Hungry, Hungry Hypocrite: The Ordinary World

Comedian/Singer Bo Burnham, who became famous rapping with his keyboard on YouTube, released a single called “Words Words Words” on his stand-up routine album of the same name. After being famous on YouTube for a few years, Bo garnered enough attention for Comedy Central to film one of his stand-up performances to be sold and released to the public in video and audio formats. Having had his level of fame pushed up to the next degree, Bo’s music video for “Words Words Words” drastically changed from the usual format of his previous videos, Bo sitting in his bedroom with his keyboard just rapping. The new video included dance numbers, choreography, and wild animations.

One aspect of Bo’s humor that I’ve always appreciated is his meta-humor and his way of breaking the fourth wall. The chorus of “Words Words Words” goes, “I hate catchy choruses, and I’m a hypocrite, hungry hungry hypocrite.” Of course the music of the song is indeed catchy, so the song is just writhing in irony.

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Bo uses the irony and the reference to the children’s marble game for comedic effect. I’d like to use that phrase “Hungry Hungry Hypocrite” as the lead off for my “ordinary world.”

If you didn’t tell by the titles of the two posts so far, A Call to Adventure and Hungry, Hungry Hypocrite: The Ordinary World, I’m framing my journey like a literary “Hero’s Journey” most commonly attributed to Tolkien’s The Hobbit, George Lucas and Star Wars, and more recently, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Some who are familiar with “The Hero’s Journey” might be saying “What? Wait now…”

Yes, technically, “The Ordinary World” comes first in Joseph Campbell’s narrative pattern, but maybe I also have a little Quentin Tarantino inside of me wanting to make this journey non-linear. So…”say what again…I dare you…”

The Ordinary World, according to Campbell, is described as the point of the story where we see the main character in his natural habitat, kind of like a nature documentary. We observe the character in the middle of things, things that aren’t totally out of the norm. But there is an imbalance. Some sort of conflict arises within the character which pulls him in opposite directions.

So, that’s what I intend to share with you with this post, some examples of what it has been like for me as a food junkie and how it led me here.

I’ve always eaten more than what was necessary for survival. I remember when I was younger not wanting to get Happy Meals at McDonald’s because I wanted a full meal, an adult-sized amount of food. I was a kid when McDonald’s still had their “Super Size” quantities available for their fries and beverages. I could polish that off even as a 10-year-old.

I still have a video from high school with a friend of mine and me at McDonald’s. He recorded me eating a McDouble and a McChicken as fast as I could. Holding that sandwich in my hands, the warmth radiated off of the sandwich, through my fingers and into my soul as I prepared mentally and physically for the task at hand. Opening my mouth as wide as I could,  breathing deeply, and then just shoving the food in my mouth, I took quick bites, being careful not to bite my tongue. I don’t know if I pressed my jaw down all the way for the top row of my teeth to even touch the bottom. Taking each bite in a circular motion, I later found out that I naturally ate it the same way that professional competitive eaters did too. My time was under a minute for both of them. Decent, I thought.

I have yet to try any eating challenges, you know, those humongous burgers or steaks or pizzas or platters of food. Instead, I made up my own contest with myself when going out to eat. And the best place to practice engorging yourself with food? Buffets.

I love going to buffets, a magical place where any and all food is at my disposal. I was a king among men as I would scan the food, preview my menu for the feast, and make a plan of action. First part of that plan? Skip the salad bar. Why waste time filling your gastric real estate with rubbish? I went right for business, the bread(steamy dinner rolls), the meat (chicken, fish, beef, pork, all the above), the potatoes (mashed, fried, baked), the rice (white, fried, pilaf), a little veggie for appearances (corn or green beans, usually), and dessert.

Dessert was it’s own separate meal, not a cherry on top of a main course, but the main course part deux. Ice cream, pie, cookies, bars, cake, not necessarily in that order, but depending on the buffet location, all were contenders in the bout for final spoonful of the meal. I even have a picture for you. This was taken during my honeymoon in Las Vegas when my wife and I ate at the buffet at the Monte Carlo Hotel Resort & Casino. Believe me, it’s stacked higher than it looks.

The biggest piece of prime rib I've ever devoured + shrimp, white rice, fried rice, crab legs, fresh green been, Asian rib, and the fanciest tiramisu dessert I have ever experienced(not pictured)
The biggest piece of prime rib I’ve ever devoured + shrimp, white rice, fried rice, crab legs, fresh green been, Asian rib, and the fanciest tiramisu dessert I have ever experienced(not pictured)

My insatiable desire for fast food only grew. When I was in college, I tended to be alone in my room quite frequently. My only friends were by association to my roommate for the first few months. When he and his friends would go out to do what some college students do best, I would stay in my dorm, playing video games with random people across the world, and eat. One night, around Halloween, I thought it would be fun to play some Left 4 Dead, an intense zombie-killing game. Before I was to engage in such murderous mayhem, I needed to refuel. So, I set out to find some McDonald’s.

One of the biggest economic tragedies of my lifetime, a senseless killing by the hands of society’s inflation, is the death of the McDonald’s Dollar Menu. That particular evening when I was ravenous, zombie-like in my pursuit for fast good, the dollar menu was still alive and well on planet Earth. As I looked at the menu through my car door, window still rolling down automatically, I first noticed that McDonald’s Monopoly Game was at play, one of my favorite times of the year. This meant that I had to reconfigure my plan. Instead of sticking with the $1 fry, I’d bump up to the large fry for two game pieces. I would still go with two McDoubles- no onions and two McChickens; I didn’t want to show favoritism between the two animals. But, instead of whatever dollar menu option for nuggets was, I would get a ten piece nuggets for, you guessed it, two more game pieces. As I stared at the list of items that came with game pieces, I realized that two McDoubles would leave no room for another Big Mac or Quarter-Pounder. But, my eyes betrayed my stomach when I got to the bottom of the list and saw “Fish Filet.” I didn’t want to leave fish out of the equation, which already included beef and chicken. So I added one fish filet to that order, and subsequently, two more game pieces. My last two game pieces, a total of eight for those of you playing at home, came from my large Coke which would help me slay all of this food just as I would slay thousands of zombies in the coming hours. Did I finish it all? Absolutely. Did I eat it all of it, let me remind you, 2 McDouble, 2 McChickens, 10 nuggets, a large fry, a fish filet, and a large Coke, that night? You’re darn right I did. It took some time, yes, but overall, it was a successful night. Right?

My last fast food story and the most recent story on this list begins with my son. Here enters the conflict, the pulling of the character into opposite directions. On one hand, I love fast food. On the other hand, I love my son. And in loving my son, I want what’s best for him, including the best foods for him. Being a young person, my young person in fact, he loves McDonald’s too. He comes for the food, but he comes again and again and again for the toys and the play arena.

He also loves superheros. All the superheros. I am not going to list them. He likes them. And he wants to be strong like the superheros. So, I tell him what is healthy and what isn’t. We talk about foods and what’s going to help give him “super muscles” and what won’t. He picks up on it here and there and actually selects healthy foods occasionally on his own.

I can’t tell you it was one particular time in the drive through, when I had some great epiphany that threw everything into perspective. It was more like Giles Corey in The Crucible who was pressed to death with large rocks, the weight kept compounding each time. Each time what? That I would eat fast food? No. Not so simply. It was more like each time I would sneak fast food. See, occasionally, I will need to make quick trips into town, and sometimes I will end these quick trips with a quick pass through a drive-thru. I might even put it on my credit card so it doesn’t show up on the joint account. I might even buy food when I know I’m coming home to a hot supper. A couple times, I might have even purchased fast food for everyone, that time when my wife didn’t feel like cooking, then separately purchased fast food at a different place I was in the mood for on my credit card that I could eat in the car on the way home before I ate my regularly scheduled fast food with my family. Might…

My conflict is this: I am a hungry hungry hypocrite. I tell my son what we need to eat; I even eat it around him to show what needs to be done. But more often than not, I eat anything I want, how much of it I want, anytime I want. It’s a gross abuse of power, but it also shows a disgusting loss of power.

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