Lisa Kogan
The terrorists are terrifying, the glaciers are melting, and cancer has yet to be eradicated. So we wear ribbons and bracelets. We send money, guns and lawyers. We raise awareness, we raise funds, we raise hopes. We are up to our earlobes in worthy causes. You show me a disease, and I'll show you a race for the cure. You see a natural disaster, I see Anderson Cooper in hip boots and a parka. Give me a calamity, and I'll give you a bipartisan commission issuing a report.

But nobody is out there tackling the really big issue. Yes, once again it falls to my little monthly column to spearhead the campaign against a silent killer. It's insidious, it's crippling and it plagues almost everyone I know. It attacks seemingly healthy males and females of all races and economic backgrounds, and though we may get better, precious few of us ever get completely well. I'm talking about the shame, the scourge, the heartbreak of massive insecurity.

Let's call it MI, because initials always sound more urgent when the celebrity spokesperson explains it to Larry King. "Well, Larry," she'll tearfully begin, "my first bout of MI hit in seventh grade, right before Marcy Needleman's roller disco bat mitzvah party." Dabbing her smudge-proof-mascaraed eyes with a crumpled tissue, she'll take a deep breath and forge ahead. "How many nights have I lain awake asking myself the same question: Why, why, why did I choose that day to try parting my hair down the side?"

Before long I envision a "very special" episode of Sesame Street, in which Snuffy admits he suffers from MI and goes into rehab; a public service announcement encouraging us to get tested before it's too late; and a magazine quiz zeroing in on the early warning signs.
  1. Before showing my upper arms in public, I first: (a) Make certain my tankini is clean and there's film in the camera. (b) Drink like there's no tomorrow and wait for a total eclipse of the sun.
  2. I am being ignored by a snobby Rodeo Drive salesperson. Therefore I: (a) Find the manager and explain that I am entitled to service and civility. (b) Slink away as if I had just been caught committing a felony or enjoying Paris Hilton's debut CD.
  3. To secure the salary increase I want, need and deserve, I meet with my boss and say: (a) I've taken on greater responsibility and I believe I should receive greater monetary compensation. Here are several examples of the ways in which I've contributed to the quality of our product. (b) Um...I'm sorry, I'm probably bothering fact let me come back later, maybe... I just wanted to, um, say [insanely long pause], you're pretty.
  4. I am on a first date with a very attractive man. I order: (a) Whatever I'm in the mood to eat. (b) A single grain of couscous because it's essential this person understand that I am dainty and delicate and exist on a simple diet of air and my own loveliness.
  5. When I walk into a party where I don't see anyone I know, I think: (a) What a terrific opportunity to meet some new people! (b) I will spend the next nine minutes standing in the corner pretending to be onion dip, at which point I will fake a migraine, go home, put on my giant Detroit Tigers T-shirt, and watch a rerun of Law & Order SVU, the way God intended me to do.

If you answered "B" to any of these questions, it is my sad duty to inform you that you could be one of the 6,576,344,362* members of society suffering from massive insecurity.

*Note: We do not include anyone who's been cryogenically frozen. Nor do we count one Howard J. Koppleman of Dayton, Ohio, whose parents inexplicably appear to have done everything exactly right—the entire Koppleman family is currently being studied by massively insecure researchers at NASA. 
What started this epidemic of insecurity? Maybe we were all left to cry it out in our cribs for too long, and it kept us from developing a healthy sense of entitlement. Or maybe we were held so much and hugged so close that it rendered us incapable of standing on our own two feet with any real confidence. Maybe we should blame our fathers, if for no other reason than it serves as a delightful change of pace from blaming our mothers. Or maybe we should blame the solar system—I know I haven't been the same since they decided Pluto wasn't allowed to be a planet anymore. Or maybe we should blame our gym teachers—seriously, get me the name of the sadist who came up with dodgeball.

Or maybe it doesn't matter who started it. What matters is that we don't seem to know our own worth. What matters is that we still worry the cool kids won't want to eat lunch at our table. What matters is that I have two different friends who wear makeup to bed because they're afraid to look like they actually look in front of the men they're attempting to dazzle.

So here are the choices: We could either hold a telethon to fight MI and perhaps raise enough money to get scientists started on a vaccine that will wipe the damn thing out once and for all. I mean, if we can destroy an entire layer of ozone in my lifetime, how hard can it be to get rid of our insecurities? Or we could decide to take a risk, say what we think, get up and dance, wear our crow's-feet like crinkly little badges of honor, acknowledge that it can be really, really scary to face the world head-on armed with nothing more than a strong sense of irony and a good pair of shoes—and then do it anyway.

Me? Well, I'm hoping that vaccine is right around the corner.


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