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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Being Pro-Life-Choice

The Tim Tebow Super Bowl furor is one of those teapot tempests which blow in every once in a while. The pro-lifers support the ad, which reportedly discusses his mother’s choice not to have an abortion, and the pro-choicers claim that it is an attempt to turn public opinion against abortion. CBS changed their long-standing policy against controversial ads on the Super Bowl and will now accept this advertisement from the conservative Focus on the Family. The focus of the ad is that Tim Tebow’s mom was advised, for health reasons, to abort her baby, but she declined the doctor’s advice and Tim Tebow was born. Tebow is a devout Christian as fans already know, and he has decided to put his money, well, you know where.

Public opinion is already against abortion. Who sits around thinking what a dandy thing it is, how everyone should have one, and how great a job it is? Let’s be rational. It’s not abortion that needs PR, any more than cancer needs a defending spokesperson. The reasons women have abortions are varied, and for many it is not an easy choice. What pro-choice activists should be promoting is abortion rights. If the public does not perceive they are doing that, then they are failing at their mission.

It would be disingenuous of me to write an article that confronts the issue of abortion without clearly identifying my side of the fence. That’s a problem. I have never been one to fence-sit (in my misguided imagination I always imagine sitting on a picket fence. Ouch!). I have very strongly held feelings and opinions about the issue of abortion rights. I believe that women should have the right to have an abortion if she so desires. I believe that for whatever reason a woman might seek an abortion, it’s none of my business. I believe I would never have an abortion. Lucky for me, I’ll never have to make that decision. I can’t choose between pro-life and pro-choice because neither is right for me.

Let’s say I’m pregnant (just don’t say it to my husband, he’d have a stroke. Or he’d call “The National Enquirer.”). Okay, I’m pregnant and, to put it nicely, it’s an unwanted pregnancy. I understand that pro-lifers interpret that as an unwanted child, but bear with me, this is hypothetical. What are my options? I could have an abortion, I could give birth and give the child up for adoption, or I could give birth and keep the baby. Unfortunately in our society, some women choose a fourth option: give birth then throw the baby in a dumpster and hope never to be caught. Pro-choice should mean pro-options. A woman should be aware of all the options and be allowed to make the choice that’s right for her.

With whom do I align myself? The pro-life people certainly don’t want me; I defend a woman’s right to abortion. The pro-choice people don’t want me, I defend a woman’s right to choose. That leaves me with my own side of the fence, pro-life-choice. There are a lot of people here with me; we don’t like abortion, we think we know how we would choose, but we refuse to choose for someone else. It is no more our affair why a woman has an abortion than it is why she would have a baby. If we’re going to be judges, give us black robes and paychecks. We prefer to tend our own gardens; that’s our choice.

Accusing CBS of sexism because the ad was accepted is like accusing CBS or any other network of promoting obesity, alcoholism, and promiscuity based on the commercials they show. We know that many things went into the decision to change policy, and one of them might have been the two-and-a-half million dollars that comes from the advertiser. That’s CBS’s job—to make money. We may not like all of their shows (or any of them!), but they are in business to make money and they don’t need our approbation. If someone is so terribly offended by the ad, they can boycott the Super Bowl or CBS; don’t tell me what I can or cannot see. Isn’t attempting to limit free speech and a reasonable exchange of ideas the equivalent of attempting to limit the rights women have over their bodies?

As for Tim Tebow and his mother, good for them. I admire them both for their bravery. She was willing to take serious risks for what she believes in. He follows in her footsteps. It’s not always easy to so openly support religious and moral convictions. But just as his mother chose for herself, Tebow is choosing what’s right for him. And CBS is choosing what’s right for CBS.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Confessions of a Chocophobic

Valentine’s Day is rapidly advancing, and much to everyone’s delight, there will be chocolate. Everyone but me. What is this fondness that everyone seems to have for chocolate? Did I say fondness? Sorry, I meant addiction. The die-hard chocoholics wear their addiction like a badge of honor, always quick with a chocolate-coated anecdote or confession. Cookbooks on the art of chocolate cuisine abound. Why, chocolate is as American as…brownies!

There is a rare mental disorder called chocophobia. It is not the fear of chocolate. Instead, it is the fear of failing to find something satisfyingly sweet that isn’t chocolate. Go to the local ValueMart and you will find that at least 75% of the candy purveyed is chocolate or chocolate-enhanced. The same goes for most grocery stores. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005 there were 1198 locations producing chocolate and cocoa products in 2005, but only 477 that produced non-chocolate confectionary products.

For people who dislike chocolate, cookies aren’t so bad despite the abundance of fudge bars, chocolate chips, chocolate coatings, and chocolate biscuits. Cookies, however, cannot satisfy the overwhelming desire for something sweet like Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy, an item long ago pushed off the shelves by America’s love affair with chocolate. As for chocolate drinks, let’s just say you’ll never catch me with a YooHoo. To me, hot chocolate is what you pour over a cupful of marshmallows to make them all melty and gooey.

I confess, I have eaten chocolate. All my life. I still eat chocolate, but not much of it and not if there’s any other choice. Chocolate always looks delicious; descriptions of it are enticing. There is nothing that offers the same wonderful mouth-feel as good chocolate melting on the tongue. Good milk chocolate. White, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate are abominations. Being able to discriminate between good and cheap chocolate doesn’t mean that I like it. I am always disappointed when I eat chocolate, and wish they held the chocolate when enrobing hazelnuts or almonds.

Ancient Mayans (c. 600 BC? 1100 BC? Archaeologists don’t all seem to agree) used chocolate. Well, not exactly chocolate. They combined ground cocoa and hot water (as well as, possibly, chili peppers) and drank it. Soon after the Spanish discovered cocoa and imported it to Spain, chocolate was born. Chocomania came centuries later.

The average American consumes 26 pounds of candy a year. Which translates to about 20 pounds of chocolate a year (others place this number at 10 or 12 pounds per year). Candy industry statistics report that throughout the year 75% of chocolate is bought by women. Hubpages reports that, in the days before Valentine’s, roles reverse and men buy 75%, spending one billion dollars nationwide on chocolate alone. Chocolate is not actually an aphrodisiac, but around Valentine’s Day the thought seems to be, “It can’t hurt.”

Google “chocolate” and you will get 132,000,000 choices. “Jersey Shore” produces only 21 million, and “Taylor Swift” provides 39 million. Can anyone (besides Calvin Klein) spell obsession? It’s amazing how much time we spend thinking, writing, eating, and dreaming about this essentially nasty product. Even chocophobics are drawn into it. Okay, maybe I’m the only chocophobic; I have never met anyone who felt anything less than passion for the substance.

Essentially, chocolate is made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate contains milk products. One of the reasons that chocolate prices never go down is that when sugar is cheap, cocoa goes up and vice versa. At least that’s what I was told when I was a little girl, the granddaughter of a chocolate factory owner.

We always had chocolate in our house. Chocolate bars, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate milk powder, cocoa. In trying to figure out how I could dislike something so intensely that, it seems, most people seem to love, I thought the easy availability of chocolate throughout my life made me that way, that as a child I simply had too much chocolate. This theory is as valid as “the devil made me do it,” or “blame it on the Bossa Nova.” A discussion of my aversion to chocolate revealed that my younger brother is, gasp!, a chocoholic. Learning that was like finding a big pod at the foot of the bed.

Is chocolate necessary? Sadly, it is. In what else can you serve fluffy nougat centers, cream fillings, or cherries and syrup? I have a fantasy that a food scientist somewhere is working on a product that would work, but know that economics are against it. Why spend time on something maybe one person will like when you can just throw together chocolate and stuff and have a big seller?

While you’re enjoying your Valentine’s chocolates, think of those less fortunate, those who can’t even find Marshmallow Peeps hearts anymore. At least there’s Easter.