The other day I was at Holmes Place, the health club that is located not far from my house where my husband and I go to swim three times a week. As I made my way from the pool to the dressing room, I saw a recent English-speaking immigrant looking at this poster on the wall.

Health club poster

She was staring at it and I stopped. She said out loud, “Look at this! What a wonderful country we live in! This lady in the picture was thin, underfed, and with some felafel and some latkes, look at her afterward- she is beautiful. She looks healthy and well nourished. None of that skinny, unhealthy look that Americans crave so much. In Israel they know that people have to eat and look at her! She’s lovely. She’s healthy and content. She doesn’t have that blank look that so many people who watch their diets do. What a country!

Someone looked over at her and said, “You realize of course that the sign is written in Hebrew. The picture on the right is the ‘before’ picture and the one on the left is the ‘after’.”

“Oh!” she said, blinking and looking a bit shaken. Then she continued, “Never mind.”*

*A fictional story, with homage to Emily Litella and Gilda Radner who created her and was taken from us much too soon.

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  1. I was very supportive of Emily Litella’s campaign against violins on television. I, too, thought there were waaaay too many violins on tv, what with the Lawrence Welk show, and, um, that other show…

    This reminds me of a situation we studied back in my university days as a Social Work major: the classic story of trying to get families in some country like Pakistan or India, I forget exactly, to have smaller families in order to have healthier children. The team would show the families pictures of a typical family in that country (let’s say Estonia) with many children, all of whom were skinny and sickly lookly, and obviously malnourished.

    Then they’d show the Estonians a family with two children, who were robust and healthy and well-fed, anticipating, of course, that the Estonians would see the smaller, healthier family and want that for themselves. The results were, every time, the Estonians would look at the picture of the family with only two children, and feel sorry for them. “They only have two children, who will take care of the parents, who will help support the family? These poor people, how unfortunate, how sad that they only have two children.”

    Perception is everything. “Oh. That’s very different.” I’m sorry the Olah was so quickly disillusioned.

    ps: I loved, adored, idolized Gilda Radner (along with Madeline Kahn and [still] Carol Burnett). I nearly got her run over by a taxi in NYC, when I was walking backwards, trying to hurry up a slow-poke friend. I backed into her, bumping her into the street, nearly into the path of the afore-mentioned taxi. Thankfully, I and another bystander pulled her back in time.

    I did not think that was such a good time to tell her what a huge fan I was.

  2. *giggle*

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