Because It’s Hot? Really?

So, I was going to write about Claire Suddath’s article in Time about why Southerners are so fat over at Pith, but Hargrove beat me to it, so I’m posting it here, where we can talk frankly, if we have to, about cooters.

I have a few objections to the whole “The South is fat because it’s hot and there’s no public transportation” line of thinking.  The first being that it’s not even clear how the folks who declare us fat are determining fat. Notice how, at both Time and Pith, the picture used to illustrate the story is of someone who is quite fat. But the definition of “obese” when determined by BMI is so problematic that people who are muscular fall into the “obese” range.

Think of it like this.  Say, for the sake of ease, that everyone in the state is the same height, and say that a person at that height is considered “obese” if they weigh 151 or greater. We could have a whole state full of people who weight 155 and our state would be among the “fattest,” because we had 100% obesity, but Kentucky (also the same height as us), could have 15% of the population who weighs 600 and be less fat than us, because they only have 15% obesity.

But using the bodies they do to illustrate the story makes it seem like we’re talking about states full of very fat people.

And we all know that’s a problem because…


Why again?

Oh, yes, because being fat is associated with all kinds of health risks.

Which brings me to my next point (which, okay, frankly, I probably would not have talked about at Pith). I’m fat, as you all know. And my whole life I have been told that I would lose weight if only I ate less and were more active and still I gained and gained and gained and what do you know? Finally, I find a doctor who’s like “Wow, that’s really weird. Let’s run some tests. Holy shit. There’s something wrong with you. Here’s some medication. Take it and let’s at least see if we can’t make your body work right.”

So, my fat was a symptom of something being wrong with me, which was instead read as a personal failing on my part.  And, until I found the right doctor, neither me nor my doctors saw it as anything other than a personal failing.

We live in a very poor state where a lot of people don’t have access to proper healthcare.  How many of them have something medically wrong with them that is being dismissed by themselves and their doctors as just poor impulse control?  If they even have doctors, of course.

We are also, frankly, constantly being poisoned. Tomorrow people are being encouraged not to drive in Nashville because the air quality is so bad. We talked about Cato Road, and that is not an unusual occurance in this state, toxic dumps that leak into the ground water.  And look at the little present the TVA left us.

Even if we were to accept a model of fat being unusual, unhealthy, and abnormal (which I reject, but let’s just go with it a second), to act as if we live in a completely neutral environment that has no adverse effects on us and it’s all just a matter of eating right and exercising is stunningly stupid.

I don’t know.  I think the other reason I don’t like stories like this is that, in overlooking the health and environmental issues, it just feeds into this whole notion of the South as this ignorant place that the rest of the nation needs to alternately fear and feel great pity for.

And I’m kind of tired of that narrative, because much like “they’re fat because it’s hot,” it just seems too easy.

The Bathroom Monster


This is what I believe to be an accurate representation of how the tiny cat spent last night, head in the toilet, front paws on the seat.  I’m sure that, at some point, it ended up with her on the seat.

But when I went into the bathroom this morning, the floor was covered in water, there were muddy paw prints everywhere–on the sink, on the toilet seat, on the edge of the tub, in the tub.

When we were little, JR and I used to sneak into the bathroom and make all kinds of concoctions from perfume, water, baby powder, lotion, whatever we could get our hands on.  And the bathroom would look like holy hell when we were done.

I now suspect that the tiny cat is somehow conspiring with my mother to get even with me for that.

Wanting “Young People” to Participate

I’m going to be as vague about this as possible, both because my point is not to gossip and because I have certainly heard people complain about this in other organizations.

But let’s say there’s this liberal bakery.  And their specialty is baking a large amount of chocolate cakes, which they then sell to raise money for their liberal causes. And they have been doing this since the 60s.  Now, in this case, the bakery looks around and sees that everyone who is actively baking is in his or her late 40s or older or college age students who are responsible not for the baking but for the distribution of the baked goods.  So, they start talking about how they need to include more young people.

This ends up being people in their 30s.  But, okay, fine.

Now, say that the traditional chocolate cake that this group makes requires that you hand fold in some chocolate chips at the last minute.  And, since this last step requires hand-folding chocolate chips in, these liberal cake bakers have been hand-stirring the cake through the whole process.

So say these people in their 30s are like, wow, that takes a long time, means only a very few people can make cakes (since there are only so many bowls and stirring spoons to go around), and we have very few cakes to sell.  What if we just used a mixer until the last step and then hand-stirred in the chocolate chips?  That would be easier and faster and require less time commitment.

What do you think happens next?

A. These quasi-young people are thanked for their good idea and everyone smiles and marvels at how awesome it is to have a fresh take on the good work they’ve been doing and cake making procedes in an easier manner and they all live happily ever after.

B. There is a long, serious discussion about how the “young people” don’t understand that we simply cannot allow the chocolate chips to be stirred in in any way but by hand while the “young people” try to explain that, yes, duh, they get it and, in fact, have not been advocating for changing how the chocolate chips are added.

C. There’s a long, serious discussion about how important it is for the bakery’s history to be appreciated and while the young people might have a good idea, we remember back in 1975, when Russell tried to use a mixer back at the old building and it blew a fuse and they all were stuck in the dark, stumbling around.  Never mind that we’re not in the old building, that it’s not 1975, and that both fuses and mixers have improved since then, the bakery has taken a lesson from this historical moment.

D. Well, sure, maybe the bakery could use mixers, but it would have to get the okay from the State and from various organizations who’ve come to depend on the cakes and there might be rules or it might make folks uncomfortable, so I’ll look into it, but…

E. The “young people” start to feel like the bakery isn’t actually preparing for what will happen when the current crop of chefs leave and are confused.  After all, a bakery that only existed for the span of interest and ability of its core bakers is not unheard of. The bakers could have decided that they would see this thing through until their end and then it would be over and someone else who wanted to start a bakery could do so on their own terms. But the bakery approached the “young people” about finding a way to keep the bakery current and passing it on to the next generation of people who would come to care about it and feel invested in its well-being.

I will give you a hint, only A. did not happen.

And I quite honestly don’t get it. I mean, yes, I see that it happens all the time. I’ve seen churches kill themselves in this very way.  But I’m still stunned by it.  If you want people to care about what you’re doing and feel invested in it, you’ve got to give them some stake in it.  Bringing them on-board in hopes that they will help you preserve things just as they are now with museum-like quality is really no way to keep your organization living and thriving.