and really enjoyed reading it! My hello translation for you is "Dag" in Dutch. My languages are moderately competant Dutch and Spanish, as well as perimenopausal English. I get to have word retrieval challenges in 3 languages! I liked reading what you wrote about changing dreams in one of your other posts. As a middle aged college student and mother of a teen and a young adult it was good to read how you had reconciled your earlier dreams with your current reality. Sometimes when I feel ridiculous being an undergraduate at age 47 I need to remind myself how worthwhile being with my children was as they were growing up. Thanks for sharing your perspectives with the world. You seem like a person I would like to know.


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!