America, what happened?
We used to get on so well. We used to be able to count on each other. I used to give you that little kick in the pants you needed to be your best. Now I’m not even on the table at your favorite restaurant. And if you are loyal enough to request your old friend, the best you get are two tiny impossible to open shame packets. God forbid you enjoy your fries without the entire restaurant watching you struggle to open me like an overweight arthritic bear with two broken hands trying to open a can of grape soda in some guy’s garage zoo. Asking for mustard nowadays is like quoting scientific facts at a Tea Party rally. You can do it, but nobody will ever look at you the same way again.
Look, I’m not going to bore you with my long and storied history that stretches from Ancient Rome to your tongue. Or the variety of ways I can be used beyond food (I can help with your seasonal allergies… Did you just burn your hand? I can help take away the pain…Or just take a few bites and let me speed up your metabolism). Something deeper has happened to us. But I think we can repair the rift.
I don’t want to blame ketchup, but c’mon. Ketchup? Really? It can’t even decide how to spell itself. Is it with a “k” or a “c”? “Chup” or “sup”? But that’s beside the point. We were meant to go together. We aren’t your divorced parents. I’m not making you choose between us. It’s not weekdays with ketchup and mustard every other weekend. I’m not looking for you to tell me all about ketchup’s new boyfriend (though I’m sure he’s a real piece of shit). I’m totally fine if you use us together. We are a both/and thing, not an either/or thing…except on hot dogs, because, c’mon, ketchup on a hot dog? It’s just wrong.
Everybody likes ketchup. I get it. Ketchup is sweet. It makes you feel good. Reminds you of your lost youth, of warm summer days and swimming pools (you know who else was there? Me…probably washing the dishes and blowing up the inner-tubes). Listen, I like sugar as much as the next guy, but things are getting out of hand here. Am I the only one that read Brave New World? Can’t you see that ketchup is your soma? Not everything you eat needs to taste like candy. Is your life that devoid of meaning? Are things really so bad? Is getting out of bed that hard?
Put ketchup on whatever you’re eating and it no longer matters what you’re eating – because now you’re eating sweet delicious ketchup. Restaurants know this, that’s why they slather everything with ketchup. Ketchup removes the skill. They’ve brainwashed waiters and waitresses to shame you for asking for me. They know that a sophisticated palate like yours demands the depth of flavor I provide (I mean look at how many fucking varieties I come in!) and won’t be satisfied by some 2 for $20 ketchup covered overdone steak.
Ketchup is using you. Ketchup is the friend that tells you what you want to hear. I’ll tell you what you need to hear. Wonder why you’re still dating Keith even though he’s unemployed, cheats on you, and rarely bathes? Can’t figure out why you can’t nab that promotion even though you show up late and spend all day making up fake responses to Yahoo Answers questions? Ketchup makes you feel good about yourself. But it’s a sham. Ketchup is your Regina George. It’s always about her. Ketchup doesn’t give a shit about you. It’s just using you to spread its sugary agenda. It’s pandering to you, and before you know it it’s going to be too late. There’s a reason our government has checks and balances. I’m the Supreme Court to ketchup's presidency (and I guess that makes mayo congress?). Ketchup has been unchecked for too long.
Life isn’t a bowl of sugar. You’re going to face some pretty heavy shit. If you’ve spent your days fattening up on the sugary goodness of ketchup you won’t be ready for life’s tests. Ketchup is tricking you into thinking that everything is sweet and easy. It’s dulling your edge, minimizing your instincts.
If you’re happy with your ketchup, you can keep your ketchup. Nobody is trying to take your ketchup away. I’m just trying to add some spice. I’m trying to put the truth back in your life. I’m trying to put you back into your life.
Put me back on the table America!
Matt Fotis is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Albright College. He is the author of Long Form Improvisation and American Comedy - The Harold, The Comedy Improv Handbook, and "My Fragile Family Tree: Stories of Fathers & Sons."