Saturday, August 23, 2008

Can I get my two-piece with a side of $300, plz?

Friday, I had a long day.

While I wanted to write you a blog post about all of the wonderful things I had done this summer in my internship, I had a hell of a time getting my last big project done. This brochure of doom (I feel like a Fettchen's Terminology Post is yet to come) was getting on my nerves and despite having excellent company for lunch, my microwavables weren't cutting it and I needed me some subway.

As my sister and I were strolling up to our local sandwich-artist-establishment, the radio station blaring, the music (Bleeding Love and other such delectables) cut to two female voices, trash talking, the kind of noise you just tune out. Today, however, was an exception.

Radio Transcript*

Did you hear about Alabama? They're giving people a year to lose weight and if they don't, they're going to charge them.


Nuh uh!

Yes huh.

You straight trippin'.

Yes, they're giving fat people one year to lose weight and then they're either going to have to leave, or pay.

Oh shit!

Yes, Oh shit indeed.

My sister and I were both completely taken aback. The people speaking on the radio station weren't so much outraged at the fact that a state was telling its citizens that they needed to lose weight or face paying more money—as they were thinking it funny that fat people were either going to have to "drop that two piece**" or flee Alabama.

I placed my order for a veggie delite, toasted, on italian herb and cheese with all the veggies (except green peppers), yes I do want banana peppers and mayo (light), oil and vinegar please, toasted while my sister had a mini-sub which she got for free with her card. I, of course, proceeded to get angry and bombast the radio talk show hosts with my sister. We both were completely flummoxed and despite our more than apparent anger—this invisible fear hung between us: It's happening. We, both overweight for our entire lives, have experienced the quite visible nonacceptance and at times blatant discrimination that overweight people face daily. Stares. Ugly little children pointing us out to their inattentive parents. Laughs. Ambivalence. The thought crossed both of our minds as we waited for our sandwiches.

If it could happen there, what's to stop it from happening here—happening to us?

When the radio was turned back on, we got the whole story. In fact, it isn't that Alabama is charging its citizens for being overweight, but its state workers. If after a year of leniency and access to state funded programs these workers do not make progress, they will be charged an extra $25 in health premiums, about $300 more than their BMI-efficient co-workers.

While I understand the logic (it apparently having worked for smoking state workers), I can't jump behind the motivations. In essence, this sends a message to the citizens of Alabama that their bodies aren't valued assets to the state, but are perceived as costing them more money, and as such, should be penalized. It doesn't look at diets, at body types, at activity, or even at overall health, but at a quantitative number that truly, only shows a minute part of someone's overall wellness. What should feel like a state saying "hey guy, it's okay, let's see what I, the recipient of your tax dollars, can do to help you become well" is instead yet another example of institutionalized discrimination against the obese.

When you penalize the obese, you send the message that they—that we—are unwelcome.

For me, this policy will creates more stressors and will likely cause people to lose weight rapidly and unhealthily. Alabama should be on the side of wellness and on the side of its state workers, not on the side of beauty and its pocketbooks.

*Artistic Representation not intended to actually quote the radio show hosts. Like, at all.
**This was actually said.


Anonymous said...

Alabama slammah.
I don't really have anything witty to say, just wanted you to know I was here! heehee.

Jake K.M. Paikai said...

Well thank you for consistently reading my diatribes. Es macht mit SpaƟ.

Matt Click said...

I heard about this. I didn't hear that horrible radio commercial, but I am aware of it. I'll be honest, my initial thoughts were: It worked with smokers, maybe it will help people get healthier. But the more I thought about it, the less I liked it, the worse it sat with me. At this point, I don't feel that it's a smart thing to do, and that it's only going to lead to more problems.

Great post, Jake. I like how you touch on serious, personal stuff without ever losing your wit and humor. I am adding you to R#09's blogroll as I type this.