If I had been given a sort of character creation menu before I was born, some kind of set of options and variables from which I could pick how I’d grow up to look, I’d be in a pretty different situation than the one I’m in now. For one, I would have either made myself a little taller or a bit shorter. This in-between tall and average thing would be fine, but I’ve also got these little t-rex arms so I am left in this purgatory in which I’m not quite tall enough to reach the good cereal and not quite short enough to easily get the generic stuff. I would have made my hair look less like I’m in a constant state of having just been struck by lightning. I wouldn’t change everything, but I’d change enough so that the work I’m doing now, all this effort and exhaustion and unremitting self-loathing wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
There’s no editing menu. The closest I can get to personal customization is eating food with ingredients beyond cheese and wax, by doing the doctor-approved equivalent of biohacking and driving my body to change through orange-bottled intervention, by moving my body using propulsion I’ve generated myself rather than by internal combustion and men with small hats and large chairs.
I’ve been trying to eat healthy, to do something fitness-related every day because I think it’s funny how my old work clothes make me look like I’m deflating. However, just the fact that I can do all this is evidence of just how easy my life has become. Advocating for healthy cooking and living operates on the assumption that such things are even possible for people without the income to buy kitchenware, healthy ingredients, time to learn how to prepare them, and the energy to do all that and still keep themselves afloat. I can verify that it’s difficult to get access to cooking supplies and learn to cook stuff when you are working multiple jobs, have little money to actually buy what you’d need, and do not have the time to cook something, mess up, and do something else for dinner.
Being healthy is hard.
Yesterday, I spent 3 hours in a small room with 3 15-year old, and if ever anyone asks why my eyes have this dead cast to them, that will be the answer. We spent 3 hours slowly cleaning up the audio from interviews with their peers and my boss. 3 hours spent trying to focus on cutting every “um” and “like” and weird mouth sounds from the audio so the interviews sounded clean and not like they were conducted at the last minute with people who didn’t prepare even though the interview questions were sent to them. At the 2 hour mark, we took a break.
As with anyone who has been working with teenagers for a few hours, I went to go get something to eat. I only had 10 minutes, so I found a vending machine. I think it’s a failing on my part that I never realized what exactly lives in vending machines. When I found one, I noticed that there were exactly two genre of things I could buy: chips with misleading nutrition information because they measure it by the gram and nobody exactly carries a scale around with them, and candy bars which are less misleading because nobody should be surprised that candy isn’t healthy.
I went to another vending machine. In it were the same chips and the same candy. There were fruit gummies, but they were as unhealthy as the chips and I feel like “fruit” was an abstract term by the time they were using it.
I gave up, decided I’d just have a candy bar and get back to work. I started pulling out quarters.
I didn’t have enough money. When I had looked at the vending machine, I had been too focused on the absence of anything I could convince myself wasn’t unhealthy. I didn’t notice that these little junk food hostels were sent from a dystopian future in which inflation has driven the economy to its knees and shot it in the back of the head. Who charges 2 dollars for a shitty Snickers in a library vending machine?
I didn’t want the fucking candy bar, but I was furious I couldn’t have it.
There wasn’t anything even resembling healthy in the vending machine. Fine, it’s a vending machine. It’s probably stupid to expect they’d ever be anything different, but nothing short of a 10 minute walk and more money than I’m willing to spend would have offered anything remotely better so I settled for some shitty candy that I’d feel bad about having later because I’m holding my self-esteem’s head underwater and only let it up to breathe if I do something half decent.
Why is it so fucking hard not to pack my body with bullshit? Why is it that health is an industry that cost so fucking much and is so inaccessible? I don’t understand why there is this systemic accessibility to healthy options and why some of the unhealthy ones are still more expensive than they need to be. This is like having children pay extra to get their lunch money stolen. This is building a zoo around a polar bear and feeding it Swedish Fish. This is like building a town around a Walmart, and when they wonder where they could find fruit or vegetables that weren’t picked, painted the right color, and shipped to the store from unpaid workers 1000 miles away, they’re told that they are free to drive to the next town. But nobody ever drives to the next town because they don’t really have time and gas is expensive and what if that town just has a bigger Walmart anyway.
I didn’t want the fucking candy bar, but it was the only thing available, and then even it wasn’t available because the price had been arbitrarily raised because whoever owns that vending machine knows they can keep buying Snickers for 5 cents from a warehouse of stolen Halloween candy and then get away with charging 40 times as much as they paid because there are exhausted, hard-pressed students around who are going to buy it just because it’s the only thing they can find.
Fuck these food desert microcosms and fuck whoever the CEO of Walmart is. Doug McMillon, fuck you. Your name is literally one letter away from being McMillion, and I’m going to avoid the obvious joke about you being a McMillionaire with the moral depth of a McDonald’s Happy Meal, and instead I’ll say that anyone who can happily make around 1000 times as much per hour as their average employee is also probably the type of person to change their name from McMillon to McBillon just to remind people how fucking good you have it without having deserved any of it.
Fucking candy bar.