More than one pundit has noted that back in the day, people used to disapprove of whom you slept with (think The Scarlet Letter), not what you ate. Now the opposite is true.
This is an oversimplification, of course, but given people's reaction to the fact that I drink SODA! with SUGAR! especially Dr. Pepper (but only in a CAN)! I'm inclined to think there's some truth to the observation.
At worst, certain people think because I drink sugary soda, I must also be a rain-forest-denuding, Exxon-oil-spilling, humpback-whale-killing, non-free-range-chicken-eating, plastic-grocery-bag-using, engine-idling loser who doesn't spay or neuter her pets. (The part about the engine-idling isn't true, btw.)
At best, others just think I suffer from FMC (Flabby Moral Character). You can see their mildly disapproving looks. You can almost hear their thoughts. Don't you know that soda will ruin your teeth and also make you fat? And is this what our country really needs today? More fat Americans? With crappy teeth?
I have no idea if it's still this way, but when we lived there in the '90s, New York (and New York City in particular) was militantly anti-smoking. You would walk past my husband's office building on 56th Street and see employees on break, shivering and huddling together like lepers in the rain as they lit up while nonsmoking pedestrians shot them openly disdainful looks.
I always felt a little bad for them. They looked sooooo miserable.
But I have a feeling the next time I visit New York, I'll be asked to join them because you know how it is: soda drinking equals the new smoking.
So what's my point? It's this: Yes, it might be better if I didn't drink soda. And, yes, it's very true that a person's bad food choices not only affect the individual, they can also affect a community. Diseases incident to poor health are costly for everyone. I totally get that.
But is that what's really behind all the judgment? Or is it that we, as human beings, just like to, well, judge?
Example. Last Saturday when I did the NAMI walk in Liberty Park, I told a fellow walker that I thought her little dog was cute.
"It's a Japanese Chin," she explained. "We bought her from a breeder." And then the walker hastened to add so I wouldn't think she was a bad person who doesn't care about all the homeless animals out there, "But our other dog is a rescue."
We human beings like to make our little checklists so we can get a handle on each other, don't we? A person is moral if (fill in the blank). A person is immoral if (fill in the blank). And sometimes the simpler a thing is to track, the more likely it is to end up on a checklist.
This is why Mormons (at least the ones I know) who have thought about the subject for longer than five minutes acknowledge the Word of Wisdom is a bigger deal in the culture than it should be.
Gauging adherence to a health code is so much easier to assess than a person's success when it comes to exercising faith, hope and charity.
Bottom line? Wouldn't it be nice (in the immortal words of the Beach Boys) if we could all cut each other a little slack instead of (in the immortal words of my friend Lisa B.) turning into Judge-y McJudges? So I'm going to figure out right now how I can be less judgmental myself.
But first I'm going to step outside, stand 20 feet away from the entrance of a public building and have another Dr. Pepper.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib