Monday, October 5, 2009


My child and I have a small Biggest Loser addiction. Simply put, we are suckers for a good cry, and I can recall exactly TWO episodes in the bajillion we have watched where neither one of us erupted in a case of the sniffles. Aside from the cheesy product placement, the stupid cliff hangers during weigh ins that always, as T says, have the exact opposite answer that the expressions lead you to believe, we are still suckers.

Last week's episode again, left us both in a heap of tears.

Except this time it was different. The show's contestants this season are all marred by some type of tragedy. The one that stands out the most, I'd say, is one of the show's more optimistic participants, who three years ago lost her husband and two young children in a car accident.

That said, for once, it was not the stories and the struggle to shed all that goes with a packed on pound that got us, but the message.

During one of the challenges the contestants sat around as they were tempted by a plate of something fatty: cupcakes, if I recall (actually I swear it's donuts and T swears it's cupcakes...he's probably right, so we are going with cupcakes). There would be a consequence for the person who wait for it....MADE THE CHOICE to eat the cupcake first, however, the participants did not know what that consequence would be. Near starved from the show's diet, and not wanting to sit there all night, one woman grabs a cupcake and shovels it down. Her logic, in that moment being'll be easier this way.

And, as it turns out, the woman who eats the cupcake in turn, as her own chosen fate for taking the bite essentially becomes the person charged with thus sealing the fate of those people who would be eliminated from the competition altogether.

By taking that one bite, she was then forced to choose for each team which person would weigh in, or which person would bear the team's burden in the weigh in, among other things.

In the meantime as they prepped for the weigh in, during/before/after each workout, the lobbying and conferencing about what to do/who to select for the weigh in from each team ensued. The culprit/woman of sealed fate asked each team what they wanted, and then, in the end, turned around and most often, did the exact opposite.

Again, a choice.

She could not and did not see her part in the heartache and the trust broken with her house mates, nor did she have foresight into what might happen in ensuing weeks should she deceive nearly every other person in the house; rather she saw it as a guarantee of her safety, her continuing to play the game.

We see her curt responses to her house mates' disdain, and by one, each of the contestants affected by her choice as they wither/fall apart. We are reminded by all of them often and with great Hollywood's from this choice she made, to take ONE bite, and then the subsequent choices to choose who jumped on the scale, and the subsequent affect it had on each person down the chain.

It was heartbreaking. Tears were shed. And these people, raw, exposed from days and hours in the gym were taped vulnerable, pissed and deceived in their worst moments.

And all I could think sitting there, tears streaming down my face, is that this is so often how these things go, despite the horrific cupcake metaphor. People are, I believe in my core, for the most part, inherently good.

And yet, they make choices that absolutely suck sometimes, and I would like to believe, when they make these choices they have little to no foresight into the subsequent round of choices, and choices, each with a larger, more widespread impact. Likewise, with the case of the gobbling cupcake, we still must be held accountable.

Or at least we should be.

It was a wonderful, defining moment to share with my son, nonetheless. We talk constantly about choices, and I have often used the metaphor of throwing a rock into a pond of water, the circles that reverberate out from the rock as it enters the water as that first choice, then the subsequent choices. And then, how the events connected to it and subsequent choices go outward and last far longer than the initial plop that rock makes in the water. And yet, T's never fully understood it, by his own omission, until he saw that episode.

It is unfortunate and breaks my heart that the lesson T learned twice last week was from negative choices or illustrations of this, versus positive, happy ones. That said, it is nonetheless priceless to teach a little man of my own responsibility that a choice: an action, no matter how benign and no matter how harmless or insignificant it may seem on the surface; it has the ability to cause others inexplicable pain. It also has the ability to cause inexplicable joy.

I asked T to think about what he'd choose. He turned it around and asked me to do the same.

And then we talked about the latter, bigger portion of all this which is this: he, I, all of us will, in our lives make some awful, shitty, choices that affect many more people in ways that we likely never originally intended.

I told my kid, that my job is ensuring that when he inevitably makes that shitty choice; to demand that he not follow it up with more shitty choices, but rather, learn to take ownership, apologize and make amends, fall on his sword.

It will be a lifelong lesson, I suspect.

It should be for us all.

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