op-ed

Welcome to Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month

Robert Laurie Freelance Writer
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I was expecting a nice leisurely April—a month of long walks as the trees begin to bloom, front porch cocktails as the temperature warms, and maybe, when the weather was just right, that first up-North road trip of summer. Unfortunately, I underestimated the amount of pressure I’m going to be under. April is the kind of month set aside for awareness raising events, and it will take time, money, and plenty of ribbon if I’m going to participate properly.

I’m sure you already know that April is “Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month.” After all, you’ve had your IBS gifts picked out, purchased, and wrapped for some time now. If you’re planning to leap out and surprise that special IBS sufferer with a present and a hearty cheer of “Happy IBS Awareness month,” well, you may want to think twice. These are not people who deal well with sudden shock. You may want to cross that long, early summer walk off your list too, since they tend to stick close to home. The correct color of an IBS awareness ribbon is periwinkle, and it is worn on the left lapel.

It’s probably a good idea to skip that walk on April 8 as well, since that day’s been designated “One Day Without Shoes.” According to the organizer’s website, the day encourages people to “go the day, part of the day, or even just a few minutes, barefoot, to experience a life without shoes, firsthand.” If, for some reason, you’re unable to go barefoot for a few minutes, the site provides visitors with a list of “Shoes-OK events” and even a way to go “virtually barefoot.” The goal of the day is to raise awareness about the fact that there are people in the world who have no shoes. Please remember, you will not be able to get service at most major fast food restaurants should you decide to participate. The shoeless awareness day ribbon is a shoelace, folded over and pinned, again, to the left lapel.

April, of course, is also known as “Gaypril” on North American college campuses. Yes, it’s spring, and a young person’s fancy turns to thoughts of love. So it’s obviously the perfect time to hold “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Questioning Month.” You read that right, “Queer Questioning.” Even if you’re don’t fit into one of the other categories, but are thinking that you might someday, this month is for you! A rainbow colored ribbon is appropriate throughout the month and is worn – you guessed it – on the left lapel. In addition, the red AIDS awareness ribbon is frequently spotted this month, though this is something of a fashion faux pas, since it’s traditionally worn in December, and again on Oscar night.

If, on the back of your driver’s license, you’ve listed yourself as an organ donor, congratulations! You’re all set to celebrate April as “Donate Life Month.” Go ahead and slap a green ribbon on your increasingly crowded left lapel, to raise awareness about the virtues of donating organs, limbs, and tissues.

Please, though, be careful about donating your liver – especially if you’ve never observed “Alcohol Awareness Month.” Because it’s not called alcoholism awareness month I initially thought my front porch cocktails would be a perfect fit. What better way to become aware of alcohol? I was mistaken. Alcohol Awareness Month is all about exposing the myriad evils of booze, including underage drinking, drinking while pregnant, and, presumably, drinking underage while pregnant. Alcohol awareness shares a red ribbon with AIDS, so that one can pull double duty. Again, left lapel, please.

In the midst of planning these observances, I completely forgot about April 15, otherwise known as Tax Day. Fortunately, April is “Taxation Awareness Month.” This one seems almost too obvious and will feature a variety of protests as we close in on the IRS Super Bowl. The tax-awareness ribbon consists of a folded dollar bill pinned to a now-overflowing left lapel.

If you’ve run out of room on the left side of your body, don’t fret. The stress you’re feeling is normal, and will be easily allayed by the soothing effects of “Stress Awareness Month.” Doctors are toiling feverishly, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in laboratories all over the world, engaged in the desperate, ceaseless pursuit of stress reduction. April is their month to tell you all about it. As far as I can see, there’s no ribbon for stress awareness month, since it would just be one more thing you’d have to worry about.

You don’t have to participate in all of these, mind you – the choice is yours. Myself? I intend to go whole-hog. You’ll be able to find me, near the bathroom, stinking sober, barefoot, and covered in ribbons, wondering just how much taxpayer funding is going to these events. It seems to me, if people spent half as much time and money fixing their problems as they spend making others aware of them, we’d all be a lot better off.

Robert Laurie writes a daily political commentary blog, The Robalution. Robert holds a degree in English from Wayne State University, and has worked in advertising as a graphic designer and copy writer.