When I watch news reports on television or online, the information mostly goes in one ear and out the other, like a light aimed at Sarah Palin's head. I hear the headlines and think, "Sure, this could be bad for the stability of the Earth, but does it really affect me?" It sounds selfish, but it's actually how I distance myself to cope with the continuous stories and images of wars, bailouts, health care debates and Jon and Kate and the nanny.
Lately, I've had to work extra hard distancing myself from what's in the news. Every time I see footage of those handmade signs at the Tea Party rallies displaying anti-Obama phrases filled with hate, fear and misspelled words held by flocks of pallid agitators -- you know, the people who look like they just stepped on a rake -- my stress level reaches a new high. And when this happens, my hormones go out of whack, which means I eat more, which means my butt gets bigger. That's right. Butt size can be a barometer for anxiety. Ask any bride-to-be. Seriously, when CNN's Anderson Cooper threw to video of goober in a Jesus tee shirt holding a banner that said, "Obama kills fluffy little bunnies," my derriere grew three inches.
My one consolation, my only saving grace, has been that at least I don't know any of those sign-wielding fanatics.
And then I got an e-mail.
In this e-mail from a longtime friend, I learned that a woman we attended high school with had announced recently on Facebook that she planned to keep her children out of school to avoid watching President Obama's speech to students. She also compared Obama's school speech to the Hitler Youth movement. Yep, she's one of those fanatics. For this anecdote, we'll call her "Rita." "Rita" and I grew up in the same community, had the same teachers and wore the same band uniform, yet we turned out different.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that some of my classmates became ultra-conservative. We lived in the South and our school parking lot was full of trucks with gun racks and camouflage-colored beer coolers (to hide the beer from the animal prey). It was and is an easy place to become culturally segregated from the rest of the world. But there's a big gap between being ultra-conservative and wacko ultra-conservative. That's why I was surprised about "Rita," because back then she was considered a bright, kind, beautiful young woman. How then did she turn into a close-minded, distrustful, middle-aged stereotype?
I had to figure out what happened to "Rita," because at this point, according to the Butt Barometer, I was now an honorary Kardashian. Could she have just taken a very different course in life? Doubt it. Could she have checked out from reality when the Virgin Mary appeared in her soup? Maybe. But considering her comparison of Obama's message about education to the Hitler Youth, there could only be one possible explanation: lead poisoning.
Whatever the case, this is why we only have high school reunions every 10 years -- to cushion the shock of what some of our friends have become. In the meantime, I'll just continue to turn on the news, get upset and watch my butt expand because of hormones and people like "Rita."
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