It is one of my pet peeves that Thanksgiving, a holiday that is relatively non-commercial (grocery and flower industries notwithstanding) has been co-opted into a shopping holiday, the eve to Black Friday. Workers on the bottom of the economic ladder are denied a nice meal with their families and friends to prep stores for midnight sales events.
I have friends who love Black Friday. They, too, leave Thanksgiving dinner early. They get up so they can be at the mall when stores open (2 AM? 3 AM?). They want to buy gifts for the people they love.
Far be it to condemn another person’s pleasure, but I would rather not.
This has been a year for me to pay attention to those things for which I am grateful, and I’m really grateful that I have a body that works. My father and my husband both slowly lost the reliable use of their legs, so that walking was an ordeal. I try to remember how lucky I am that I can walk without needing a lot of apparatus. I am lucky that I can non-rhythmically shake my wide, flat Jewish ass to music when no one is watching.
So whenI saw this story in The New York Times, I was struck by this quote: “Only 3.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 do the minimum amount of physical activity recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services: 150 minutes a week of moderate activity. Among those over age 60, the percentage is even lower: 2.5 percent.”
Those are horrific statistics, if correct. Fewer than four percent of Americans get the minimum amount of physical activity to remain healthy. Aside from the monetary cost of our society in terms of medical expenses and absence from work, it’s also hundreds of millions of people who don’t get to enjoy having their bodies.
I can be as much of a sloth as the next person. I curse when the phone rings when I’m settled into my chair and I have to get up and walk two whole steps to pick it up. And yet, when I feel like crap, a walk makes me feel better. When I can’t write, a spell on the elliptical trainer long enough to make me sweat activates my brain cells. No one would mistake me for a marathon runner, but my resting pulse is less than my age. I feel better when I move my (previously mentioned fat, wide Jewish) ass than when I don’t.
For some reason, over the past several years, this has become a political issue, and not just a public health issue. Conservatives love to complain that Michelle Obama is going to ban desert (when, instead, she merely advocates healthy eating). They despise Obamacare, claiming that decent health care is too expensive.
Perhaps, this holiday season, when so many of us continue to suffer the effects of the 2008 recession, we should consider other gifts we can give besides stuff. Instead of buying another object for a friend, why not commit to taking a long walk together every Sunday morning? Or buy a couple of exercise DVDs and make a steady date to use them together. You’ll get to enjoy having a friend and having a body at the same time.
Media Goddess Martha Thomases also suggests that, if you have any spare change, consider helping some kids get a chance to enjoy their bodies.