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What Would Janice Do?

I know I know, Janice Joplin didn’t write Bobbie McGee, but she immortalized it to the point that it was practically an anthem when I was in High School. It was such an integral part of the fabric of our culture that my high school Social Studies teacher, Mr. Tannenbaum, wrote the words, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” on the blackboard one day and we spent the entire class debating its meaning.  We pondered over the possible interpretations and debated the practical and theoretical applications for this phrase.  The conversation was so juicy that for one brief moment in Hewlett High School History the Geeks, the Freaks, the Jocks and the Greasers were all participating and I remember it 40 years later.

But the one translation we did NOT come up with was that the infamous lyric had anything to do with being thin.

SET YOURSELF FREE!  GET THIN! 1800-GET-THIN

These billboards are everywhere now.  And despite some public outcry, seem to be here to stay.  In February, 2010, Michael Hiltzik wrote an article in the L.A. Times reproaching the ad campaign that was spreading like acne in So. Cal.  I remember reading the article because a close relative of mine had lap band surgery and I was reading everything I could on the subject.  Hiltzik was outraged, as am I, that the billboards give the impression that you can drive through on your lunch hour get a lap band and go off into happy thin land…free…free…free at last!

But of course this isn’t true. The procedure takes time, anesthesia, and a recovery period that may last weeks.  And that’s not including the people who got the lap band and did NOT find freedom or thinness at the end of the tunnel!

When Hiltzik wrote the column last year, I had not yet seen the billboards in the Bay Area.  I assumed it was a Hollywood thing that wouldn’t be tolerated here…in Janice’s backyard!  But I was wrong and now they are everywhere.  And the fact that these new billboards are equating freedom with lap band thinness is so offensive to me I don’t even know where to start.  If freedom’s just another word for having to measure food in teaspoons in order not to regurgitate…well…that feels rather restrictive to me.  To assume that everyone who is fat is living a life trapped by their fatness is outrageous, but even if it were true…I’d propose that the bars of imprisonment may be an Allergen product as well!  Although in defense of Allergen, maker of the lap band, they too have decried the bill board ad campaign. Stuart Pfeifer’s L.A. Times article last February explains that the billboards lead to a referral source of lap band providers and is not an ad for Allergen.  Still, with the weight and age requirements for lap bands getting less stringent I would imagine the demand for them is growing as rapidly as these billboards are popping up and that’s good for “Al’s” business.

Bottom line: the billboards are deceptive and offensive and if I were “Queen” I’d banish them from the Queendom! But alas, I am left dreaming and humming, “Freedom’s just another word for no more billboards on the road.”