Gettin' Jiggly With Joel

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By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, January 15, 2006

As you know, my primary New Year's resolution was to Get Fatter. To get heftier. To be hegemonic with my personal flesh. To become a man whose good fortune and contentment are advertised everywhere he goes by his jiggly amplitude.

I can report that I'm making great progress. I'm becoming formidable. I'm becoming someone who could merit a nickname like "Bubba" or "Hoss." I'm nearly at the point where I could walk into the most elite fashion-designer parties in Paris or Milan and "pull off" a big plaid.

You should get with the program. There are three reasons why this is a great time of year to resolve to gain weight.

First, it's going to happen anyway, and we might as well claim it's part of a plan. At this very moment we are in the heart, the meat you might say, of the Fat Season, the one time of the year when it's acceptable to look as though you're wearing a parka when you're actually in a T-shirt.

Second, people respect and admire anyone who seems happy as a jumbo individual. We may not say it out loud, but we are in awe of anyone whose relationship with an All-U-Can-Eat buffet is one of total mastery. You see a guy working his way down the line, heaping food on his plate without care or conscience, just destroying the vat of mashed potatoes, and it's like witnessing Genghis Khan laying waste to the Asian steppe.

Third, we need to get bigger for reasons of national security. America has many problems right now, foreign and domestic, but take one look at us in profile and you'll see we're not about to wither away. Flesh is our last dominant global industry. We've even out-competed the Germans. We've put the gross back in Gross Domestic Product. We're a nation that has made aggressive investments, down to the cellular and molecular level, against the possibility of famine. If the average American is 20 pounds overweight, that comes to an approximate total of 6 billion pounds of emergency backup fat. Military planners call this the Strategic Pudge Reserve.

My big concern is inequality. Not all the extra beef is distributed evenly across the continent. On the coasts and in big cities, people tend to be borderline emaciated, their skin stretched over their skulls, their necks seemingly too small to contain both a throat and a spine. I know men who train for triathlons by running marathons, and who look like medical textbook diagrams of the inside of a human being: a mass of veins, arteries, muscles and tendons.

Then there's that classic urban moment when a waiter comes by the table with the dessert cart, and everyone reacts as though he's wheeled in some roadkill. Finally, one person will shrug dramatically and -- Cuttin' loose! Goin' crazy! -- order the fat-free lemon square with three raspberries on top. Everyone else will stare ravenously, until the waiter has mercy and brings eight forks.

I don't believe in making sweeping generalizations, but if you go about 50 miles west of Washington, you're suddenly in the Land of the Giants. You stay that way for pretty much the entire continent, until finally you cross the Sierra Nevada and find yourself among the skeletal sprout-eaters.

I know a little bit about farm country. My mom's a farm girl. When we visit the family farm in the Midwest, there are guaranteed to be three very square meals a day, all including bacon. If you go to one of the local restaurants, the menu consists of cheeseburgers, cheesecake, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese fries and that Midwestern favorite, cheese-covered cheese. Check out the customers, and you'll notice that every person could be subdivided into two or even three Washington-size people. It's an entire society devoted to food processing.

If I were a senator from a Midwestern state, I would demand that federal dollars be apportioned not by population but by quantity of human meat. I'd want to be able to say, "Measured by weight, my state is bigger than California!"

Perhaps the Constitution should be amended. You get two senators per state, but a third, a "bonus" senator, if you can top 220 pounds per capita.

I know, you scoff at the idea. But that's not your main reaction. Admit it: This is making you hungry.

Read Joel Achenbach weekdays at washingtonpost.com/achenblog.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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