'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
FAT WAS ONCE FASHIONABLE
I’m living in the wrong century. A hundred years ago or so it was fashionable for men to be chubby and fair skinned. Back then guys flaunted their affluence by carrying around an extra 50 pounds of fat. The message to the envious masses was clear: “Ha ha, I can eat as much as I want whenever I want—while you’re not even sure if you’ll have supper tonight! Ha ha.”
It was also fashionable to have milky white skin which had never been exposed to so much as a single ultraviolet ray from the sun. The message again was clear: “Ha ha, I can sit on the veranda, under an umbrella, wearing this wide-brimmed hat—while you must labor in the hot sun all day long! Ha ha.”
(OK, well maybe they didn’t exactly sneer “Ha ha” or mock people to their faces in the 19th century, but that’s only because they had yet to discover that NBA superstars and HBO comedians make such wholesome role models.)
In the 1800s it was the ultimate embarrassment for a man to have strong rippling muscles, a firm washboard-like stomach, a golden brown tan, and sun bleached locks of hair. This was a sign that you worked outdoors and could not afford to stuff your face with food. What shame!
Nowadays, of course, only the ultra-rich can afford the personal trainers, health clubs, tanning salons, hair treatments, and lipo-suction surgeries needed to achieve this exact same look.
Today it is lean, firm, and bronzed bodies which attract the opposite sex, while a hundred years ago it was jiggling white flab which got the babes hot. “Oh Samuel, your quivering belly sets my heart aflutter!”
(OK, well maybe they didn’t exactly have “babes” in the 19th century, and no one ever “got hot” back then, because, as my mother once explained to me, sex wasn’t invented until the 1960s when everyone stopped going to church and began to disobey their parents.)
So, as I mentioned, I’m living in the wrong century. My pale, flabby physique would have fit in perfectly with the gentry class of the late 1800s, but here at the dawn of the 21st century, I’m just another over-fed, under-exercised, middle-class schlep.
However, unlike many of my fellow over-fed, under-exercised, middle-class schleps, I at least know when to leave my shirt on! Have you been to the beach lately? Have you been anywhere lately? America is experiencing an epidemic of extra-large exhibitionists who think nothing of hanging out by, well, literally hanging out.
A quick rule of thumb: if the spare tire around your midsection makes it impossible for anyone to tell whether or not you’re wearing a belt, then taking your shirt off in public is rude. (And if the spare tire around your midsection makes it impossible for anyone to tell whether or not you’re wearing shorts, then taking your shirt off in public is a felony.) Also, if you find that birds, woodland creatures, and small children are frequently getting stuck in your belly button, then you probably should leave your shirt on.
I recently had a little skin cancer scare, so now I’ve got the perfect excuse for leaving my shirt on at all times. It’s a little weird to go swimming at the state park while wearing a shirt (not to mention long pants and socks and sneakers and a hat and a scarf and gloves), but its better than getting another melanoma, and much better than being scolded by mothers for frightening their children. (“Mommy! Mommy! Help! You said there were no sea lions in this lake!”)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining that people are chubby. I’m certainly not one of those Nutrition Nazis, whining that anyone heftier than Ally McBeal is grossly overweight and demanding the government impose a tax on unhealthy food (meaning everything except alfalfa and Brussels sprouts). Yes, I realize obesity poses some health risks, but as long as the average life expectancy keeps increasing, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
My concern is more aesthetic. In this day and age, jiggling jelly bellies are simply not very attractive (nor do they make the babes hot, Samuel). So feel free to load up that jumbo-sized cooler and head to the state park this summer. Just do it with your shirt on.
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