Setting my cruise control at 70, I am prepared to enjoy the pastoral beauty of autumn in Michigan as I journey north. Then the billboard message slams me in the face: DUMP YOUR SPOUSE.
As I fear, the freeway ad promotes the skills of a lawyer looking for divorce business
Now, we all understand that advertising tends to overstate things. We know a laxative won’t really help us get along with the boss, or that eating Jazz Cereal doesn’t really guarantee a perfect day. We allow advertisers a certain leeway.
But DUMP YOUR SPOUSE? Wouldn’t “free your spouse” sound a bit softer, maybe even high-minded? You might come across as noble while actually giving him or her the boot. A little like the husband who tells his wife that she’s too good for him; he deserves nothing better than a cheap bimbo with…well, you get the idea.
For me the teeth-grinding part of this particular billboard is that it comes from my beloved legal profession.
Time marches on, I know, but in the not-too- distant past lawyers and judges thought it was their duty to impress on a couple that divorce was a tragedy. Marriage was meant to last a lifetime. Children could be harmed by divorce. Lawyers would hasten to assure the judge that they had recommended marriage counseling for their clients. They considered themselves professionals, serving the public.
Eventually the word “professional” began to lose its original meaning. It was expanded to include just about everybody: professional dog walkers, professional girdle salesman, professional house cleaners. I guess nowadays the word just means you intend to stay in that kind of work full time.
Granted that even before advertising, lawyers were fair game. After all, they earn a living dealing with people’s pain. So do doctors, but they work to alleviate pain. When the lawyers show up, often the pain gets worse, although you have to admit that it’s the bad guys who scream the loudest.
As for crass advertising, that really hit the fan after our Supreme Court decided that it was an infringement of free speech for professional associations to ban advertising by lawyers and doctors. Yellow page ads for lawyers thickened the phone book so much that I couldn’t lift it. Television commercials featured lawyers wearing cowboy hats. I’ve never seen a lawyer in the courtroom with a hat from West of the Pecos, not even on the six-shooter guys from Texas, who were dressed more like bankers than cowboys.
Doctor advertising hasn’t hit the pits yet, but since that ruling by the Supremes, I can’t sleep at night, wondering if I should have a Beaumont doctor. Then at 2 a.m. I think about calling the Cowboy-Hat Lawyer to see if there is somebody I should be suing. Hmmm. That inner tube around my belly can’t be my fault; it’s got to be the side effects of the medications I am taking.
To be sure, my experience after almost a half century in the law is that most attorneys are decent, hard-working, and ethical men and women. Few turn to brassy, crude advertising tactics to snare clients.
That such advertising can pass the smell test these days is a reflection of the culture we live in. It is the inevitable product of No-Fault Divorce, itself the fruit — if not the cause — of the continuing collapse of marriage in our culture, which is in turn traceable back to the poisonous tree known as the Sexual Revolution. Children are only a byproduct of sex. And once the magic wears off, move on. Why not? In fact, why bother to get married at all? Apparently there are more single adults in America than married ones.
Oh well, as the kids say, whatever. Next time, though, I will head Up North a different way. Her Ladyship might get some weird ideas. I’m not ready for the dumpster yet.