Rendered Fat Content


1930s Lux Soap advertisement

"As long as self-worth is tied up in someone else or something else, the stage is set for rage." Virginia Satir

" … sanity might only exist in strict isolation."

My paternal grandmother was addicted to TheSoaps. Whatever else she might have been engaged in, when the time came for 'her shows,' us kids would get kicked outside for the duration. I'm certain that she loved us, in her fashion, but I'm even more certain that she loved 'her shows' much, much more. How could she not? 'Her shows' offered access to the glamour and sleaze her actual life sorely lacked. She'd already out-lived three husbands and had neither aspirations nor prospects, so she apparently opted to live vicariously. Who could blame her? She'd sit rapt and speak to the TV set, offering sage advice to the racy divorcee on the screen, probably from her own vast experience entangled within various love triangles. I only ever saw her exhibit fits of genuine rage when Lance or whatever his name was stepped out on his wife again. In those days, three or four full middle-of-each-weekday hours were reserved for goings on along The Edge Of Night, and she'd never miss an episode. She even subscribed to Soap Opera Digest so she could pour over prior plots and engage in speculations over where those stories—her extended family, really—might next turn. Even then, I thought TheSoaps a sad surrogate for what we'd later label A Life.

I, too, spend many hours each day with headset in place, tuned into some more pleasingly distracting alternate universe.
I might justify my choice by explaining that I'm listening to Jill Lahore's latest high-brow audio book, but I maintain my distracted distance with the same religious devotion my grandmother exhibited. I'm here but also there then, or so I pretend. I'm likely neither here nor there and perhaps nowhere, and as another day shuffles into four o'clock and the western horizon colors, I catch myself struggling to disengage to start working on suppers. I might spend my days in an audio-induced trance, but evenings bring video into focus as I can't seem to avert my eyes from whatever outrage boils over that day. I might finally meet up with myself along about bed time, but I wash up on a barren shore by then, often seething at the curious impotence I feel, for I've witnesses infuriating events over which I can find no plausible defense. It seems as though I've been taken advantage of, though I understand that I've probably just taken advantage of myself again. TheSoaps got me.

These days, the advertisements almost never feature anything as mundane as soaps. These shows—audio, video, whatever—are more often brought to me through the friendly auspices of some drug company. We should refer to them as TheDrugs, a label which might more honestly represent their content, both programs and advertisements. The ads fascinate me because they give me the opportunity to absorb utter absurdity. A lovely young woman appears on the screen, engaging in a more enthusiastic brand of living than I've ever experienced. She just seems so satisfied with her life, even though she's just engaging in the normal activities of daily living. But a hint of averted tragedy soon emerges as the voice-over implies that this perfect person has in the past suffered from the rending heartbreak of psoriasis (or something even more life-threatening), but no more, for she's swallowing Xwqqithya, the consonant-rich new wonder drug. You could have a life like this, too, if you're suffering from the heartbreak only psoriasis produces. The punch line comes in the concluding voiceover, which very quickly lists a couple of dozen downside risks. You, too, can live a life like this but you must risk: heart attack, stroke, pancreatic cancer, boils and potentially witches, stinky feet, social rejection, and perhaps untimely death, all reasonable tradeoffs, the voiceover seems to insist, for gaining access to a life like this. (Labrador pictured NOT included.) TheDrugs.

Actually, TheDistractions. I spend some quiet time with myself each day, a few minutes deliberately sequestered from whatever fray roils around me. It's a damned inconvenience, mostly, because I'd usually much rather maintain my steady trance state, but I persist with my little interruptions, perhaps to retain some distant sense of self. I almost never make myself very angry. NPR often renders me severely pissed off, if only because the reporters can't seem to grok the essential difference between less and fewer, and they have taken to speaking in those artificially high-pitched voices and finish every declarative sentence as if they were asking a question? I hold no control over what streams into my attention, other than to willfully withhold my attention from time to time. Then I miss out on witnessing 'My Shows,' a seemingly sorry toll, unfair in every dimension.

In my youth, I thought my eventual worth might be measurable in my contributions to the furtherance of civilization. Perhaps I'd invent a viable perpetual motion machine or pen a Top 40 tune, but I lately come to understand that my value to civilization apparently resides in my attention, for that seems to be the commodity everyone's after. Turn my head with some form of broadcast dread and I'm contributing. I receive nothing in return but deeply unsettling feelings. In those moments when I'm sequestering from the distraction machine—TheSoaps, TheDrugs—I might notice a certain presence waning and a jarring anger growing. I might even feel compelled to find that bar of soap which solemnly promised to reinject hopefulness into my existence again, the sort of promise movie stars enjoy. I'm ready. More than ready. It seems sanity might only exist in strict isolation. I guess I can thank This Damned Pandemic for that, anyway.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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