Monthly Archives: June 2015

Happy Father’s Day to My Favorite “Relic from Another Era”!

Amy Hill Hearth's father.

Amy Hill Hearth’s father.

My dad’s way of dealing with challenging situations in life – most recently, aging – is to face them head-on with humor.

In recent years, he has started referring to himself as “the Relic from Another Era,” followed by a hearty chuckle.

I sometimes forget that he’s 91.

And then something happens that reminds me. Recently, for example, I came across a photo of him as a little boy wearing a sailor suit. Yes, it was the 1920s, and yes, it was the height of fashion for boys to be dressed that way. But frankly he looks like Lady Mary Crawley’s little darling son in “Downton Abbey.” Talk about a relic from another era!

“Your grandmother insisted on dressing me in those awful sailor suits,” he complains, then laughs. “I hated them!”

Hated them so much, in fact, that when he decided to enlist in the Armed Services, he chose Army over Navy. “No way was I going to wear a sailor suit,” he recalls with a smile.

He’s not so sure that his generation was “The Greatest” but he adds, “We were pretty darned good, I guess!” Lately, as a way of dealing with the fact that his Army buddies have passed away one by one, he’s been calling himself, “The Greatest Remnant, hahaha!”

Indeed, when he talks about the war is when I remember, with a shock, how old he is. Recently he was sharing his war experiences with someone at a doctor’s office. The part that sounded especially antiquated was when he mentioned that his training in the Army started in 1942 and included “horse drawn artillery.”

You have to admit, that sounds rather quaint. Horse drawn artillery?

But to me, he’s still the same man who patiently read to me from my favorite picture books. He taught me how to ride a bicycle and a thousand other things, such as how to sail, canoe, start an outboard motor, write my first resume, and drive a car.

When I was six and lost a baby tooth, then accidentally let it slip through my fingers and down the sink drain, it was Dad who came up with the idea to write a letter to the tooth fairy, explaining the situation.

Although I was the youngest of four, and most of my friend’s fathers were quite a bit younger than him, he was an energetic and involved dad. Unique among the dads in our neighborhood in the 1960s, he would go trick or treating with us – and wore a wolf mask. (If any mean boys tried to scare my sister or me, he would howl and leap out from behind a tree. How cool is that?)

I can recall those days as if they occurred last week. Dad is not the same spry, athletic person he was. But he’s still Dad.

Same laugh. Same blue eyes.

And same great outlook on life.

Happy Father’s Day to the Greatest Remnant, and all of the great dads out there!

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Filed under People, Remembrances

The Shame Game

I’ve always had a strong sense of justice, and recently I came across a newly-published book that appealed to the side of me which likes to champion the underdog.

The book is called Fat-Talk Nation, and it was written by an anthropologist named Susan Greenhalgh. The subtitle of the book, published by Cornell University Press, is The Human Costs of America’s War on Fat.Cover, Fat-Talk Nation

The premise of the book caught my attention.

And, it got me thinking.

While it’s not news that Americans are fixated on weight, Dr. Greenhalgh believes we’ve reached a new level of hyper-awareness with the so-called “war on fat.”
Dr. Greenhalgh realized that while everyone was talking, admonishing, shaming, scolding, and essentially freaking out about how fat Americans have become, no one
had looked into the impact this relentless message was having on young people who are growing up during the war on fat era.

What she learned by listening to the stories of forty-five young people is that they were so anxious about their weight that it was wrecking their lives. We’ve reached the point where virtually no one feels good about their weight and body image.

What’s chilling is the stories themselves. Parents, aunts and uncles, school personnel – many people in authority seem oblivious to the impact of “fat shaming.”

And yet, according to Dr. Greenhalgh, tying a young person’s self-worth so closely to his or her weight is a recipe for disaster not just for the individual. It warps and interferes with the creation of normal, healthy relationships.

Those who are categorized “morbidly” obese do have an increased risk of death – and indeed we should be doing what we can to help them. But it’s pretty clear from Dr. Greenhalgh’s research that lecturing them does not get results.

Besides, there is a significant group of Americans, Dr. Greenhalgh points out, who fall into the category of “slightly obese” and who have a 5 percent LOWER risk of
early death.

In other words, the war on fat is not just misguided. It may be flat-out wrong.

Are there people who eat too much? Sure. Are there folks who eat unhealthy foods? Absolutely. Are there people who have a sedentary lifestyle? Of course.

But why is it acceptable, even encouraged, to ridicule them? To be cruel, and condescending?

It seems we live in an age that applauds the virtues of acceptance and tolerance, but none of that positive energy and generosity applies to the word “fat.”

I once knew a teenaged girl who was ridiculed (even by adults) for being overweight. What they did not know was that she’d had a kidney transplant, and the medications which kept her alive also made her gain weight. In fact, unwanted weight gain can be a side effect of a number of prescription medications. Should people be shamed into NOT taking medications which improve or even save their lives?

Here’s something else to ponder: There seems to be a weight-gain connection to endocrine-disrupting synthetic chemicals which have become part of American daily
life since the 1950s and 1960s. These chemicals exist in household products, food, water, and the air we breathe. What if it turns out that some people are more
susceptible to these chemicals than others, genetically speaking?

Kudos to Dr. Greenhalgh for her research, and for calling attention to another side to this important story.

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Filed under Stereotypes