I was having lunch in Hugo's the other day, a kind of healthy-eating restaurant in the Valley, when I overheard one woman half-whisper to the other, "That man looks like death."
I glanced up quickly from my mung bean casserole in time to hear the other one reply, "It's the dark circles under his eyes."
"It makes him look like a raccoon," the first one added.
They were extraordinarily thin women, each probably weighing no more than one and a half Flockharts, based on a weight chart I established some years ago with Calista Flockhart as the standard of female weightlessness.
The two women had gone back to eating their tofu salads so I couldn't tell to whom they were referring, but I was certain it was me. I worried through lunch and when I got home Cinelli said, "It's because you don't exercise."
She is a great believer in the power of movement, as well as in eating the right food. The only reason I eat at Hugo's is to win her approval. All men seek their wife's esteem, if for nothing else than the reward that might follow. Good for you, honey, let's go upstairs.
Sometimes I dine at Follow Your Heart, a super-healthy-food restaurant, and she practically begs me to kiss her.
"You don't have dark circles and you don't look like a raccoon," Cinelli assured me. "But they are cute little animals, and you're a cute little animal too, dear."
"I don't want to look like a raccoon, a baboon, a badger or a loon."
"Then if you're really worried about your health and not content to look like a forest creature, study the chart I brought home the other day."
I did look at it, but the computations required just to determine my body mass were more than I was willing to undertake.
"1. Multiply your weight in pounds times 705. 2. Divide that number by your height in inches. 3. Divide that number by your height in inches again. 4. Use the chart to the right to see how you tip the scale." I didn't even try.
I don't need games to tell me that my body mass is higher than a pot-bellied pig's. I know I'm too fat when I can't get into my Levis. If sucking in my stomach and twisting in tight circles won't allow me to button up, I cut down on rigatoni and potato chips until I can once more dress without exhausting myself, although some consider the movement a form of clothing aerobics.
"You worry too much," Cinelli said. "Worrying will kill you faster than dark circles. You can use a little makeup to cover any dark circles."
"An ex-Marine using makeup? No way, Jose!"
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals designated last week as World Vegetarian Week. Its purpose was to keep both humans and the animals we eat alive and in good health.
A brochure points out that every vegetarian saves the lives of more than 100 animals a year. It suggests that instead of pork chops or sirloin steaks, we try veggie burgers, tofu turkey and something called chik'n patties which, one presumes, are composed of non-bird ingredients.
Arguing with PETA is admittedly risky, because some of its members would gladly beat you senseless and spray paint your body red for abusing a field mouse, but I still must challenge their wisdom of saving cows.
I don't know about pigs and chickens, but I am told that when a cow breaks wind it emits methane gas, contributing to the greenhouse effect that causes global warming. According to one study, that amounts to 50 million metric tons of methane gas per year per cow. No study exists to determine if ranch hands and cattle wranglers are similarly contributing to the environmental disaster, but it's possible.
There is no way that I know of to stop a cow from releasing what scientists politely call biological emissions. What that tells me is the more cows we save, the more we contribute to the destruction of Earth. If it keeps up, only cows and vegetarians would remain, grazing side by side on the open plains.
Worrying about my health, the planet, animals and the frightening possibility that PETA's efforts might end up turning the world over to humorless true believers who eat nothing but organically grown lettuce and seaweed put me in a blue funk.
The only way to emerge from a b.f. is to have a nice, calming martini or a bone-in rib-eye. Due to the depth of my funk, we went to Monty's steakhouse at the foot of the hill for dinner where I had both, and now the circles around my eyes have disappeared, my body mass has shrunk, and I am taller and younger.
So I say to hell with tofu. Pass me the cow.