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Angelina Jolie, meet Chris Christie. May 15, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben was struck by the marked contrast with which the revelations of Angelina Jolie’s and Chris Christie’s surgeries were greeted this week. For those who aren’t following celebrity surgeries, here’s a recap:

Angelina Jolie, movie star, humanitarian, and mega-mom (as well as the partner of Brad Pitt), revealed in The New York Times that she’d elected to have a double mastectomy in February after testing positive for a gene that predicted an 87% chance of her getting breast cancer. Her chance is now just 5%, far less than the 50% the general female population must face.

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, had lap-band surgery, a weight-loss surgery that involves restricting the capacity of the stomach without actually cutting it out as gastric bypass, which cuts down the size of the stomach to about a walnut, does. Those who have seen photos of the morbidly obese Gov. Christie and heard the testimony of the former head of Health and Human Services that she feared his life would be cut short because of his weight no doubt realize, as he has, that his excessive avoirdupois had become a life-and-death issue.

I think both these public figures deserve a huge round of applause for coming clean about their health concerns. My sister-in-law also underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, like Angelina Jolie, after her sister contracted breast cancer due to the same dreadful gene. My sister-in-law and her other sister both tested positive for the gene and both elected to have both the mastectomy and ovariohysterectomies to make sure that they’d remain alive for their families. (Fortunately, their younger sister has survived her round of breast cancer as well.)

I will never forget my brother discussing the pain and mental, emotional and physical stress involved in my sister-in-law’s decision. As Brad Pitt said, choosing to go under the knife when you’re healthy, for the sake of your family, is nothing less than heroic. And the press and breast-cancer and breast-health and cancer organizations have all been quick to agree, lauding Angelina Jolie’s decision to step forward and openly discuss what’s apparently a taboo subject, breast cancer, even though half the women in America can expect to suffer from it during their lives.

Chris Christie also came forward to discuss what he did to bring his weight under control. But far from being lauded for his candor, he’s been uniformly ridiculed by the press. Why didn’t he tell us all about his procedure while he was undergoing it? Why didn’t he just go on Weight Watchers, hit the gym and run a few marathons instead? Isn’t this just an obvious ploy in his bid for the presidency in 2016? Maybe he should have signed up as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser.”

Excuse me, but both Angelina Jolie and Chris Christie waited until after their procedures were completed to reveal that they’d had them. Both underwent painful ordeals for the sake of their health and their families. It’s so easy to mock fat people—as far as our friend Ben can tell, only old people make equally easy targets, and there seems to be at least a tiny bit of societal shame over mocking them—but God forbid that we should fail to recognize a glamourous, young, thin star’s dreadful sacrifice.

Damn straight. Because of my own family, I know what Angelina Jolie endured, and why she endured it. She deserves every kudo there is. But Governor Christie doesn’t deserve the ridicule and abuse he’s taken for also choosing to be proactive about his health. There’s nothing funny about being fat, there’s nothing wrong with taking whatever steps are necessary to safeguard your health and well-being in a society that wouldn’t ever imagine electing a fat president.

Today, a Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson wouldn’t stand a chance at the presidency: You’d damned well better be tall and thin and young and look good, like the movie stars we all emulate. Damn our superficiality! It will bring us all to ruin.

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