Some of the guys in my outdoor, socially distanced Sunday School group were talking last weekend about getting their COVID-19 shots due to being overweight.
None of us are fat, but most of us have a spare tire. You know, dad bodies.
In Tennessee, about 40% of adults meet the technical definition of obese, i.e. a body mass index of more than 30. Being overweight is so normal in the United States that we hardly even notice any more.
Obesity is one of the health conditions that currently put you in line for a COVID-19 vaccination, in addition to heart disease, diabetes, asthma, hypertension and a few others. All these elevate risk of having severe cases of COVID-19 disease.
"At least I'm not morbidly obese," said a stout guy in our group.
Others nodded, as if to say "yep."
A man who is 5-feet, 9-inches tall and weighs 205 pounds is technically in the obese range with a 30-plus BMI. If, while standing up, your belt buckle tilts even slightly toward the ground, you might qualify.
I told one unvaccinated dad, who is probably a little under the magic BMI, that he looked a couple of cheeseburgers short.
"Just show up for the shot and say, 'Oh, I thought you said, "Come if you're a beast," not obese,'" I told him, flexing like a bodybuilder.
We are all a little punchy (and paunchy) as the pandemic flips over into Year 2. We take comic relief where we can get it. All of us know people who have been very sick, or died, and we mean no disrespect. This is just where we are mentally.
Right now, the world divides into three groups when it comes to the vaccines: The "Got Its." The "Gonna Get Its." And the "Nope, Not Getting Its."
There are two subsets of "Got Its," the one-shots and the two-shots. As a one-shot myself, I asked my Sunday School friends about their second shot experiences. The group is a nest of teachers and school staffers, and many of them went out of county weeks ago to get their shots.
To my mild surprise, several said the second shot felt like a body blow.
"I had an all-consuming need to be horizontal," one said.
"Knocked me on my butt," said another.
The "Got Its" are easy to identify, especially if they are on Facebook. Vaccination Day has supplanted Graduation Day and Anniversary Day as the "most likely occasion to be posted on a Facebook news feed."
One caution: Security experts say it's not a good idea to post a photo of your vaccine card flashing your full name and birthday. It could give bad guys a head start on stealing your identity.
With several states, including Mississippi, offering "come-one, come-all" access to the COVID-19 vaccines now, it seems only a matter of months — if not weeks — until personal choice becomes the determining factor in whether you get a shot or you don't.
It doesn't surprise me that more of the "Nope, Not Getting Its" are men. In a 2019 survey, the Cleveland Clinic found that "nearly two-thirds of men said they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible, and over a third said they withheld information from their doctor."
In my opinion, this phenomenon is more about fear than bravado.
In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, it might be fear of side effects or, more likely, fear of unintended consequences.
One thing I do know, shaming men for not getting a shot is not the answer.
What will tip the scales for a lot of men is if proof of vaccination becomes mandatory for admission to sporting events.
Email Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.