I was concerned when I read the first line of this week’s Shouts and Murmurs column in the New Yorker: “People say that obesity is an epidemic in America, but I’m determined not to become part of the problem.” Sure, it’s a humor feature, so I wasn’t expecting a serious account of personal weight obsession, but I had reason to expect a train wreck.
Imagine my surprise when I read on and the piece, “Looking Your Best” by Amy Ozols, turned out to be something we’d be proud to publish on this blog — along the lines of our helpful diet tips post, or any of Kate’s loftier flights of sarcasm. None of the underlying points about the all-consuming harmfulness of diets will be surprising to Shapelings, but it’s still a well-done satire that made me laugh out loud a couple times (“Try pouring water on your cereal or in your coffee. If you’re a baby, try pouring water into your mother’s breasts”).
The last paragraph is particularly sharp:
Step 9: Self-confidence is the most attractive trait a person can have. For this reason, strive to love yourself and accept yourself exactly as you are. This will be difficult if you are overweight, on account of your loathsome physical appearance and compromised value system, but do your best. And, if the going gets tough, remind yourself: every person is beautiful on the inside, provided that they are also extremely attractive on the outside.
Now that’s how satire is done! Again, the hypocrisies, fanaticisms, and contradictions Ozols lampoons will be more than familiar to readers of SP — but not to all readers of the New Yorker, and it’s always great to see skepticism about diet culture finagling its way into the public consciousness.
Enjoy, Shapelings! I’m spending the rest of my vacation reading humor in my fluffy new bathrobe (mainly James Thurber and the most recent Annals of Improbable Research), and I feel quite fortunate to be able to do so, so I am happy to be able to share something funny with you all.