MARTHA SEZ: ‘What, me worry?’

What do you worry about?

1. The Russians

2. The Chinese

3. Republicans

4. Mortality

5. Plastic

6. Possible Neanderthal ancestry

7. Laundry not smelling fresh enough

8. Everlasting perdition

9. Democrats

10. Probable Neanderthal ancestry

11. Brain fog

12. Social media

Everybody is worried about something. I am not sure that I worried any less when I wasn’t watching television, but I worried differently. For several years I didn’t watch television at home. Then I tuned back in with Keene Valley Video.

I was sitting in my living room watching “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” when I heard someone outside on state Route 73 calling my name. I went to the front door and looked out, and lo and behold it was my friend Peg sitting in her van, holding up traffic.

“Hey, Martha! Are you watching television in there? What are you doing watching television?”

“Hi Peg! Yes, I just got cable!”

It is so great to live in a small town. You almost don’t need television.

That was 24 years ago, and since that time I believe that my quality of worry has improved, becoming more organized and specific. Television, and later social media, tell me what to worry about, encapsulating great tracts of anxiety-producing material into terms that are brief and easy to remember, like of course COVID, gun violence, and Chinese restaurant syndrome controversy.

I would never have known the term “marionette lines” were it not for morning television. Marionette lines — like the ones Howdy Doody and Phineas T. Bluster had on either side of their mouths — are right up there on my worry list. When I look in the mirror I am sure they are etching their relentless way deep into my face, just as raging rivers gradually carve channels through solid rock.

While genealogical DNA testing has become increasingly popular, some people worry about what they will find when they send in their samples.

If you checked “Neanderthal ancestry” on the worry list, you will be relieved to learn that, while scientists have discovered that most of us do indeed carry Neanderthal genes, it turns out that Neanderthals weren’t stupid and ugly after all! After scientists learned that they themselves have Neanderthal DNA, they naturally came to see the Neanderthals’ good points. We still don’t know much about the recently discovered cave-dwelling Denisovans, however.

My brother took the Ancestry.com test and found that, in addition to the English, Irish and Scottish forebears we have always taken for granted, we also had some Finnish, Asian, Native American and even Russian ancestry!

My sister couldn’t take this in. She said she thought my brother was adopted. Later he admitted the Native American part was wishful thinking. Over the years our family DNA has changed over and over according to Ancestry.com, and presently the Finnish and Russian are gone and we are, boringly, mostly British with varying degrees of Norse, just as we had always thought. No sign of Native American yet.

As the waning Baby Boom totters along toward its demise, TV sponsors are constantly asking questions like, how’s your tooth enamel? Retirement strategy? Cognitive acuity? Life insurance? Do you even have teeth?

People are afraid to eat and drink, because the experts keep changing foods that are good for us. Are eggs in or out? Margarine, once considered more healthful than butter, is now bad because of trans fat. Foods which never contained cholesterol were suddenly labeled “Cholesterol free!” during the fatty food scare. Then the label “Contains no trans fats!” became popular. No, the food contains lard, but animal fat is all right again. On the other hand, it is very difficult now to find lard if you want it. Foods that never contained gluten in the first place are labeled “gluten free!” As if humans hadn’t been eating bread, which contains gluten, for thousands of years.

Yes, you say, but the flour used to be different, because it wasn’t made from genetically altered grain. Many scientists are saying that genetically altered grains and vegetables are not harmful to people’s health, but that is not to be tolerated on television, let alone on social media. And then there is, unfortunately, pesticide residue.

A whole aisle at the supermarket is devoted to bottled water. Why take it on faith that the water in those bottles, from all of their different sources, is going to be any purer than our own Adirondack tap water?

“They test it,” you are probably saying. Who are “they?” Are you sure?

What, me worry?

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen has been writing for the News for more than 20 years.)

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