miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2011

Frycook-assisted Suicide

So a while ago, I took Gina out to lunch and we agreed to go to Al’s Burger’s a greasy-spoon on San Pablo in Albany. I ordered a double burger, leaving off the cheese, since that is just too much of the wrong kind of food for me, but Gina has other ideas about what is and isn’t good for her.
She ordered two hotdogs-on-sticks (battered and deep-fried), plus an order of onion rings (also battered and deep-fried). And she topped it off with a large chocolate shake. Ok, so the girl is sitting there, all 350 pounds of her spilling over the edges of her chair, stuffing her face with (a lot of) fried foods that can’t help her in any way – it can’t help her weight, it can’t help her cholesterol, and it certainly can’t help her heart.
I thought, Jesus, I’m looking at a fry-cook-assisted suicide here. I’m sitting here, watching my close friend commit suicide, and it’s like those nuts who attack cops in hopes of being shot to death. They call that kind of death an ‘officer-assisted suicide’ and write it off on the cop’s record as an occupational hazard. And apparently no one is noticing that Gina is slowly committing suicide by artery-clogging weight gain.

I mentioned something about it – not exactly in those words, but in words that indicated that it seemed to be a bit of a dodgy meal. Gina blithely brushed me off, saying, “Hey, I don’t do this all that often.”

To which my mind responded, Well, not all that often, but it seems we were only here about a few weeks ago.
At my slightly-askance look, she went on in a developing huff, “Look, I came to a junk-food joint – I’m supposed to order a salad?”

And at that point, I realised that Gina just doesn’t care whether she lives or dies, so long as she can indulge her whims in the moment. And the next thought in my mind was I can’t watch this.  I didn’t want to witness her killing herself this way – slowly, by degrees, by heaped-on calories and by ounces and by pounds.  I didn’t want to then, and I don’t want to now.

I think that Gina isn’t being completely honest with herself – she has no scale, so she says that she’s losing weight ‘because my pants are loose.’   But she never looks any smaller than she has been before, and she often appears bigger.  People – all of us, it seems, are stuck in ruts that we don’t know how to get out of, stuck in situations that we can’t find a way to change.

I know that it’s nearly impossible to change whole ways of life. I mean, it takes that triathlon super-hero gene to just take that 90-degree turn and stop a behavior. But I’ve seen people change by making one small shift, one little movement to the right or left, like a plane lining up on approach:  “Five right. Five right.” And by small degrees coming into orientation with the runway.  By shifting one small thing – even just an attitude – change can come. Big change. Significant change.  And sometimes that attitude is the first thing to change; often it’s the only thing you can change.

Heaven knows I’m not on some high horse here – I have my own faulted deals that need a shift, a small alteration, a change.  “Five right... five right.”  And I like to think that what keeps me from failing completely is that I’m awake and aware and I don’t lie to myself (I think).  And I live my life (often saved by this very action) as if it were the law that friends have some responsibility to each other to point out when one of them is acting foolishly or dangerously.

So one way to change (if one really wants to change) is to actually alter some smaller behaviors – like saying, “No, I can’t eat there, because when I do that I have no control.”   And that works for me… mostly. And ‘mostly’ is all I’m looking for, because ‘mostly’ means that I’ve reduced a situation from ‘a lot’ to ‘a lot less.’ And if I can do that enough, then pretty soon ‘a lot less’ will become ‘none.’

But Gina is different. She could try eating correctly, but the truth is that she doesn’t want to… and she doesn’t really want to lose any weight, no matter what her mouth might say to the contrary.

My big pal Ollie says that his weight is what keeps him safe, that he has 375 reasons to keep someone away from him and his broken heart… using his weight to keep people at a distance. And that weight also cues him to who may be prejudiced against fat people. Ok, so that’s Ollie. But he knows what he’s doing – he’s aware of his situation and how he’s handling it. And he’s not kidding himself about things. Like his true weight and how often he eats fat-filled artery-choking foods (and in fairness, his diet is pretty innocuous – he just eats a hell of a lot more ‘healthy food’ than his friends do).

I like to think of myself as not bigoted. I stay vigilant for signs of prejudicial thinking. And I understand that there are people whose weight gain results from physical conditions beyond their control. I also know that ‘will power’ and ‘controlled intake’ are useless concepts to persons with thyroid or hormone problems – or those who cannot exercise because raising their heart rate will create a panic attack.  I get it. But I have a little bit of trouble trusting people who once were slim and are now the morbidly obese. They’ve eaten their way into a corner, and while it may have been a picnic getting there it can't be much fun to be in that corner now.  And even though it’s got to be a tough corner to escape, still I want to shout, Jesus, get a goddam grip – it doesn’t have to be this way.

Does that make me a jerk? I don’t know. Of course, me – I can’t even lose this little pot-belly I’ve acquired in my middle age, and god knows that I’ve had in my life my own ‘excesses’ that could only be corrected with enough true and active intent. And pain.  And, listen – I still have a few so-far-not-life-threatening excesses myself.  But it seems that I’m comfortable in those excesses (and their consequences) and so they don’t change much because I’ve become habituated. So what the hell do I know?

Well, I know that I can’t watch a friend commit slow suicide. And I know I won’t be the person who’s always complaining about my friend’s behavior. And I won’t be party to fry-cook-assisted suicide.

So I won’t be taking Gina out to eat anymore.

© 2011 Hakim - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: use without profit allowed only with author’s express written permission. Please don't wake up my attorney. Please.