“You know, George Burns smoked all his life and he lived to be 100” she said, as she puffed away on her cigarette., squinting at me through the haze of smoke.
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard my mom say that. She always drew on his example whenever one of us complained that she was shortening her life with her habit. I don’t think any of us were feeling the need to get all up in her business about it though: she lived a hard life with a cruel and vicious husband. So what if she had this one vice? This was something she clearly enjoyed, so who were we to cause her any angst?
Though she died at a young age (71), I’m still not sure I’d change anything. She knew the score. She was an intelligent woman, and she knew full well that George Burns was the exception not the rule. She knew she was playing a form of Russian Roulette – which she ultimately lost.
I wonder though: if she had known that 71 was her magic number, would she have changed her mind? There was so much left that she wanted to do. She was fascinated by computers and the internet, and never got a chance to have one or get on the other before she died. She expressed interest and I had promised to get her set up. It didn’t happen.
Spilt milk. Barn doors and horses.
The past is done.
Enter the present.
I was on Facebook and the subject was Chris Christie. He is one of the few die-hard Republican for whom I hold a hearty respect. (No worries, I’m not here to talk about politics. You can stay and read on.)
The group was mostly conservative, though there were a few independents there, including myself. We all seemed to like him, and a few of us thought that maybe he’d be a good candidate for a future Presidential election.
One guy – we’ll call him “Ace” said: “well u should like christey cause he will be prez in 2020, and rubio as the vip”
(Naturally my spelling and grammar Nazi hackles went up after reading that. I stifled those reactions, repression being the healthier choice. May have sprained something though.)
“Peter” said: “I frankly wouldn’t bet heavily on a 300lb 50 year-old seeing 2020.”
The conversation went back and forth between them. Ace thought it was unfair to pick on the man because of his weight, and I jumped in with a note that the weight thing wasn’t a political or partisan slam; that it was a real factor. Quite apart from the politics, being morbidly obese has a number of highly probable consequences. I felt that his running for office in 2020 would be an exercise in optimism.
Then, “Ace” came back with this erudite observation: “hell i am obesed and 54 and I am very much alive”
I don’t normally comment on anyone’s health habits, whether it involves weight or smoking. And I am loathe to comment on anyone’s cerebral faculties: the written word is not always the best indicator of a person’s mental capacity or resources. A person might have learning disabilities or a mental condition which precludes accurate and graceful discussion. This is also why I refrained from commenting on Ace’s spelling and grammar.
However, using one’s own obesity to bolster a point that Chris Christie’s morbid obesity does not pose a health risk struck me as slightly obscene.
I said “well you should be worried too.”
“In addition to heart problems, there are potential health risks to be considered, such as stroke and diabetes”, I added. “This isn’t a personal shot against you though: it’s just a reality.”
The man replied “i am not ignoring anything ohave the heart rate of a 20 year old and the b/p of a 20 year old, so yes i plan on being here along time” (sic)
To say I was amazed would be an understatement. The more I argued with him, the more he denied any potential issues. It was like talking to an emo teenager.
I said “do you even know what being ‘morbidly obese’ means? Or for that matter, do you understand the meaning of the word ‘morbid’?”
Eventually though, I gave up. There wasn’t any point, especially after he bragged about being a smoker too.
It just amazes me that anyone can be so neck-deep in denial as to honestly believe that he can live that way and not suffer consequences. The hospitals are filled with denial-based consequences. In fact, doctors will say that most patients aren’t in there for exotic or unusual diseases; most are dying from preventable behaviour-based illnesses.
I would have understood if he had argued the way my Mom did. If he had said “look I know all of the statistics and the dangers, and I’m okay with them – just shut up about it”, it would have been easier to drop the topic. The fact that he used his own stupidity-based beliefs to justify his stance that Governor Christie has nothing to worry about seemed bizarre beyond belief.
I finally said “You’re insistent upon your march to the grave. Eat as much as you want and smoke as much as you want. It’s not my business, Ace.”
It really isn’t. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to tolerate obstinate stupidity or wilful ignorance though. It’s the itch you can’t scratch, or put balm on. And you can’t take a knife to it, and cut it out of your psyche. It’s there and you have to pretend it isn’t. Like foreign matter dangling from the boss’s majestic nose.