You'll forgive me if I seem a little down today. But my hopes, my dreams are dashed.

I don't ask much out of life. I just want to fit into size 36 Dockers.

I was willing to do almost anything--except, you know, stop eating cheese fries.

Then along came liposuction, and I learned I could get the fat sucked out of my waist, no muss, no fuss. I've been dreaming about liposuction for 10 years. I assumed I was a prime candidate in that I was: 1) fat and 2) rich. What did that porpoise Kenny Rogers have that I didn't have?

But I read in USA Today that the death rate for liposuction is 20 to 60 times as high as the death rate for all operations-- including those in which the patient pretty much starts out dead. Apparently, having liposuction is more dangerous than, say, being operated on for a gaping chest wound. You'd think that most people electing to have liposuction were relatively healthy. Come on, they're just fat, they're not in a coma. At least not going in.

Liposuction kills. Go figure.

Who'd ever have thought that if you wanted a couple of inches off your waist it might be safer to literally sit down in a frying pan and sizzle it off?

Really sick people, total goners, die at an average of 1 in every 100,000 to 1 in every 300,000 operations. In liposuction it's 1 in every 5,000. (And just our luck, Linda Tripp was holding No. 4,999. Did you see all the stuff Tripp had done? A face lift, an eye lift, a nose job, a chin job and a big load of fat sucked out of her neck. I've seen "fixer-uppers" that didn't need that much work.) How is it possible so many people die from liposuction? What are the surgeons doing during the operation, playing Nintendo?

This is the worst medical news ever. I put my faith in medical science and this is what I get, a toe tag? Liposuction was my bail-out. But I'll have to rethink whether it's worth dying to squeeze into corduroys.

I called Man About Town Chip Muldoon for advice.

"You didn't think you'd be playing Russian roulette with liposuction, did you?" he asked. "But, what the hell, roll the dice. Phyllis Diller always seems to dodge the bullet. Why not you?"

My friend Nancy wasn't so reassuring. "I always said I'd rather die than have a big, fat can," she said. "Now I see that's probably the case."

It still puzzled me why people should die after liposuction. So using my excellent medical training, obtained from close study of resuscitation techniques as practiced on "Baywatch," I came up with a theory:

Okay, the liposuction patient has just been operated on. It's been, what, three, four hours since his last Grand Slam breakfast? Naturally, as soon as he comes to, he's lunging for the fried chicken, or maybe a slice of cream pie. But he's so light, he just flies off the gurney and cracks his skull on the floor. Another statistic.

"Not bad," Chip said.

Chip's theory was based on a different school of medical thought: the hour-long drama as opposed to the half-hour eye candy. Chip said: "During operations on 'Chicago Hope' they often drop a surgical tool inside the patient, and they can't find it. With liposuction, you're usually operating on someone the size of Louie Anderson. So you can lose an entire '57 Chevy in there, with no hope of fishing it back out. And that can be fatal, especially one of those models with tail fins."

This is terribly disturbing news because everybody my size wants liposuction. It gives you another chance at the buffet, doesn't it? You can take all those clothes you've been wearing lately--the oversize sweaters and the pants with the elastic waistband--and put them in mothballs. All the fat they can suck out of you in one hour, it'll take years to regain it. I was going to get liposuction and have my surgeon tattoo "Did Somebody Say McDonald's?" on my new shapely buttocks.

I imagined my first words upon awakening from surgery would be, "More gravy."

(Liposuction is becoming nearly as popular as laser eye surgery, which is such a rage that Starbucks is now offering free laser eye surgery with 10 purchases of "grande"-size coffees.)

The scariest news of all was the disclosure that any doctor can perform liposuction. One plastic surgeon was quoted as saying, "Even dentists have been doing it."

Dentists!

My doper friends in college became dentists because they couldn't get into medical school. I wouldn't let any of them sell me dental floss, much less open a hole in my body and suck out some flab. Who could possibly be below dentists on the surgical chain, optometrists?

According to the co-editor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, any doctor can attend a seminar and "learn how to perform liposuction within a few hours."

I don't know about you, but I'd like to believe that learning how to perform a tricky surgical procedure would take somewhat longer than getting your prints back from MotoPhoto. So forget about liposuction. I need to find another strategy for dealing with my big behind. Oh, you're probably thinking: diet, exercise, willpower. Yeah, sure.

I'm thinking: size 42 Dockers.