Don't look for a place to click "Yes, I like this poster." Feel free to like or not.

“You can’t choose your family.” Ha! Kleenex says otherwise. On its Web site you can choose a mom for yourself from an assortment of moms displayed — most of them, I guarantee, more disturbing than your own mom in every way.

“Veronica” boasts that not only can she find a needle in a haystack but she will organize that haystack by straw color and thickness. “Magnolia,” with her overbearing good ol’ mom ways and screechy Southern twang, put me off grits for life. Then there’s “Jessica” who offered to be not only my mom but my BFF. No BFF-en way.

It’s a clever marketing gambit to encourage an ongoing brand relationship (your Kleenex mom will send you to-do list reminders) and inevitable in a culture where we are encouraged to rate, vote, opine online on everything from news stories to a Facebook friend’s updates (“you and 6 others like this”).

The insidious nature of all this judgy-ness hit me one night while visiting one of my  favorite guilty-pleasure Web sites,, where, on a real-time interactive map,  I can watch — gender assumption alert — a woman in Florida buy red patent pumps and click the thumb up-thumb down icon to express my opinion on her purchase.

Normally, I wouldn’t dream of weighing in on someone’s accessory choices without first walking a mile in her strappy sandals, but  it had been a long day and there may have been a glass of wine involved. Giddily enthusiastic about a particularly cute handbag that popped up on the map, I intended to click approval but accidentally hit the thumb down. Against all reason, all that is rational behavior, I felt bad. I checked to see if I could undo my vote. No. I wanted to apologize to the shopper (“Ma’am, you don’t know me but…”) and to Zappos for having fed them the wrong marketing information (“Hello, marketing research trackers, you don’t know me but …”).

Suffering suffragettes, what good can come to anyone from this incessant voting on life’s every experience, our own and those of others? It’s enough to make me weep. That would require a Kleenex. Exactly.



Remember when only an M.D. could say, “I’m ordering you an EKG”? Now you can order one anytime you like — for your Facebook friends. Though you might want to consider our elegant three-icon gift pack of EKG, MRI and CT scan “wrapped” with an IV-tube bow. The holidays don’t get any classier than that.

As medical director of Health4UHamlet, premier provider of virtual gifts of health care, I’m telling you there’s no health care option more affordable than our budget-friendly one-dollar icons representing medical procedures.

You can stretch your shopping dollars and cover your friends’ health care needs — or as we at Health4UHamlet like to think of it, kill two birds with one gallstone surgery icon.

Our sophisticated virtual inventory tracking system assures that no one on your list will have to come crawling for that knee-replacement icon. They’re stocked 24/7 in our virtual vault. That’s the one with the sign on the door that says “It’s not brain surgery.” (A little virtual gift of health care industry humor.)

Whatever your friends’ health care needs or conditions, we’ve got them covered. Aneurysms. Cataracts. Broken bones. Colonoscopies. Hysterectomies. Deviated septums. Psychiatric evaluations.

We even have a wide selection of organs for transplant and you know how hard they can be to find this time of year. We’ll deliver your virtual gift of health care icon with a tasteful message such as “Karen Just Sent You a Kidney!” Don’t get me going on how nice that kidney icon looks. Seriously, it will MAKE a friend’s virtual gift stash this holiday season.

I bring up the kidney only because it’s one of our more popular virtual gifts of health care, although endoscopies are running a close second this week. Appies are also big. That’s appendectomies for those of you not in the virtual gifts of health care field or who don’t watch “Grey’s Anatomy.” Which reminds me, did I mention all of our gift icons are in anatomically correct colors?

Anatomical correctness is important to us here at Health4UHamlet, which is why we have thoughtfully provided a “Really, You Shouldn’t Have” button that your recipients can click to tell you where to put the gift. Like I said, thoughtful.

We take pride in the meticulously evocative design of all our icons. You’ll never look at one of those I-heart icons the same way again after you see ours with paddles crossed in front for a cardiac jumpstart.

Incidentally, we’ve completely redesigned the icon for hand surgery after complaints it was flashing gang signs. (Thanks again, Bloods, Crips, 18th Streeters. Appreciate the heads-up on our gaffe.)

Did I mention the bonus gifts? At absolutely no extra cost to you, with each order of a virtual gift of health care, you’ll receive a bonus gift to send someone. We dole out these freebies like there was no tomorrow, which is pretty much the case if you choose a bonus gift from The Morgue Collection. It’s a step up from those annoying Facebook “pokes” used to get someone’s attention. I say nothing gets someone’s attention like telling him he’s getting an autopsy.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, we were offering virtual gifts of dental health care, but selling them was like pulling teeth.

As medical director of Health4UHamlet, I’m confident you won’t find a better deal for affordable health care online or off. Trust me, I’ve looked. We don’t have much of a health plan, either.

Health and happiness 4U!

© Kathe Stanton