November 15th, 2004

random thoughts inspired by e-mail

I got some message this morning about a presentation on body image and mass media. How does this fit in with the new "obesity is America's greatest health threat"?

We've got one group saying that oppressive media images are causing body image anxiety, and therefore we need to teach people to accept their bodies they way they are so that people can be mentally healthy, as well as convincing the media to feature images of different body types.

We have another group saying, by the way, your body? It's physically unhealthy. You are shortening your life, you are reducing the quality of your shortened life, and you're costing tax-payers a lot of money for health care.

I'm sure the members of both camps quietly share some of the same concerns, but which of these two groups will win the battle for ultimate authority on the body? Will there ever be a class-action lawsuit against the Surgeon General's office for causing mental distress to obese children? Who would win? I mean, in some ways, they're both right.

Not that I've seen a lot of TV lately, but I'm getting the sense that waifish is out and athletic is in, so that's a positive media image change, in my opinion. It seems to me that, ultimately, we could satisfy both the mental and physical health requirements if everyone was fit. That's an awfully fascist thing of me to say. I'm trying to tell everyone to be the same--to be fit and to be happy with fit. Of course, no one really knows what fit is. I mean, some people think Dr. Atkins was some kind of health wizard--what the hell.

And it is unfair for me to be saying any of this anyway, because I've been a gangly ectomorph all my life, taking after my Grandpa Slim. Of course, I was always frustrated that I couldn't win the President's Physical Fitness badge. Goddamned pull-ups. I couldn't even do one, much less five. I think I can do three now--maybe. Badges. We don't....

We can make sandwiches

A recent post by uterdic has reminded me that I've been telling the same story about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches over and over again:

When I lived in Utrecht (in The Netherlands) and attended Jenaplanschool Cleophas, a Dutch school, I discovered that the children there brought two sandwiches to school: a peanut butter sandwich, and a jelly sandwich. They looked at my combined peanut butter and jelly sandwich with, I believe, suspicion and distrust.

I understand that there are food combinations that people might find strange and unusual. But the kids were already scarfing down a peanut butter sandwich followed by a jelly sandwich. I mean, if the tastes were that incompatible, would you really want to eat them sequentially in your lunch? How could this simple combination appear so revolting to them?

Also, the tradition there was that a child, on his or her birthday, would bring in treats for the rest of the class. I wanted to share something from back home with them, so my mom baked chocolate chip cookies with Toll House semi-sweet morsels no doubt mailed to us from the other side of the Atlantic from friends back home. The children eyed these suspiciously as well and some did not even bother to sample the cookies. Fine--let them have their colorful licorice candies! More chocolate chip cookies for me.

I enjoyed the Dutch breatfast sandwiches of chocolate or multi-colored sugary sprinkles--hagelslaag--on buttered white bread. Of course, I never tried a fried herring sandwich from the downtown herring cart like my dad did. So who am I to point fingers?
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