Sunday, August 5, 2007

Stop The Presses -- Please!

In cleaning my garage for the advent of the mobile shredder man tomorrow, I found my file of Op/Ed columns published when I was a guest writer for a newspaper a few years ago. Some were surprisingly contemporary, and the one I'm posting below is from 1991, updated just a bit. Its original title was "Feeling Guilty? Just Wait A Second"

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the guilt spewing from every magazine, internet post and TV channel. Articles and interviews scream sermons about the "one right way to live." No matter that these "right ways" often contradict each other -- you can't escape them -- and the list is endless.

Do you eat enough fiber? Enough but not too much fat? Have the right proportions of carbohydrates and protein? You do know that 4 grams of sugar equals a teaspoon, don't you? Do you get plenty of vitamins from organic vegetables? Indulge in red meat? Are you barbarian enough to eat veal? Does your tuna endanger dolphins? Do you risk salmonella from your eggs or chicken? Do preservatives still cross your lips? How's your cholesterol -- and is that the "good" kind or the "bad" kind? Is your "lite" food light enough? How do you know? Are you participating in the world food basket, risking unknown contaminants, or do your food purchases offend some domestic group? Are you sure? If you're dieting (of course you're dieting) do you know your BMI and every facet of every diet program? Are you sure your choice is the right one for you?

Do you stay out of the sun and stay in shape, but does your exercise endanger your joints? Have you had your mammograms and colonoscopies, your whole-body scan, your teeth straightened and whitened? Oh, you haven't scheduled plastic surgery yet? How odd.

Do your clothes and car carry a union label, or are you supporting the world economy? I know you don't have a fur coat, but have you slipped and desired one? How many times?

Do you ask for plastic or paper bags at the market, knowing the real consequence of your choice? If you dare to still indulge, does your fast food come in nasty foam boxes or greasy paper? In years of drought, do you wash empty aluminum cans to recycle? Gotcha!

Have you dug up your lawn and xeroscaped? Have you cut out milk to eliminate both lactose intolerance AND bovine methane production? Have you changed your deodorant and hairspray from aerosol to pump, and do you have a tastefully-lighted picture of Al Gore in your house? Of course you're registered to vote, and you do have your state and federal representatives' phone and fax numbers on speed dial, don't you?

Do you slather cosmetics on your face at the painful expense of a sweet-faced lab animal? Is your puppy or kitty spayed or neutered? Is your pet food properly geared to your pet's age and weight and lifestyle? Is your pet vaccinated, registered, computer-chip identified, heart-wormed, insured, bathed and free of fleas and ticks? Does it get plenty of exercise with similar pets, and do you have a restraint for it in the car? Now show me the number of your licensed pet sitter for your absences.

If you've completely collapsed and smacked your kid on his fanny, have you written Oprah and joined a support group? Has he?

Do you work each night with your child on her homework, but avoid pressure at all costs? If she slipped and got a "B" last month, have you hired a tutor yet? No? Why not? Do you monitor all internet usage and TV programs, books, clothes, toys, music and spending money, but still allow her freedom of choice? Does your daycare provider have a Ph.D. in early childhood behavior? Are your nanny cams functioning properly? Good Lord, you haven't missed back-to-school night, have you? If your child has been diagnosed with one of the alphabet soup disorders, are you up to date on current treatment philosophies? (Note: Up to date means within the last five minutes online.)

Have you checked your home for lead, asbestos, carbon monoxide, toxic mold and waste, bad water, radiation, radon and rodents? Do you have a family trust and living will? Is your portfolio politically correct and Green? Do you have earthquake, car, boat, trailer, flood, personal property, personal liability, air travel, rental car, vacation, dental, orthodontic, medical, credit card, mortgage, cancer, life, identity theft and burial insurance?

Stop! Stop!

It's not that I don't fully support most concepts here (you notice I didn't write "all"). I'm just sick of hearing about this stuff every waking minute. I'm sick of the advice.

The irony is... do you know where all this stuff comes from? Articles and TV scripts don't drift down from idea heaven in finished form. Because writing is an extremely competitive business, each embryonic thought from every writer's mind is nourished to full term with (drum roll, please) market research.

Writers' magazines and marketing reports are packed with "what's hot' in editors' minds. Producing to satisfy what's hot there practically guarantees a check in your mailbox here.

Advice to the reader is the hottest trend today. Because it sells, reams of it, millions of gigabytes of it, are written. Then, because that's all that's written (well, except political opinion and celebrity gossip, of course,) we buy it. What else is there? It becomes a nauseating cycle, and one of the most nauseating factors in my mind is...the person giving you all this advice is likely 23 years old with life experience equal to college...period.

Is there anyone left on the planet who hasn't had his/her social, medical, environmental, emotional and spiritual consciousness raised? Please, give us a break. STOP telling us how to live every tiny detail of our lives.

But before I go, I have to ask, you're not still smoking, are you?

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