Earlier this morning I read the following: 

“Did you know that dogs and cats, perhaps because their fur blocks their skin’s ability to absorb sunlight and produce Vitamin D, secrete an oil that converts to Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight? It then has to be ingested orally, which is one reason that pets are always licking themselves.”1

I love sentences that begin with Did you know… That structure always makes me think of children. I do not have children; I don’t even have child. Still, I can think about them, an admission that hopefully doesn’t make me sound like a complete pervert.2

By this stage of life, the majority of my friends have kids, which means that if I want to spend time with my friends, usually I also have to spend time with their children as well. On the whole — this is cool. Kids are weird, and that’s fun.3 I’ve noticed that most of my friends’ kids’ lives have followed a similar trajectory: cute potted plant; wildly roaming disruptor; annoying contrarian; and then – thankfully – somewhere in there a person develops that can not simply reason but communicate its reasoning with words.4

One of the ways that new intellect is expressed and defined is often through phrases like, Did you know… At first, the reality is that Yes, obviously I do know, because I’m an adult dealing with a child who has just explained to me that sometimes doggies are brown. But, as the kid gets older and starts to read, then watches interesting documentaries and thinks and explores further, there comes a day when the little one asks, Did you know…, and the reality is that No, I did not know that. 

Which brings me back to the sentence quoted above. I’ll admit that at the time I first read it, I did not know that information about furry pets and vitamin D. But I know it now, which, since we’re flitting about the subject of childhood, puts me in mind of an old companion from my youth named Joe. Old Joe was fond of asserting that “Knowing is half the battle,” a statement that is as unprovable as it is obviously bullshit, which raises the question — Why was I told to listen to this guy??5

Back to the pet thing — I was inspired by this new information to do a little digging into vitamin D. The first thing I found out is that you can’t actually dig into vitamin D, for a host of reasons, not the least being that vitamin D is not actually a vitamin. (Did you know… that Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin??) Instead, it’s what’s called a prohormone, which, sadly isn’t as rah-rah as it sounds — We’re pro-hormone in this house! — and instead has something to do with a whole lot of science stuff I simply don’t understand.

Like most of us, I don’t like being lied to, which clearly is what the vitamin people have been doing for years.6 In pursuit of answers, I took Lenin’s advice and followed the money, which revealed a trail whose path led me to an astonishing destination: Did you know… that Americans spend $35+BILLION dollars a year on dietary supplements.7 Much of this is focused on diet pills, muscle building boosts, and products to enhance sexual function. It may be useful to note that almost NONE of these things has been show to be medically effective, while ALL of these products can pose serious risks to one’s health.8

As for “vitamin D” — let’s put aside the obvious misnomer and look at what it actually does to our bodies. Purportedly it helps promote and maintain healthy bones and teeth, and a bunch of other stuff you can Google if you’re interested. After all, this is not a health column, though if it was I’d tell you to throw away your “vitamin D” because the whole thing is clearly a sham. If you’re lacking “vitamin D,” you may experience many symptoms, two of which I’d like to highlight: low mood and fatigue.9

Why do I want to highlight these? Because almost everyone I’ve spoken to since this COVID nonsense began has experienced, to varying degrees and permutations (and often in addition to many other emotional challenges), depression and lethargy. There’s not much news in stating the obvious: life’s been a real stinker this year. But that’s the thing about life — sometimes it does that. 

With that in mind, and to help buttress readers who may be struggling during these challenging times, allow me to turn this into a health column after all.10 One thing that can be done to counteract the pandemic blues is to ingest more “vitamin D.” I realize it’s presently summer and the sun, which is a major source of “vitamin D,” is near to hand. But fall and winter are right around the corner, and it’s useful to remember that it wasn’t raining when Noah began building that ark.

With that in mind, go on out and get yourself a pet. Don’t get any old pet, but make sure it’s one with fur. If you’re a Basic Betty grab a standard poodle or a tabby cat; if you’re more of an Exotic Ellen, pick yourself up a chinchilla or a koala. The important thing is that is has fur. Once you get that thing home, go on and start licking. (If you’re the punctilious sort, maybe wash it?) Remember that age old adage Grandpappy used to say: Once your pet you start licking, your mood soon will begin kicking!

After that, all you got to do is keep it fed, keep it watered, and keep it clean.11 Keep your new pet close until this pandemic passes and I promise — you’ll make it through.

  1. The article in question is pretty great and can be found here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/08/03/rethinking-the-science-of-skin.
  2. I will take a brief moment to once again curse the name of Jerry Sandusky: beyond the horrendous traumas he inflicted on many young children, he also forever ruined the classic avuncular nickname, “The Tickle Monster,” which he apparently employed while preying upon children. I don’t believe in Hell, but I’m willing to reconsider the idea if Sandusky’s attendance in such a place is guaranteed in writing.
  3. The original draft of this essay noted here that Kids say the Darndest Things, but that proved to be two too many creeper references for one post.
  4. There’s a curious tension that develops in children (and sadly remains in place for many adults): on the one hand, there’s the ability to reason and speak, while on the other hand there’s the refusal to do so in a constructive, helpful manner. Oh boy… Two thoughts: 1: I don’t believe adults are ever justified hitting a kid, but man do I understand why some do; 2: This contrast is probably the number one reason I would never, ever want to be a parent.
  5. Seriously, with models like The Real American Hero and Uncle Tickle Monster, it’s no wonder so many of us are messes.
  6. Obviously, if vitamin D isn’t an actual vitamin, why are you calling it one? Further, why did you give it such a formidable, early-in-the-alphabet consonant? Presuming you went A, B, C, then D, that means that once you were four vitamins in you were lying at least 25% of the time, which raises all sorts of doubts about the veracity of A, B and C.
  7. To prove I’m not making this up, you can read all about it here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5377432/
  8. I realized that I promised an essay about licking your pet. I promise to return to the subject momentarily; for now, let’s put a pin in this staggering piece of information mentioned above, with a note attached that reads: If you’re wondering what the fuck-all is wrong with Americans today, revelations will likely be found in the field of dietary supplements.
  9. Curiously enough, “vitamin D” deficiency is also associated with hair loss, which — well, okay, they got me there… That puts me in mind of a former President, one whose bumbling speech would today be hailed as oration worthy of Pericles: Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…, well — you…, can’t — you shouldn’t fool me again...
  10. “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
  11. Did you know… that there are tiny mites that live off the skin and oils present on your face? Did you know… that those same mites spend their nights doing what we should all be doing — copulating? Did you know… that because those mites do not have anuses, eventually they die from all the skin and oils they consumed off your face?? (Seriously — stop for a minute and imagine not having an anus!)