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Your Opinion is at the Corner of Shut and Up
November 4, 2013 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick
Last week there was a thing going around about a woman in North Dakota who was so upset about what she sees as a childhood obesity epidemic, that she decided to use the second most popular holiday for children to be a bully. When trick-or-treaters came to her door to get candy, the fat kids got a note saying that they're fat.
"You (sic) child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season," says the note she handed out. "My hope is that you will step up as an adult and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits."
No word yet on the condition of her house and the steamed-vegetable-and-tofu-themed jack-o-lanterns on her front porch, but toilet paper and soap sales were up in the area.
Besides decent grammar and a heart, this woman is sorely lacking a clue. Most grownups who have their size 2 panties in a knot about fat people hand out apples or fat-free pretzel nuggets on Halloween like normal miserable people. But this woman couldn't pass up the chance to voice her opinion about other people's children. She has no idea who she's dealing with. You call someone's kid fat and you are likely to find yourself in a world of hurt. And you can forget about an invitation to the neighborhood block party.
The buzz, when this story hit the Internet, was full of suggestions that involved vandalism, petty theft, and some light assault and battery, followed by multiple high-fives. But I have a better suggestion.
I like to call it Opinion Avenue. People who think their opinion is warranted should understand that mine is, too. If you want to give unsolicited advice for how I should raise my kids, I'll give you my opinion about your posture. Or your dog stroller. Or the flowers in your front yard. Or your decision to let your bangs grow out. That's right: Opinion Avenue is public and it's a two-way street.
Next Halloween, she should just forget about trick-or-treat night. Curl up with a scary movie and a Soylent Green spinach and kale smoothie. If she has the stones to open her door to trick-or-treaters, she might get a few notes herself.
"Your hair says girl-who-smoked-in-the-parking-lot-in-the-'90s."
"Who paints their front door blue?"
"We took a vote and we all hate that duck on your front porch."
"You are, in my opinion, moderately big busted and that matronly look isn't good for you. Plus it's wreaking havoc on your back and shoulders. My hope is that you will step up as an adult and get breast reduction surgery."
Opinion Avenue can be used for lots of other situations where people feel free to voice their opinions uninvited.
During the presidential election, I was getting slammed with email forwards from people with political opinions the exact opposite as mine. They were clogging up my inbox and raising my blood pressure.
"Who asked you?" I'd say, alone in the room, hitting delete - delete - DELETE! And then one day I had enough and I took a little drive down Opinion Avenue. It was just as easy to hit Reply to All and spout my own political opinions. I permanently angered a couple of childhood friends, a Catholic priest, and a whole mess of strangers. They found out that while voicing your own opinions is a lot of fun, listening to other people's is surprisingly horrid.
I'm working on adapting Opinion Avenue for other social media situations. I got the idea when I got a Facebook friend request from a guy whose photo was - I swear - in a frame I saw at Target, who was flinging friend requests like water droplets from a dog who just stepped out of a bathtub. Besides having model good looks, he claimed to be "self employed" and interested in scuba diving and boating. Before I hit delete, I checked out his page. It was full of posts from a woman named Evelyn who was thrilled that he asked her to be his friend. She really wanted to be friends. Real friends. Really really good real friends. She drowned his wall with her notes, pleading with him to call her. She posted her phone number, a couple of photos of herself and her email address.
"What a whack job," I thought. And then, "Or a genius . . ." This photo frame model-wanna-be thought the scam he was running was a one-way street. In actuality he was on Spam Boulevard, an offshoot of Opinion Avenue, and Evelyn was speeding toward him on the wrong side of the road.
Another couple of made-up streets and I might have a little village. And in my village, the fat kids can go trick-or-treating and get all the candy they want.
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