Friday, December 13, 2013

4 Reasons Why You Are A Chicken, But Not A McNugget

We seem especially fond of all these lists lately, don't we? I see them everywhere. I suppose because it is reducing the whole bird down to the McNuggets that we can digest quickly from our smart phones while we do other things. You know the lists: "7 Things You Say To Your Children That Will Destroy Their Will To Live", "25 Things That Happy People Do Better Than You", "18 Ways To Make Your Life Perfect", "147 Things Never To Say To Me Even If I Am Moody and Unpredictable and You Meant Well" and so on. Perhaps I paraphrased a few of those titles, but you know what I'm talking about.

Let's dish, mmm-kay? McNuggets are manufactured meat. They are the offal and beaks and other scraps flavored and packaged and brilliantly marketed as cheap, bite-sized food. We all know this. Some of us eat them anyway, some of us crusade against them, some of us wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole but feed them to our children occasionally. None of us confuses McNuggets with actual chicken.

We are the actual chickens, folks. I'm going to chase this metaphor around the barnyard a little bit. We are the living, breathing, flapping birds. I say "chicken" and you might imagine this:
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Or this:
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I imagine this:
My late cat, Chicken, helping with the laundry.

Do you see my point, here? 

McNuggets are all right sometimes when you just need a little something to get you through the afternoon, but as a steady diet, they will give you diarrhea at best and diabetes at worst.

I get a little antsy when we boil down the human psyche and all of its complex wonder to a few bite-sized pieces and then we hand them around in the greasy cardboard container of the internet as if they were actual food for thought. These lists are entertaining; they have their place, I suppose. I can read the "7 Things That Perfect People Do" and either pat myself on the back for scoring 4 out of 7, or I can read it and post it on my Facebook page as a wink and a nod to all my friends who are far less than perfect, or I can read it and feel like crap because here is another list of things that I'm failing at. Maybe all three at once. But over time, a steady diet of these over-simplified, over-generalized, deep fried bits of beak and feather can make you pretty unhealthy.

We chickens are a varied and beautiful species. We are also ridiculous. Sometimes we stop laying eggs, sometimes we sit in our own poo. Sometimes we go over to the neighbors' yard and repeatedly uproot their freshly planted pansies as if we are on some sort of seek and destroy mission (not that I'm bitter about that at all.) Sometimes we wedge our heads in trees and need the help of a small child in a helmet to get us out.
jBird and Golden Eagle
Of course, we're not chickens. McNugget-ized or otherwise. We're people who seek to better ourselves; who want to do what's best for our communities and our families and all that. We are also people who, by the very fact of being human, say and do appalling things, make terrible mistakes, hurt people. A lot of the time, we don't do nearly as much or as well as we know we should. Most of the time, we're doing the best we can with the information and the resources we have.

The greatest minds in the world have devoted themselves for thousands of years to studying and understanding humans and there are still not very many clear or definitive answers to the largest questions we ask. Chances are, a blogger listing his or her personal experience isn't going to get it completely right, either. 

These McNuggets are seductive. I love checklists. They make me feel like I've accomplished something, they help keep me on track, they help organize my thoughts. They are not the whole story. And ultimately, I can't operate from anyone else's To-Do list. There may be some overlap, but no one's going to go and return my overdue library books or understand why there is simply the word "stuff" on my grocery list except me. Likewise, "The 63 Things You Say To Your Daughter That Will Undoubtedly Make Her Anti-Feminist and Bulimic". 

It's time to step back and take a look at the whole bird.

If you are struggling with illness or depression or an emotionally abusive relationship with someone, do not take these things lightly. A 20-piece McNuggets will not satisfy those particular hungers and could do more harm than good. Get real help, professional help, spiritual help, whatever you need. A handy checklist of happy thoughts is not the solution.

If you are basically all right and are just amusing yourself, so be it. I eat McNuggets, too, sometimes. But if you start to get a tummy ache and nothing tastes quite right, stop and think about why. There are more than enough reasons in the world to hate ourselves, and honestly, a lot of them are justified. It is the onus of human existence to try and deal appropriately with the abominable things that are within us. This is a difficult enough task without adding layers of manufactured meat product guilt because I call my kids "freak" as a term of endearment. 

There is no magic, one-size-fits-all checklist of how to escape this life without the ruffling of feathers. I wish there were, because I would give it to my kids and loved ones and I would never have to see them hurt or make mistakes or just really foul things up irreparably (pun not initially intended, but left there, nonetheless.) I would give it to myself so that I wouldn't have to do those things, either. According to the font of all knowledge, Chicken McNuggets come in four shapes: Bell shaped, Boot shaped, Bone shaped, and Ball shaped. It rightfully gives us the willies to think of mashed up chicken parts crammed into four, and only four, wholly unnatural shapes. Even if it gives you delicious willies, you at least realize there is no actual part of a chicken called "The Bell".
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It should give us the willies to do that to ourselves as well. Step back and flap your ridiculous wings. 
Do I need to make a list of reasons why?


  1. haha Mmm-kay??
    Well done ma'am!! I love this. I always do, though. Even when I have to admit to needing a quieter room and larger mug of coffee to read your blog over so many others. Always, every single time, worth the effort. because you're right: I need the nourishment. Less offal, more white meat. not that I'm racist.
    It's tempting even as a blogger to PRODUCE said junk-food lists, and I am not above it always, but I often feel this twinge of guilt as I type: "Do you really think you're enough of an authority to give a LIST on this stuff??" haha
    Everyone's a critic.
    love from Oklahoma!

    1. Marie, you are always the sweetest.
      I adore lists, I love them and I read them all. I like that they are handy and compact and quick to read. I write in lists, too. Of course. They make quick and snappy blog posts!
      My discomfort comes when I see them EVERYWHERE on all different topics, some of which are pretty heavy stuff. A dear friend of mine who has overcome so much in her life and works so hard to parent her little girls the best she can, posted one the other day - it was along the lines of "Things you should never say to your kids..." that kind of thing. It was a generally useful tool for remembering to be mindful about the impact your words could have. The phrases listed weren't abusive or belittling or even necessarily hurtful, they were just things that could have been worded better or might be misconstrued by a child. My dear friend talked to me about it, visibly upset, "I've said all of these things to my girls. I hope it's not too late for them..." I began to wonder how many people are beating themselves up over these things that are generally not in any way authoritative or based on any kind of research. I love to read them - I love to read yours! - I love to get other perspectives from all over the place, especially if they are compact and bite-sized. I just worry that we forget that's all they are - yummy little bits of perspective, not prescriptions for or condemnations of our lives.
      List away, baby! Even if you are a chicken racist. Ha!

    2. Did you just call me a chicken racist??? Because I will you KNOW, ma'am, that we love all COLORS of poultry at this farm. haha xoxo
      I hear ya on the dangers of lists. Or, perhaps, the dangers of words like "never" etc. it can be terrifying, especially for tender helicopter parents and the abundance of reading material out there."Is it too late for them?" Breaks my heart. No, it's not too late.
      I was a mama like that for a number of years, and I regret to say that I think my fear played a role in pushing my girls away. But now it's getting much better.
      Ack!! Too heavy. Just give your friend a hug from me and tell her to smile and relax more. Laughter will cover a multitude of "nevers" with her kiddos. I swear it.
      Great line of thinking, thank you!

  2. Suddenly, I'm craving BBQ sauce and I don't even like that stuff.

    In all seriousness, yes. I see these lists and some of them are entertaining and fun, but some ... man, some are just awful, offal, and fowl.

    Okay, I'm leaving now.

  3. This post. I had to step away and make myself a cuppa so I could just sit and think about it.

    I've been vegetarian for the last five years, but the irony is not lost on me that the only two meat products I crave are hot dogs (corn dogs, really) and chicken nuggets. Both are probably the farthest thing from the original creature you can possibly get -- a fantasy of chicken, without having to think about the fact that it's actually chicken.

    I crave lists too, but they are fantasy as well. Easy to over-consume. Your blog is a seven-course meal, and I love that stepping away to think about your posts actually enhances the subtle flavors instead of leaving me to feel more empty.


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