Posts Tagged social satire
This blog started out as an imaginary discussion I had with a friend this morning while brushing my teeth. My jovial friend, let’s call him Alfred, works out at the same gym as me. He is about my age and, like me, is on a constant diet and exercise program. I have noticed that neither of us has lost an ounce on this program, and I have known Alfred for more than a year.
Alfred has recently added a personal trainer to his regimen to help him lose the forty pounds of gut hanging from his waist. I am not in such desperate shape, pun intended. I need to lose somewhere between ten and twenty pounds to look vaguely in shape again. To be REALLY in shape, as in when I met my wife more than twenty-five years ago, I’d have to lose forty pounds. Let’s not go there.
Like most diet and exercise enthusiasts, Alfred and I have managed to gain and lose the same three pounds every week. We are treading water, kidding ourselves, and persisting in our habits of eating more food than our bodies need to exist. On weekends we cheat with alcohol and sweets.
Yesterday, Alfred walks up to me while I’m peddling away on my stationary bike and says, “You need to pedal faster. You aren’t working hard enough.”
I say: “I burn a hundred and sixty calories in a half hour. That’s not too bad.”
Alfred says: “What if you burned three hundred calories in the same time.”
I say: “I don’t have to lose as much weight as you.”
Back to this morning. I’m thinking about this real-life conversation and this revolutionary idea strikes me right in the kisser: “Weight Loss the Easy Way” based on personal experience.
The real-life conversation I had with Alfred changes to something like this:
Alfred, peddling twice as fast beside me on the stationary bike says:
“I’m tired of working this hard and getting nowhere.”
Before we go any further, it is important to note that Alfred always seems happy. He constantly makes jokes while pontificating about one thing or another.
“You know what your problem is,” I respond. “You’re way too happy.”
Alfred laughs, then turns serious. “You’re jealous of me. Admit it.”
“Let’s not make this personal,” I say. “I’m not thinking in small terms here. This is big. It hit me this morning. The easiest, maybe the most effective way to lose weight in a relatively short period.”
“I’ve tried those quick weight loss programs.” Alfred says. “Most of them turn out to be fake or use drugs that can kill you.”
“This is completely natural,” I say with a mysterious smile.
Alfred peddles furiously for a few minutes. I know he doesn’t want to give me the satisfaction of asking about my big idea. Finally, his curiosity overhauls his ego. “Okay, tell me about this easy weight loss idea of yours.”
“It’s really simple. Nothing works better than depression.* I lost twenty pounds in a few months. I had no appetite. It was easy.”
“You really should leave the jokes up to me,” Alfred says.
“It’s no joke. I never want to go back there, but I think depression in bite size doses can really work for people who’ve tried everything short of lap band surgery.”
“Depression is no joke, moron. Be sure not to advertise this idea of yours outside of this circle.” Alfred points to me and back to himself.
“I’m not talking about major depression, Alfie. I’m saying, like, maybe for a week every once in a while.”
“Some people eat when they get depressed.”
“Okay, so this is not for them. That can be one of the disclaimers.”
“What if you’re not good at getting depressed, like me ?”
“Think of all the things you don’t have and wish you did, like the opportunity to have sex with any woman you see as often as you’d like. Think of every single character defect you have. Think about having to go work for a living again. Realize every breath you take brings you closer to death. Stuff like that.”
Alfred’s perpetual smile turns down slightly at the corners. “I see what you mean.”
So what do you think, man. Is it worth trying for a week? Take a break from working so hard to be happy, or whatever it is you work at.”
“Losing weight,” Alfred reminds me.
“I think I’ll write a book titled ‘Lose Twenty Pounds the Easy Way and Have Fun Gaining It Back.’ What do you think?
“I think you’re an idiot,” Alfred says with a pat on my shoulder. “But I still like you.”
*DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Depression is a serious illness. If your depression persists, or you have thoughts of suicide, seek help from a licensed psychotherapist.
In his prime, Jean Shepherd hypnotized audiences for hours with stories about bumper stickers, TV commercials, Green Stamps, and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Like most great discoveries, I found Jean Shepherd purely by accident. Sunday nights presented a precarious dilemma until Jean came along. I didn’t want to close my eyes because the next thing you knew, the sun would be pinching my cheek. It would be Monday morning, the beginning of another week of Junior High School.
My primary goal, therefore, centered upon pushing Monday morning as far into Sunday night as my sleep-deprived brain permitted. My pre-Jean Shepherd solution to the Sunday night dilemma involved listening to Rock and Roll music on a radio underneath the covers. One night, while switching from one Rock and Roll station to another, I found “Shep.”
The experts at the time might have called it “experimental radio.” Whatever it was, I had never heard anything like the smooth jazz overlaid by that voice, the one that put an arm around my shoulder and whispered, “c’mon pal, I got some cool places to take you to.”
When I first tripped over the threshold of this new world, the silky voice in the night was talking about cigarette coupons. It told a story about two friends who “made the same dough,” yet one of them had a new TV, and a boat, and a Ford Mustang, and a vacation home in the country—all purchased with cigarette coupons. It soon became clear to the other sad sack that he was an idiot not to smoke “Wonkies,” the brand with the coupons, the kind his buddy smoked. Of course the poor slob who smoked the Wonkies was dying of cancer, but it didn’t matter, because he had been smart enough to get the boat, and the car and the vacation home for free. He had enjoyed a lifetime of smoking Wonkies, and now his family could use the boat and the other goodies after he died.
The music swelled a bit louder. Now the voice talked about life on other planets. Did the inhabitants have better bathrooms than ours? Did the people have jobs, or could they just go to the bank and ask the teller for as much money as they needed to feed and clothe their families, with enough left over to go to an amusement park or take a quick vacation on another planet. Everyone had to be on the honor system, or there wouldn’t be enough money to go around. But these were aliens, after all, not human beings, so there would probably be no problem.
The voice kept talking. It swept me away. I lay there listening to my radio. I felt like a five-year-old kid attending the circus for the first time with his Dad. The world outside was crazy as hell, but I had it made in the shade, hypnotized by another one of Jean Shepherd’s stories. Monday morning had disappeared over the horizon—miles, and miles, and miles down the road.
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