When you’re fat, it’s easy to believe that people everywhere are eyeing you, just waiting for a chance to tell you how you should improve yourself. And it’s sometimes true.
This week in New York City, it’s truer than usual.
The Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are placing tiny T-shirts in dryers throughout [New York City] urging laundry-doers to “Shrink a few sizes.”
The t-shirts direct the innocent laundromat patron (AdWeek calls us “fatties”) to a our-tax-dollars-at-work U.S. government website with portion control advice and daily tips on the brilliant order of “Eat before you’re too hungry.” Do they mention any of the diets-don’t-work data? Of course not.
I’ve lived in New York; I’ve done my laundry in city laundromats. It’s hard to think of anything more upsetting than dragging your laundry down the street in the horrible weather, walking into a dingy, unpleasant setting with hard plastic chairs, opening a machine not in use, and finding a critical message from my government. (When I write it out like this, it sounds like the beginning of a bad computer game.)
Like every fat person, I’ve had complete strangers tell me I should lose weight, I’ve had lectures from friends and family members and co-workers, I’ve been bombarded with ad campaigns and TV commercials. But this feels different … and worse. When I feel into what it would be like to open that machine and find the t-shirt, it feels like being personally stalked.
The campaign is being done “pro bono” (“for the good of the people”) by ad agency McCann-Erickson. What this means, of course, is that they’re not only trying to save me and mine from the fat fate worse than death, they’re also trying to figure out how to best use the public laundromat as an advertising delivery device. So if you don’t have a washing machine where you live, be warned: something is coming down the pike into your laundromat to tell you what to do.
But there is one saving grace: the article says that the nasty t-shirts are “tiny.” I’m imagining that they’re small enough for little dogs, and I am somehow charmed by seeing dozens of New York City chihuahuas and Jack Russell terriers, out for walks in cold weather, wearing t-shirts that say “Shrink a few sizes.”