I heard this on a commercial the other day, maybe for The Next Iron Chef. You know, where chefs compete to become television stars, if they aren’t already, by participating in cooking contests. I love a good cooking contest as well as the next person, so don’t get me wrong. Cooking competitions are fun. But apparently for chefs, it’s like going to war.
Really? Are people shooting at them while they’re cooking? Are bombs going off around them? Are IED’s littering the countertops? When they’re done with the competition will they return home with PTSD and an overwhelming urge to assimilate while being unsure how? Will they suffer bouts of anger, depression, and ennui? Or do they run the risk of not returning home at all when one of the competitors decides to Take The Competition Seriously and stabs them with a boning knife?
Okay, it’s true that I have no actual war experience myself. When I was in the military we were, nominally, at peace, and though we played at war for practice, there’s no way it could have been anything like actual war. I was aware of that when I was told to please lay on the body bag and then climb up into the truck myself, because if they’d zipped me up into the bag I’d 1) be unable to breathe, and then 2) gotten hurt when they’d throw my body bag up in into the truck, which is what would have happened if we’d been at war. Also, at the end of the day I got to leave the morgue and go back to . . . work. There’s nothing like a real war to show us that indeed, there’s nothing like war.
War is messy and icky and painful, and at the end the people who do get to come home don’t get awarded with a starring role in a television show. Though that’s not a bad idea, is it?
“It’s like going to war,” except it isn’t. But hey, who am I to say?
We love to exaggerate. Personally, I love to throw things in my writing like, “There’s absolutely nothing worse than . . . “ because, in real life, there are many worse things than whatever I’m saying, and while I’m not sure everyone else gets the irony, I do, so what else matters?
We love to appropriate inappropriate words and use them in a different context, especially if they’re powerful words. A favorite of mine is rape. “I’ve been raped by the government!” “I’ve been raped by big business!” “I’ve been raped by society!”
Whatever. When I hear this I immediately disregard whatever else the speaker is trying to say. If that’s the best they can do to describe what’s happening to them, I’m not inclined to hear any more. Maybe they’re right, and maybe they are being raped by amorphous entities who are holding them down and threatening their lives while . . . well, you know. Rape is a sexual assault. Maybe we should create a new word to describe what people think is rape, but isn’t. You go first. I’ll pick up on it later and find fault with it, if I can.
It’s what I do.
I’m going to work now, which is much like playing at war, in that I get to sit in a comfy office and get paid. At least that’s how I play war, I don’t know about you.