Opinion » Street Talk

The shape of kids to come


Your mama's so old, she changed Bill Denneen's diapers, which were probably made out of hemp.

Sorry. In honor of Mother's Day, I'm trying to praise my own mom by disparaging yours, and that's the best I could come up with. That bearded eco-hooligan from Nipomo has been around for 80-some-odd years, by the way, so that makes your mama really old. She's so old, in fact, that she knew Arroyo Grande back when it was Arroyo Peque"o. Your mama's so old, an archeologist found one of her baby dolls when he was sifting through Chumash artifacts at a Morro Bay residential housing development site.

Ugh. I'm not very good at these. Maybe I should try a different style. Your mama's so fat, she went to Pirate's Cove and they sent her to San Simeon. You know, because that's where all the elephant seals go.

Ah, forget it. But speaking of fat, isn't it time you sent those little ones packing outside for a breath of fresh air? They're looking a little meaty around the middle especially that butterball with the bowl haircut and my mama always said that sunshine could cure anything. It didn't work on my chicken pox I just got a nasty burn on top of my red, itchy spots but her general philosophy about exercise kept me lean and trim (and chronically peeling and flaky) all growing up. Now I'm skinny with help from the booze and pills, and the stress certainly takes its pound of flesh, but I still attribute my sleek physique to Ma Shredder.

When I wanted ice cream, she gave me apple slices. When I wanted to stay up late, she sent me to bed. And when I wanted to sit inside and watch TV, she ordered me outside to move my feet. "Take a hike!" she'd say. "Get out of here!" Ah, the memories. Sometimes she'd lock the door after I left so I'd be forced to exercise for hours, sneaking back inside only when Pa Shredder came home after a long day doing whatever it was he did.

They don't make moms like that anymore. No, moms these days coo and coddle their young ones into chubby children, more like malleable blobs of soft marshmallow than the wiry, stickball-playing street urchins of days gone by. It's gotten so bad that the county's had to step up and be a mom of its own. Supervisors Harry Ovitt, Bruce Gibson, Jerry Lenthall, Katcho Achadjian, and Jim Patterson had to strap on aprons and start saying things like, "If you keep making that face, it's going to stick that way." I hear that they're thinking of adopting beehive hair-dos as mandatory for board meetings and are going to wash particularly recalcitrant speakers' mouths with soap during public comment period. That first part may be a lie, but I'm really hoping the second part isn't.

Either way, early last year, these guys all got together and approved a Childhood Obesity Prevention Task Force. In my mind, the group would march around the county en masse, wearing crisp, matching uniforms and slapping Ding Dongs and Ho Hos out of pudgy hands and stomping the sweets into sugary smears on the sidewalk. But this group, made up of 31 members one for each flavor at Baskin-Robbins was instructed to come up with a "strategic action plan" that, in theory, could be used to keep county kids from getting fatter and from dealing with the problems associated with that extra weight: health issues like diabetes, teasing from kids with no morals, and early death. Those last two are the worst.

The task force ultimately came up with a few recommendations, which are a task force's main export. Among their suggestions is one to approve almost $60,000 to put toward a somewhat redundantly titled "Health Education Specialist in Public Health," who would coordinate all of the plans and programs intended to combat rampant obesity. And maybe smack a few Twinkies to the sidewalk.

Way back when a year or two ago, if my memory serves I told you all about a cardiologist from the American Heart Association who prognosticated that America's current crop of kids could be the first to live shorter lives than their parents will. Someday, round little kids will say things like, "Your mama's so old, she started having to shave her armpits."

Anyway, this potential county specialist, blessed by the board on May 8, would help fight to keep that dire prophecy from coming true. Other recommendations include adopting "Smart Growth" principles that increase physical activity through community design (like making public bathrooms really far away from activity centers so kids have to walk great distances to relieve themselves though that could create kidney trouble in the long run), making presentations to school boards about obesity (so officials can identify obese children by sight), and encouraging participation in 2008's Walk to School Day in October (I have nothing snarky to say about that).

I wish everyone involved the best of luck, especially considering that the SLO County Department of Public Health reported that almost 60 percent of the county's adults are overweight or obese. I'm surprised that the supes got enough people off the couch to show up to the task force meetings. Maybe kids aren't the only ones who need a kick in the oversized pants. And maybe there's a grain of truth when I say that your mama's so fat, she seriously should see a doctor. But that's not very funny.

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