We’re just driven toward comfort food.
I ate a glazed donut today I knew I shouldn’t eat. That’s because I’m 20 pounds over what I think I ought to weigh. Although a half century of lifting weights has permanently shaped me, the federal government’s body mass index insists on labeling me obese.
So I felt guilty downing the donut … and the Snickers bar earlier. But both tasted damn good. (They should, after all, because they’re loaded with sugar.)
So I indulged in a few “guilty pleasures.” So what?
Stress dominates my life, like it does so many of yours. There’s work. There’s getting along with other human beings. There’s school. There’s family strife. There’s anxiety over … everything. Much of that anxiety for all but a few thousand Americans has to do with paying the damn bills. So many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and often that paycheck just doesn’t stretch far enough. Choices are made: Mortgage over (for me) a new camera lens. Utility bills over the hot new kicks the kids want. Health insurance over almost everything.
So, for a few moments as that glazed donut and the Snickers slid down my throat, I had a respite from all that shit.
So many of us need that good ol’ comfort food. That’s what Mom used to make for dinner at the end of long days. Now, with both parents working, comfort food often becomes reduced to a greasy pizza delivered not always hot.
For so many, there’s little in America today that provides relief from the consequences of income inequities, of layoffs caused by a dumbass CEO moving the company overseas, of the fear of not being able to pay the hospital bills (let alone the cost of the drugs) when your child is ill with far more than the common cold.
So we’ve gotten fatter. About a third of Americans are obese. We don’t fit into airline seats too well (of course, much of that is due to the damn airlines shrinking seat room). We wear XL or XXL instead of M or L. We exercise less, in part because we’re too damn fat and feel like it’s no use. America ranks in the top 10 of nations in terms of obesity rates. We feel more aches and pains, too.
Even our kids feel the stress. Child obesity rates have tripled in the past three decades.
We’re not happy campers in America. The United States has fallen from 14th place to 18th in the latest World Happiness Report.
Frankly, it’s increasingly difficult to be happy in the United States. The disparity between the rich and the poor (and even the merely well-to-do) feels increasingly insurmountable. The institutions America has depended on for economic stability, security, and even inspiration have lost currency. Universities are run as businesses rather than academic institutions. Students are coddled; faculty are diminished; football and basketball coaches’ salaries are higher than those of university presidents.
Congress has become the playground of rich men (yes, men: they dominate). And the rich men aren’t even in Congress: They’re the billionaires who pour big money into keeping lackeys in power while they hide in anonymity behind obscure “social welfare” organizations. The last four presidents have promised much but delivered little other than maintenance of status quo — and none has ended wars. Now we have President Donald, an often-sued man-child of mendacious incompetence, narcissism, and lies who has appointed (mostly) white men with deep-seated desires to maintain and increase power for their ends rather than yours and mine.
Is it any wonder so many of us reach for a little something for comfort, for surcease of stress, for an easing of unrelenting economic anxiety? Is it any wonder so many reach for that donut, that Snickers bar … that beer … maybe even that line of coke?
Happiness is an expensive commodity in America today — and in too many places, it isn’t even for sale. And so we keep on puttin’ on the pounds.