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number 4

One Nation Under My Ass

by Manning Peterson

Lately I’ve had three things on my mind: war, peace, and my ass. Since the readers of these pages already have their views on the first two subjects, and they’re likely not very much different from mine, I’ll skip right to my ass.

Nuclear war—it’s a motherfucker

I have a pretty sizable ass, and I’m certain I got it from my mom. She’ll deny it—her own ass is nice-sized—but my dad had absolutely no ass at all. I suspect her lifetime habits of dieting and smoking (which she finally quit—yay mom!) were her way of warding off some dark family secret fat ass. But that’s only the nature aspect of this picture. The bigger player is the nurture aspect, which has me feeding my ass Valrhona chocolates, apple pies, and ever more delicious ice creams.

If they push that button, your ass has gotta go

As my ass has grown, so has my great fear: one day I am watching the evening news, and they’re doing another story about how fat Americans are, and the video shows yet another fat American ass waddling down the street. Only this time that anonymous ass is mine. I won’t recognize it at first (who really knows what your own ass looks like), but my coworkers, my boss, my husband, the neighbor kids—everyone will immediately know whose ass it is. My ass will enter the stock video library at the station, to be dragged out every time a new study comes out saying Americans are all fat asses.

Gonna blast your ass so high in the sky

Last fall I started a new job with a nice salary increase, and decided it was time to do something about my ass. I wanted to buy an elliptical trainer—the Precor EFX 5.23 to be precise—and wrote up a four-page proposal justifying the expense to my husband, a famously thrifty Scandinavian. He fell for my arguments (extended life, better health, less whining, smaller ass), and so far, so great. Despite a couple lapses, we’re both using it regularly— way more often than I ever went to the gym.

What you gonna do without no ass

I love to exercise, but the most awful thing about gyms—and the best thing about a home gym—is the music. We have about a thousand great records (ironically, amassed mostly by said thrifty Scandinavian), and a thousand more CDs, so exercising at home gives me a chance to listen to things I’ve never heard, or haven’t listened to in years. By far the best music for working out is the Mekons, but other favorites emerge monthly. At full volume, exercise feels like I’m at show, dancing and screaming along with the band, but with a full water bottle and no smoke or chatter. These are the not-small charms of impending middle age and home ownership.

When you’ve lost your ass

It may seem to some self-indulgent and ridiculous and insensitive to be thinking about one’s own ass at times like these, and of course it is. But what the hell else am I supposed to think about? Our motherfucker president just drafted me into his personal holy war, all but asking the terrorists to come kick my civilian ass while I’m on my way to work or eating lunch or taking the elevator or trying to stay awake through a conference call. I’m doing everything I can here trying to keep capitalism afloat, and frankly this war is not helping. Chicagoans are way fatter assed than New Yorkers—we ride the escalator DOWN to get to the subway, for christ's sake. If there’s time for running when disaster strikes, I am telling you that video will not be pretty.

You can kiss your ass goodbye

I’ve had a song stuck in my head for three months. I don’t mind because it’s a good song, one that topped my list of best records last year: Yo La Tengo’s Nuclear War EP. The four versions of Sun Ra’s original (one featuring a chorus of children deadpanning “it’s a motherfucker”) bear repeated loud listening. Music has always saved my ass— now it’s gonna help me lose it.

Goodbye ass

Manning Peterson lives in Oak Park, Illinois, and works in banking.

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