What Do You Think of the Commercial?


Barb Higgins commercial headshot
My 58-year-old self would make a great face for this website proclaiming to support women aging boldly. I am, however, too wrinkly.

“Dangerously Sentimental” seems like a dichotomy to me. Sentimentality, in my mind, is soft, a bit mushy perhaps, and maybe tear producing at times, but dangerous? Danger in a sentimental idea or message can only lie in the person assigning meaning to what they are deeming sentimental. My commercial for Montefiore Einstein was recently described in this way in an article on a website claiming to promote women.

One of the best things about humanity (in my mind) is diversity. We all have unique ways of seeing and understanding things. We bring in culture, religion, family, education, geography and a plethora of experiences into our understanding of the world around us. What affects one person emotionally may not induce any reaction whatsoever in another. So, I want to be clear, Barbara Lippert, the author of the article calling my commercial dangerously sentimental is entitled to her reactions and emotions to my story. Her words made me think.

If there is danger to be assigned to anything in her article it would be her assumptions about me, the commercial and my life. Even more so the words she wrote as truth based on these assumptions. I reached out to her more than once to set up a conversation but only heard back once. She does not seem to want to actually know me and the truth in my story. It is clear that aspects of her research into me and this experience triggered her. As someone who claims to support women I am confused as to why she did not reach out to me before publishing so many inaccuracies about me, Jack, my family and my journey.

The following is from the NextTribe website.


NextTribe is a travel and events company for women 45+. We believe that now—at midlife—is our shaken-Etch-A-Sketch moment, when the slate is once again blank. Today, our conversations question which direction we are headed in and how to get there. How to drink it all in and how to give back. We’d like your voices and humor to be heard, your ideas to be shared, and for you to hear ours. This tribe is one of contemplation, inspiration, wit, and action. Though we may have men in our lives, we believe it’s invigorating to touch base at a time like this with people who have the same sagging parts and swinging moods. Now that we have more time for adventure, more experience for new life paths, more wisdom to connect the dots in our histories, and less care about what people think, we’re sure these coming years can be a glorious stretch. Spiritual and irreverent, creative and courageous, this site, these postings, will serve as our cave drawings and warrior paint. Please join us on our walkabout.

In reading this description I feel that I would love this place. That my age and its obvious effects will be celebrated. That my recovery from brain tumors after losing a daughter to one would be admired. That my childbirth story at 57 would be inspirational. Barbara Lippert’s words are anything but.

In reading this description I felt that I would love this site. That my age and its obvious effects would be celebrated. Thant my recovery from brain tumors after losing a daughter to one would be admired. That my childbirth story at 57 would be inspirational. Barbara Lippert’s words were anything but.

I have included the link to the article. I encourage you to read it before continuing with this blog. It will be easier to read with an open mind and to then follow my responses.

She starts by vaguely criticizing hospital advertising. I actually agree with this. I remember when medication ads first aired. I felt like they were inappropriate. Doctors should prescribe medication based on what they knew I thought, not on what a commercial said. Her next sentence is far more telling. The commercial, in her words, caused her “so much anxiety I have to vent about it”. Clearly it brought up a memory or emotion she has yet to process completely.

Venting about her anxiety is what she should have done. She does not. She makes a judgement about the intention and message of the commercial and manipulates what she assumes from her research to support her feelings. She wants you to dislike the commercial too.

She immediately begins the first of her negative descriptions of me (as opposed to the commercial in general.) She describes me as hunched. Yes, I am alone, yes, I am in a Utah Canyon. My story is tragically beautiful. One to love and hate. The commercial is meant to represent, through imagery and music, my rise from the depths of despair to the joy in tragedy. I will admit I was often times uncomfortable with the amount of money being put into a TV commercial. I have straddled financial security with just getting by most of my life. But my discomfort ends there.

This commercial gave me permission to not only tell my story but to show all the emotions attached to it.  I sat straight.

She calls me voiceless because my words are not coming out of my mouth but rather are captioned on screen. All I can think is that she does not enjoy reading. To me a book is always better than a movie because I can picture it the way I see it in my mind. The person watching the commercial does not need to hear my voice for me to have one. They are invited to watch my face as they see my story. I was given permission to “feel everything that comes up for you Barbara” by the assistant director. I had a front row seat in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Why would my facial expressions and emotions, after all I have gone through, be difficult for me to share because I am not an actor.

They were genuine. I didn’t have to act.

Lippert then goes on to share how my facial wrinkles make her feel awkward. That close ups of my wrinkly face are somehow wrong. I refused to wear makeup. Other than some foundation, moisturizer and a touch of mascara what you see is me. I wear those wrinkles with pride, my life has not always been easy. I have spent a lot of time in the sun. I am 58 years old in the commercial. How that sentiment can appear in an article on a website that caters to women over 45 utterly befuddles me. Should I have covered them up and tried to look younger? Men are deemed handsome in their late 50’s wrinkles and all, but mine are somehow awkward.

She then dives into her perceived religiosity of the theme of me rising from the darkness. This is where the commercial is, indeed, open to interpretation. She brings up Maya Angelou, which is a logical connection but immediately follows with a connection to a statue of Jesus. Me on a mountain top with my arms out stretched (they actually never left my side) has her insinuating the motivation behind the commercial was somehow comparable to Jesus.  Not the loving Jesus, but a statue of him shrouded in controversy and connected to the idea of religion being forced on people.

I like that she is educated and makes connections, but these are hers, not mine or the creators of the commercial. One of the most difficult criticisms comes next.

She references the sun coming up, and now I am sitting, smiling, and “nursing a baby!” She clearly has something against breastfeeding because quite honestly this is the best part of the commercial in my mind. I am a mother! At 58 years of age, I am indeed nursing a baby! She compares me here to a Pieta. “The Pieta of Utah”. A Pieta is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus on her lap.

 I don’t actually know how to respond to this at all.

 I am once again clear that she brings a great deal of personal baggage into her reaction to the commercial, and quite obviously to me as a woman. What actually happened was Jack began to fuss so I put him on my breast. The crew stopped filming and backed away to give me space. I turned my head to the camera man and said, “Don’t you think you should be filming this?” I was sitting in an amazing beautiful place nursing my son. I am not the Virgin Mary and Jack is not the dead body of Jesus. That scene would not have been included in the commercial without my permission.

Lippert then goes on to a bit of seemingly supportive Roe v Wade rhetoric before blasting the advertisement for lack of a back story. This is a tv commercial not a documentary. That piece of it is on the website, actually. She has the audacity to call the manner in which the commercial was filmed “borderline malpractice”. Here is where I am triggered. Malpractice, and all it entails will forever be a very real part of my life. Lippert, as a woman, and a mother (if she is one) and most importantly a writer should have known better than to use this word. She researched me. She read about dead Molly. Our journey with the hospital where Molly died is as searchable as anything else.

She may not like the commercial, but to categorize something I, the mother of a dead 13-year-old from actual medical negligence, was involved in and call it malpractice is downright cruel. Again, I appreciate that the commercial made her uncomfortable, but her inability to separate her criticism of me from the final product shows an incredible lack of discernment.

Next, she delves into the brain tumor part of my story. She jumps right in to the insurance piece. In her mind I am a wealthy person who can afford to travel 4 hours for treatment as standard insurance would never cover it. I was on Medicaid at the time. I had a very inexpensive supplemental policy along with it through NH Healthy Families. I never saw a bill from that entire experience. I had several long conversations with insurance company representatives and had to fight hard at times, but my poor person insurance covered it. Had Lippert bothered to call me and clarify this fact she could have saved herself a negative assumption and perhaps witnessed a hospital fighting for a patient they believed deserved this chance. She questions the type of tumor as well. She references her cancer experience and how this piece of my story made her wiggly. Once she finds out it was not malignant it somehow stops being an actual health scare to her. Just an added hook for the reader. My daughter died from a benign tumor. Mine was situated in a tricky place and quite large. There is a lot more to cancer than malignancy.

And now the egg.

Rather than bask a bit on the glow of my IVF success I am now “giving false hope” to those still struggling with infertility. One of the most annoying and personal questions I am often asked about is the egg. I would never ask Lippert where she got her egg, or whose sperm fathered her baby. That is all incredibly personal and no one’s business. IVF can happen in many ways and my journey belongs to Gracie Kenny Jack and me.

Why does the egg even matter in this commercial? I am, in her words, a Pieta, so where did Mary’s egg come from? I am then vilified for being an athlete as if that somehow excludes me from being able to have a baby and share it publicly. It excludes me from normal in her eyes, I guess. Her final description of me is “isolated and voiceless”.

She concludes with the interviews she sees on the website. Why she thinks they take place in NH is beyond me. We are all sitting in that amazing Utah canyon answering the questions and telling the story. This part of the experience would not make a good tv spot. Music and scenery are attention grabbing. Reading the words beneath the face of the woman sitting proudly atop a canyon sharing her grief with the world is far more effective in conveying a feeling that an interview.

Her final sentence goes back to malpractice. She calls the commercial advertising malpractice.

I am sorry Barbara Lippert, that my commercial triggered you so deeply. I appreciate all of your reactions and hope that writing your article made you feel better. It did not make me feel better. As a woman I felt vilified by your words, and made to feel that I did something wrong. I felt that you were that middle school girl sneering at me across the lunch room eyeing me up and down. Is this feeling my trigger? Perhaps. I have never done well with this kind of treatment. So, I have to disagree with your malpractice description. You don’t know me.

I shared my story. That is all.

4 Responses

  1. I just took the time to reach her article, your post, and all of the information on the Montefiore site, and all I can say is that I have never been more proud of you and to call you a friend. How this woman who is claiming to author something of support for a group of women to which I now belong is beyond me. Your story is both incredibly tragic and filled with hope. And in my world, hope is something that we all need more of. The world also needs more people like you. Thank you for being so painstakingly honesty in sharing all of your journey. Please don’t ever stop being you. I love you and know that you are giving real hope to so many more.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “Clearly it brought up a memory or emotion she has yet to process completely.” While reading her assumptions and opinions and descriptions of you & the commercial I automatically would love to go off on this lady, but then I thought, Imagine what it is like to be her? I know two wrongs don’t make a right, but like she made assumptions about you, I am making an assumption about her, that she is not a happy person, and that is actually sad. Anyone who can attack someone else, especially a mother and include the baby (Pieta), has a sad soul. Then she brings up religion, well to me the scriptures are not religion, they are God’s word and I would like to share this scripture with you. “you have heard that it is said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But, I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven” Matthew 5:43-45.
    This Barbara Lippert obviously needs prayer. Many times in my life I have prayed for those I felt I should pray for even though I knew in my heart I didn’t feel or believe my own words, but I continually prayed that God would eventually help me to pray words of sincerity. This took years for me but believe it or not, eventually, I did pray for these enemies with a sincere heart. It helped me to let go of the weight these people had on me.
    Another thing I have reminded myself from time to time is that “if they are talking about me, they are leaving someone else alone”.
    Anyway, you are loved more than you know, not only by our heavenly father but by your family, friends, and those you do inspire, and I know there are many.
    Also not that my or anybody else’s opinion should matter, but I think you are beautiful inside & out, with or without wrinkles, makeup, or whatever. You too were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), how can that not be beautiful? Your children (yes all of them) have played a role in making this world a better place.

  3. Good for you Barb! Your words and your story are yours. Just like anything else in this world, you can choose to share what you want and if someone doesn’t agree with your story in some way, that’s on them. If she truly offers travel advice and doesn’t recognize that the peaceful canyons in Utah that beckons all who visit them to sit and take all the natural beauty they allow us to be apart of as the perfect background to your long journey then again, that’s on her.
    I appreciate you sharing your story and commend you on your strength to lead your family. Don’t let people who have nothing nice to say rent space in your head. Quite frankly, I found her piece to serve up a little jealousy that your story was told. If she only knew…

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