Washington Post Article Denigrates the Obese

Anyone who is unemployed or underemployed or knows someone who is, knows how difficult it is eat healthy in this country. The elderly have to choose between medicine and food, much less organic food. The working mom who works a job — most likely jobs, plural — in a rural setting probably has few options aside from a Wal-Mart or a convenience store that is miles and miles away. The truck driver or low-income road warrior has even less options because he has no kitchen and no money to eat at an upscale restaurant.

Let’s face it. Eating healthy, like organic produce, is more expensive than the dollar menu at McDonald’s, and actually requires someone with time to cook it. Is it any wonder so many people eat the latter?

Apparently, none of the editors at the Washington Post face these issues, or have even encountered them in their Capitol Hill enclaves. Otherwise, they would have never published the libertarian crap spewed in the article, “Five myths about healthy eating.”

A well-known libertarian, who I am assuming does not live in one of these “food deserts,” dismissed all the structural challenges people have to eat healthy, and instead, denigrated the obese for being lazy.

Preparing a big pot of lentils for the week may be not be glamorous, but it’s much cheaper and not much more time-consuming than cooking up frozen pizza or mac and cheese.

What planet does this woman live on? Cooking lentils and chopping vegetables — if you actually want flavor in those lentils — is much more time consuming than sticking a pizza in the oven. The frozen mac and cheese? 4 minutes in the microwave. Is it any wonder that parents, who are increasingly stretched for time, relying on frozen food?

If you can stand it, here are more generalizations in this article:

In many urban neighborhoods, it’s easier to get permission to open a sex shop than a Taco Bell, thanks to aggressive policies by local zoning boards. But zoning out fast-food restaurants in cities is a lost cause — they are probably already too thick on the ground for new restrictions to alter the culinary mix. The same study that found no effect on diet from increased access to fruits and vegetables also found that proximity to fast-food restaurants had only a small effect, and it was limited to young, low-income men.

I have lived in urban neighborhoods almost all my life, and I can tell you that the first line is just b.s.. Nearby Oakland, California, has a strict zoning process, yet fast food restaurants dot the neighborhood, even the middle class one Ari’s school is in.  

As for negative effects being limited to “only” low-income men, nowadays with the recession that’s a lot of people!

As for the writer’s case that junk food advertising has no effect on children, I don’t know any mom who wouldn’t say otherwise. When my kids watch commercials, they definitely ask for all the toys and foods that are advertised. Also, if junk food manufacturers really were having no effect on children, why would they pay to advertise in the first place?

The Washington Post was way off the mark in publishing this article.


Carolyn Hax on Comforting an Infertile Friend

Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax doled out some poignant advice to a woman in Texas who said she was “broken” because she was unable to conceive children. The thread, which was a long one, ended up taking weird twists and turns as the woman, who also happens to be a stepmom, continued to write.

Here is the original letter and Hax’s response:

Texas: How do I get over the pain of never being a Mommy? We are completely infertile, both totally broken. Adoption is not an option for us for a plethora of reasons. I am a stepmom and I have good relationships with my stepkids but as everybody and their dog like to remind me, I am not their mom. Now I know I will never be anybody’s mom, and it is breaking my heart. I feel like such a loser.

Carolyn Hax: Is that the way you regard other people who haven’t, for whatever reason, been able to bear their own children? As broken losers?

I have to think you wouldn’t dream of being so tough on them.

It’s not often that I need to turn the Golden Rule around like this, but: You need to think of the way you’d treat a close and beloved friend who was in your exact situation, and then start showing yourself the same kindness and generosity of spirit.

There are also some very good resources available for helping you make peace with your circumstances (and that is just what they are–circumstances; there’s nothing more to be read into them). Resolve.org is one that’s at your fingertips and that readers recommend almost every time infertility comes up. Take care of yourself–and those stepchildren, too. You may not be “their mom,” but you’re a prominent part of their lives. If they’re still minors, you have nothing less than the power to make or break their childhoods. Put your heart into your relationship with them, and that will bring its own rewards.

Initially, readers offered all kinds of advice like counseling, while some readers took issue with Hax’s non-chalance on the issue as there are folks out there who believe you are not worth anything unless you have children.

Carolyn Hax: “The vast majority of people”? I refuse to believe people are this willfully rigid in their beliefs, the popularity of Fox News notwithstanding.

“The vast majority of people”?: I’d agree with Woodbridge. I can’t tell you how many times I been faced with family and friends “So what are you up to?” I tell them I have a great job, doing work I support, with co- workers who are like minded, I’m happy, have friends, etc.

“Oh. But you’re not married? No kids? Oh.” Never do I hear “that’s great, I’m so happy for you.”

Apparently, contentment is not enough.

Carolyn Hax: Hmmm I dunno. The scene you describe could also be titled, “Conversations with the socially inept,” and not just, “Single/childless people have no value in society’s eyes.”

For the sake of argument, though–let’s stipulate to what you’re arguing, but move closer to the original Q and A. Let’s take the family and friends you’re talking about, and put them in the position of individual friends. One of them has a friend who has just confided that s/he’s unable to conceive children.

Would these people actually respond by treating their anguished friend as a “broken loser”? Or would they comfort the friend, assure him or her that it’s just a tough break and s/he has no reason to feel bad about him- or herself?

If it’s not the latter, I might have to do two laps of the table.

Then Texas responded, throwing this entire conversation into another direction:

Texas again: Thanks Carolyn and ‘nuts. I appreciate what you said and will give it some thought. As to putting my heart into my relationship with my stepkids, I already do that (I am not being boastful to say I give above and beyond) and frankly it is not reward enough in and of itself, maybe because I get so much grief from their mom for wanting to be actively involved in their lives.

As for counseling for my anger (yes, I’m ticked that my husband caved to his ex’s relentless bullying for a vasectomy that wasn’t successfully reversed), I have seen two counselors about that and both of them advised me to do everything in my power to have a baby of my own, that it would “solve everything”. Barf. Time to find a new counselor, I guess. I just feel so lost and hopeless about my future.

Texas again: BTW in case anyone wants to know why I’m ticked that he caved to her bullying about the vasectomy, it’s because she was already having an affair and flat out told him she didn’t want him to have kids with anyone else.

Carolyn Hax: Your frustration makes so much sense; your husband’s ex seems to have thrown up barriers to your happiness that were mean-spirited and selfish–and selfish, mean-spirited actions aren’t supposed to win out, only good-hearted ones are.

I can also see why your counselors have advised going all out to have a child on your own, because it would indeed solve part of the problem, your perception of the ex as having “won.”

But that doesn’t mean that was and is your only option. First of all, the grief the ex is giving you for being involved in her kids’ lives isn’t the end of the story. That remains to be written, and if you can keep summoning the resolve to keep going above and beyond with your stepchildren, then there’s an excellent chance you will create a soul-saving example for these kids of humanity, selflessness, strength.

They may never thank you for this favor, or even like you more for it, but it will be inside them and it will matter, and you will always know you did that. Under thankless conditions, no less.

I also think it’s important that you turn your attention to other ways you can be the person you had always imagined yourself to be–or to new ways you can now imagine yourself to be. Maybe you’re not ready yet–maybe the grief and anger are too fresh, and this may even have to wait till your stepchildren are independent enough–but there are other places and other ways to love and nurture.

If you can’t get your current therapist to walk with you in this direction, then, yes, it’s time for another. But if you haven’t said outright that you find the “try even harder for a baby” guidance unhelpful, then you need to articulate that, and ask for other avenues for (a) reducing the amount of anger you feel at the ex and your husband, and (b) reducing the amount of control they have had, and particularly that she has had, on both your daily life and your long-term goals and dreams. You have the last word on so many other things, and those are where your attention belongs.

Once Texas mentioned the irreversible vasectomy, one reader mentioned the possibility of retrieving his sperm another way to create a biological child. Hax said she was reluctant to mention this idea as it sounded like Texas had tried it all. Read on:

I’ve been debating whether to mention this, since it does seem as if they’ve tried it all, in which case mentioning alternatives would be the infertility-treatment equivalent of “You can always adopt.” But if the only thing standing between Texas and childbirth is a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist, well, I’d hate to have been too timid to throw it out there.

So I will, with my own apologies in advance.

Possibily insensitive adoptive dad again: I guess what I’m asking is, when I see comments dismissing adoption as a viable alternative, why shouldn’t I be defensive on behalf of my daughter?

Carolyn Hax: They’re not dismissing adoption as a viable alternative; they’re dismissing -mentioning it.

This is a topic that goes way back, but I’ll try to explain it quickly, because frankly I’m beat and need to sign off: Think of it as the baby-having equivalent to, “You’ll meet someone when you least expect it,” for people who are sad about loneliness or a breakup. It’s condescending, denies/minimizes the pain of what the person is feeling, and doesn’t tell the person anything s/he doesn’t already know—while also minimizing the difficulty of the process.-

So, of course adoption is a beautiful way to create a family. It just makes a lousy platitude.

Like I said, this was a long and interesting thread. What non-platitudes have you used to comfort an infertile friend or family member?


Michael Gerson on Suicide

Normally, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson drives me insane with his nonsensical, anti-liberal diatribes. But he recently wrote a thoughtful column having to do with the suicide of Michael Blosil, entertainer Marie Osmond’s 18-year-old son.

People seem naturally interested in news indicating that the famous share our struggles. In this case, it is true. Suicides outnumber homicides in America, making self-hatred more lethal than violence by others. In 2009, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 1.1 million Americans had attempted suicide during the previous year. By one estimate, “successful” suicides have left behind 4.5 million family survivors, who live with ghosts each day.

Suicidology is a well-studied academic field. Suicide is most prevalent among the young and the old. It is associated with depression, feelings of hopelessness, substance abuse and low levels of serotonin in the brain. Females attempt suicide more often than males. Males complete it more often than females. Suicide rates are higher among people who are divorced, separated or widowed, and lower among the married.

But such quantification provides only the illusion of control. The mind does not experience itself as a scientific object but, rather, as an interpreter of reality. One’s brain can contemplate one’s spleen objectively. One’s brain cannot consider one’s brain objectively, because its judgments seem real even when they are distorted….

For those who yield to the logic of the nightmare, it is difficult to be harsh or judgmental. Empathy, like grace, can reach to the grave.

Yet suicide is often preventable. Coping can be learned. Medication can treat underlying depression. But precisely because despair can rob individuals of judgment, it may require family and friends to intervene. This task is complicated by the pervasive loneliness of our society. Americans have become more mobile, more isolated and more likely to live in single-person households. When a 1985 survey asked, “How many confidants do you have?” the most frequent response was three. In 2004, the most popular answer was zero. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago calls this trend “frightening.” It leads, he says, to a “pernicious feedback loop” in which loneliness leads to depression, which causes further lethargy and withdrawal. There are a lot of lonely souls.

The suicidal may actively withdraw from family and friends or alienate them with unfair burdens. At some point, loved ones are tempted to respond, “Just get over it.” But persistence, in these cases, is the primary evidence of love and friendship.

He ends his column with a national prevention hotline. A good public service, IMHO, considering how isolated we are as a people.


Luxury Items You Would Give Your Kids?

Oh. My. God.

I (thankfully) have never seen the MTV reality show, My Super Sweet Sixteen, but apparently rap mogul Diddy was recently on hand to give his 16-year-old son, Justin, a star-studded bash and a $360,000 luxury sedan. Oy vey.

From the blog appropriately titled omg!:

His dad didn’t just throw Justin a huge, star-studded birthday party at the Manhattan club M2 Ultralounge on Saturday night. He also presented the youngster with a brand-new Maybach, wrapped in a red bow and parked outside the club.

The party, which was filmed for the MTV reality show “My Super Sweet Sixteen,” featured performances by rappers Fabolous, Lil’ Kim, and Jim Jones. Cast members from “Jersey Shore” were also there to wish Justin a happy birthday.

In addition to the wheels, Diddy gave his son a check for $10,000, which Justin immediately donated to Wyclef Jean’s charity Yele Haiti. And since the teenager doesn’t yet drive or have a license, Diddy provided him with a uniformed driver to escort the teen and his friends around Manhattan.

My reaction upon seeing the headline was I can’t believe the “Diddies” are flashing their wares while hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have been left homeless in Haiti. Sorry, I know it is judgmental, but I can’t help myself. You could say my reaction mirrored that of Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary: “I have never heard of that model of car and even if I had it like that, I wouldn’t give it like that. Would you? Let’s talk celebrity cash. If you were loaded like Diddy, would you give your child a sweet sixteen party and car collectively worth what several households make in one year?”

Seriously. So now I will pose the same question to you: If the cash was flowing like champagne, would you get your unlicensed 16-year-old a high-end car? What luxury items would you invest in or like to have?


Study: Married College Graduates Make More Money

Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary just covered a study showing that married college graduates are the demographic most likely to make money in this country.

Here is some background on the report:

“Americans who already have the largest incomes and who have had the largest gains in earnings since 1970 — college graduates — have fortified their financial advantage over less-educated Americans because of their greater tendency to be married,” wrote the authors of a Pew Research Center report that examined economic gains over the past four decades among U.S.-born men and women ages 30 to 44.

The big news about this report has centered on the fact that there’s been a shift in gender roles. A larger share of men in 2007, compared with their 1970 counterparts, were married to women whose educations and incomes exceeded their own.

But there are some other very interesting statistics in the Pew report.

It found that having a working spouse often makes you better off financially….In adjusted numbers, unmarried men earned $56,951 annually on average in 1970, increasing to $65,849 in 2007. Unmarried women in 2007 earned $30,597, increasing to $48,738 in 2007.

Now let’s compare that with married men and women. Married men earned $45,785 in 1970. Nearly four decades later, their income rose to an average $73,774. For married women, average income went from $46,669 to $74,642.

The uptick in this report are the academic and financial gains women have made since 1970. I loved how Singletary ended her story: “Decades ago, some men used to joke about marriage being a yoke around their necks, but the statistics today no longer back this up.”


Carolyn Hax on Demanding Grandparents

Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax doled out advice to new parents stuck in the middle of family members who want them to visit with the new baby. Here is the situation:

My husband and I live an hour from our families, and each lives in a different town. We try hard to spend equal time with each. Yet we are trapped in a constant tug-of-war between his parents and mine, and between my mother and father, who are divorced. We have an infant son whom they covet, but my mother can’t stand that I spend time with my father because of his wife (“that woman”), and my mother-in-law constantly picks at us for visiting my parents “too much.” It is starting to seem more like a competition than a desire to see their grandchild.

Hax recommended telling the grandparents to “respect our choices” and to come up with a visiting schedule. Overall, her advice seemed sound. But I would add that the new parents must be exhausted with a newborn; that these family members should consider visiting and lending a hand as opposed to waiting for the parents to get to them. I bet there would be a lot less insistence to see them if this were the case. That’s just my hunch. What do you think?


From the “Duh” Files…

I guffawed at this Washington Post story. Read on:

Insurers quietly fund opposition to Democrats’ health push
Updated 9:30 p.m.
By Dan Eggen
The nation’s largest health insurance group confirmed Tuesday that it quietly funneled millions of dollars to an advertising campaign opposing Democratic health-care legislation even as it was publicly pledging support for reform.

Wait a minute…This is a secret? Are Pulitzer Prizes awarded for stating the obvious? Geez.


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

When you are asked whether you want to pay with debit or credit, always opt for debit. According to a story in the New York Times, your bank will charge the store — and ultimately you, if the store is forced to raise prices — 75 cents for every $100 spent when you sign for a purchase rather than punch in the 4-digit code of your debit card.

Daddy Dialectic’s Jeremy Adam Smith wrote a great piece for Mothering magazine on how fathers can inject a little sanity into kid sports.

The Washington Post ran an editorial about Randi Weingarten, the new president of the American Federation of Teachers union.

One-third of American adults are considered obese, but that rate has been slowing, according the Wall Street Journal.

Newsweek has an article on the uptick in men-on-men sexual harassment claims.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Two Black Ministers on Gay Marriage

Two African-American pastors in D.C. wrote a touching and powerful column on why they support and have even married gay couples in their own church. They also wrote fascinating analysis on why the African-American community is perceived as homophobic, which as they pointed out, is unfair.

I thought their analysis of how different people interpret the bible, based on their culture and upbringing, was brilliant:

When issues of gay rights and gay marriage come up, the first question many black people ask is, “What does the Bible have to say about it?” This seemingly innocent question doesn’t acknowledge that when we approach the Bible, our perspective has been shaped by where we were born, by whom we were raised, what Grandma taught us, where we went to school and what our pastor preached in church — usually conservative ideas on matters such as homosexuality. Therefore, we tend to interpret the Bible not objectively, but through the lens of our cultural and historical context.

The conservative strand of black religion is evident in what Harvard professor Peter Gomes calls “bibliolatry” — the practice of worshiping the Bible rather than worshiping God. It is also found in a “literal” interpretation of the Bible that focuses more on the letter of the text than on its spirit, and concentrates on passages about domination, oppression, hierarchy, elitism and exclusion rather than on the major themes of love, justice, freedom, equality and inclusion that run throughout the Bible.

Anyways, this article is worth a read. In related news, D.C. businesses expect a “windfall” if and when gay marriage is legalized, according to the Post.


The Conflict at Catholic Colleges

The Washington Post recently interviewed three college professors with a combined 114 years of teaching at Catholic colleges and universities.

Their experiences as liberal Catholics in an ever-changing Catholic setting was fascinating. Here is what one professor had to say about his tenure at Notre Dame in Indiana:

The major advantage of teaching at Notre Dame the last 47 years,” (Peter) Walshe said, “has been the fairly widespread if often inchoate acceptance of the Exodus, Covenant and Gospels as a basis for hope, for a sense of linear history with which there is an ongoing moral challenge to build more compassionate and egalitarian societies. In short, I have found an openness to value issues, matters of charity and deepening our understanding of justice.”

Have there been disappointments? “The university’s sense of mission has faltered on at least three fronts,” Walshe said. “It has not reached out in a decisive way to invite members of other Christian denominations to join us, particularly in sharing insights on matters of theology, history and justice. We do not have a mosque or synagogue on campus. Notre Dame, in tandem with recent popes and the Vatican, has also frowned on liberation theology. Unions are still not tolerated on campus.”

In a 1996 piece in Common Sense, Walshe wrote of the “monied power” and “pro-capitalist leadership” that Notre Dame nurtures: “Take our governing body, the board of trustees, weighted with extravagantly paid corporate CEOs and their lawyers. Where are the doctors serving in our inner cities, the devoted social workers, trade unionists and leaders of service-oriented NGOs?”

Here is what another professor, Tom Lee, had to say about teaching at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire:

As with (Michael) True, who tangled with the Assumption fathers who run the school, Lee, who taught biology, has had tensions with the St. Anselm Benedictines.

“Over the years, I did try to drum up some student activism about a number of causes, often relating to questions of war and peace,” Lee said. “I had very few takers, with some wonderful exceptions, and while the school administration was adamantly against abortion, they cared little for the seamless-garment argument for protecting all life by choosing nonviolence over war.”

Have any of you or your children attended Catholic colleges or universities? How does the experience compare back then to now?