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Shut up and pass the popcorn

Guess what: Americans are too fat. This fact was discovered recently by a panel of concerned experts and reported extensively in the news media, as though it were a shocking revelation.

The truth, of course, is that we Americans already know we have a weight problem. We notice it every time we get out of the shower and look in the bathroom mirror and see our head sitting on top of what appears to be a towel-clad manatee. We notice it when we're unable to get our wallet out of the back pocket of our relaxed-fit jeans without the aid of power tools. We notice it whenever we go to a mall and observe our fellow Americans, many of whom could not run the 100-meter dash in under four days, waddling around in logo-intensive stretch-fabric athletic wear, as though at any moment they're going to be called upon to represent the United States in the Big Butt Olympics.

So we know we're too fat. But that did not stop a panel of concerned experts from reminding us. This was a different panel from the one that announced recently that _ get ready _ Mexican food contains a lot of fat. The media jumped on this story as if the experts had come up with conclusive proof that Robert F. Kennedy was a woman.

This is the same way the media reacted when previous concerned expert panels announced that there was fat in Italian food, Chinese food, fast food, any breakfast food that does not taste like mulch, and of course the ultimate Death Food _ movie popcorn, which, as I recall from the wildly excited press coverage, contains more fat in one kernel than all the lard consumed by Allied troops in World War II. You got the impression from the media that after a movie ends the ushers have to use forklifts to clear the bloated corpses out of the theater.

What I want to know is, do these expert panels honestly believe we don't know what these foods contain? Do they believe that when we go to a Mexican restaurant, we don't notice that virtually every dish consists of beef fat fried in grease topped with cheese and sour cream and garnished with individual cholesterol molecules the size of squash balls?

We know perfectly well that we're eating fat. We just wish you experts would stop REMINDING us. Because the truth is, we LIKE fat. Fat tastes GOOD to human beings. That's the way we were designed by Mother Nature (who herself is a size 24). That's why we DON'T eat what you experts nag us to eat, namely, 27 individual portions per day of raw fruits and vegetables.

We don't want to live like some rabbit, nibbling nervously at a carrot, terrified because at any moment it could be eaten by an owl. We want to be like the mighty lion, which fears nothing and eats Mexican food whenever it chooses. Perhaps our diet is not so good for our hearts, but consider this: Of all the nations in the industrialized world, the United States ranks third-lowest in the number of people eaten each year by owls.

But we never hear this kind of good news from panels of concerned experts. They're too busy doing studies to prove yet again that we weigh too much and eat the wrong foods and don't exercise enough and watch too much TV and raise our kids wrong and smoke and drink and secretly pick our noses. And they LOVE to remind us that we're stupid. Coming up with new ways to point out the stupidity of Americans is probably the single most popular activity in the concerned-expert community.

Just about every week, you read a news story in which experts announce an alarming new study showing that seven out of every 10 Americans don't know how many limbs they have or cannot correctly identify their home planet.

I want you concerned experts out there to put your ears down next to the page and listen closely to what I am about to say: WE KNOW WE'RE STUPID. You don't have to keep reminding us. We see the evidence all around us every day. For example: Virtually everybody who drives in front of me is an idiot. I constantly find myself behind drivers who are startled and baffled by virtually everything they encounter, as though they've never been outdoors before.

They'll see, for example, a tree, and immediately they hit their brakes, as if they expect the tree to leap into the middle of the road. They also brake for mailboxes, buildings and their own rearview mirrors.

But above all, they brake for the most disturbing and mysterious of all earthly phenomena, a green traffic light, which causes them to come to a virtual standstill, paralyzed, until the light turns yellow and then red, at which point they accelerate to 275 miles per hour and shoot through the intersection, leaving me stuck at the light, shouting until spittle covers the dashboard.

My point, concerned experts, is that we Americans already know what we're like. You don't need to keep telling us. Your message has penetrated even our fat, stupid brains. Some days we get so depressed about it that we think about committing suicide by deliberately swallowing movie popcorn. We would wash it down with diet soda.

1994 Tribune Media Services