TAKES




WEIGHTY MATTERS: Content With Ourselves, Whether We Should Be or Not
A casual glance at passersby will confirm new Gallup findings that Americans “are losing the battle of the bulge.” More intriguing is Gallup’s interpretation of its data on the weight gain: people “seem resigned to it.” Though their self-reported weight has risen nearly 10 pounds during the ’90s, “fewer Americans consider themselves to be overweight” (39 percent now versus 48 percent then) and 72 percent are “generally pleased” with the way their bodies look. Should we applaud people’s growing comfort with themselves or decry it as reflecting a general decline in standards? Some people clearly are afflicted more by poor body image than by a few extra pounds. But there are many others for whom a prudent wish to shed pounds represents the entirety of their efforts at self-improvement. Do we want them to decide they’re as good as they’ll ever get? There’s a fine line between resignation (often sensible) and self-satisfaction (often obnoxious). When people start to go easier on themselves in a highly charged matter like weight, it could signal a broader trend toward self-acceptance. Considering some of the selves running around loose these days, that’s a scary prospect. For instance, we meet more and more people who appear perfectly comfortable with the rude, vulgar and/or annoying way they behave in public. Would we want them to accept their personalities as is? The mania for self-improvement has been the subject of much ridicule, plenty of it justified. But the excesses stemming from self-improvement are as nothing compared to the excesses rooted in self-satisfaction. These days, people appear all too eager to accept their faults–and, by extension, to have the rest of us accept them as well. If that’s where resignation leads, excess weight will be the least of our society’s problems.

ALL THE RAGE: The Ads Don’t Prepare Us For the ‘Armrest Bullies’
When magazines start running stories about “air rage,” you know the time has come to put the civil back into civil aviation. A piece in Condƒ Nast Traveler recounts a reader survey in which 48 percent of respondents said “other passengers’ behavior has gotten worse in recent years.” At least some of them may be extrapolating from their own behavior, as 25 percent confess they’re “armrest bullies” and 33 percent admit they board before their row is called–mostly so they can win the race for space in the overhead luggage bins. As for more venial sins, 55 percent acknowledge that they eavesdrop on seatmates’ inflight phone calls. (That sort of crime is its own punishment.) An item in Details, meanwhile, notes a 292 percent rise in incidents of air rage since 1994. Airline advertising is partly to blame for this trend, according to a psychology professor quoted by the magazine. The images of endless pampering in airline ads end up “infantilizing” the passengers–which, predictably enough, predisposes them to throw temper tantrums when inflight reality doesn’t live up to the advertised ideal.

MIXED BLESSINGS: The Unresponsive Sex,
What’s in a Name, Etc.
Seeing a headline that says, “Men Are Less Responsive to Internet Ads Than Women,” cynics will say men are less responsive to everything than women. Still, a communiquƒ bearing that headline offers some intriguing insights from PC Data of Reston, Va. An online survey by the firm finds 51 percent of female respondents saying they occasionally click onto Internet banner ads, versus43 percent of men. Conversely, 39 percent of men and 29 percent of women seldom click on banners.

An ad for an apple festival demonstrates anew that clichƒs can be turned to imaginative use–in this case, by taking the relationship between apples and doctors to its logical conclusion. Indeed, a fresh look at an old idea is preferable to a half-baked effort at concocting a new one, particularly since the old idea (having stood the test of time) is the more likely of the two to be true. Cashman & Katz of Glastonbury, Conn., created the ad.

Pity the poor agency whose client adopts a new corporate name. Since such a change is deeply interesting to the company making it but utterly uninteresting to the public at large, these announcement ads are a dreary lot. Let us tip our mortarboards, then, to eCollege.com (nƒe Real Education) as a welcome exception to the rule. Unless a company dates back to the dawn of the industrial age, a renaming suggests it did a less-than-stellar job of naming itself in the first place. Under the circumstances, the self-mockery of the coffee-mug offer (via agency TDA of Longmont, Colo.) is more suitable than the self-aggrandizement that often marks such announcements.

When commercials show couples getting romantic in public places, do they rub some viewers the wrong way? So one might infer from a reader poll conducted by Glamour on the topic of PDAs (i.e., public displays of affection). While an indulgent 69 percent of respondents said “lovebirds can neck in the open,” 66 percent would proscribe a “frisky embrace in a crowded park.” Likewise, 45 percent of them condemned “groping at the movies.” In the audience, that is.

LABOR DAZE: Maybe It’s Not Too Late To Become a Fireman
Economists agree that labor-force mobility is crucial to a modern economy. As such, they should be delighted to learn that vast numbers of Americans are ready to chuck their jobs at a moment’s notice. A study by Career Education Corp. of Hoffman Estates, Ill., finds half of working adults saying they’d consider changing careers, and one in four saying they expect to make such a shift in the next 12 months. In fact, a majority of respondents (54 percent) already have at least one career change behind them. As the chart indicates, money is the leading factor in such restlessness, though “personal happiness” isn’t far behind. (People who toil at agencies may have forgotten that work and personal happiness are not mutually exclusive.) Just 19 percent of those surveyed say they would never consider a change in career. The widespread willingness to take this career and shove it partly reflects the finding that just 25 percent of people got into their line of work through deliberate design–slightly fewer than the sum of those who landed in their current jobs through personal contacts (18 percent) or mere chance (9 percent). The study says few potential career-switchers are fazed by the need to master new technologies. Age is more of a deterrent, cited by 11 percent of those surveyed. One surprise in the data: Equal numbers of those with high school and postgraduate educations (47 percent) have considered changing careers.