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Posted at 2:06 PM ET, 12/ 6/2010

December is Enough Awareness Month

By Alexandra Petri


All this online awareness is making me red in the face -- and not because my face is raising awareness of Heart Disease.

First there were Breast Cancer ribbons and Livestrong arm bracelets. Then we turned our Twitter avatars green to support Free Iran. But now it's spiraling out of control. Now it's, "Make your Facebook profile picture a cartoon character to end child abuse"? I had no idea it was that easy!

I'm all for awareness. I haven't felt my arm in more than a year because I am wearing rubber bracelets that indicate my support for Adoptee Awareness, Allergy Awareness, Arthritis Awareness, Amber-Alert Awareness (which is, oddly, yellow), Aphasia Awareness -- and that's just my A arm. I have had twenty-five more arms surgically attached to me in order to make room for all my causes, causing me to look like the Wrath of Siva at all times, but a Wrath of Siva who is extremely cognizant of today's hot-button issues.

It's like being a medieval knight, but instead of having rampant gules and lion resplendent, you have green for Tehran awareness on a background of gray for Aphasia and Brown for Anti-Tobacco. "What does your purple-black-golden arm band indicate support for?" I inquire of the guy sitting next to me in the bar. "The Baltimore Ravens," he responds, inching away. "Oh," I say, "I thought you were being aware of Alzheimers, Endometriosis, and Rhett Syndrome." "I don't know what two of those things are!" he says. "Exactly," I respond, icily. I wander off shaking my head. "It's sad really," I murmur. "That guy probably wouldn't be aware of his own head if it weren't attached to his shoulders.

Sometimes it leads to confusion. "Congrats on surviving Breast Cancer!" people yell as I jog past in a pink shirt. "What? No! I'm raising awareness of Birth Mothers!" I shout back. "You must be very melanoma-aware," I tell groups of women marching by in black. "We are nuns," they respond.

I like to think of the M&M's as the "Homeopathy Aware M&M" (green), the " Epidermolysis Bullosa M&M" (red) and the "Support Our Troops M&M" (yellow).

Whenever I see a stoplight, I judge it. Stoplight, are you raising AIDS awareness or trying to free Iran? Make up your mind!

There's a website called, whose slogan is "Find it, fight it, cure it." Finding this was one of the low points of my life. I have spent my entire existence being as aware of things as possible. I am perpetually about to fall over from the weight of all the buttons and lapel pins I wear on my person at all times. In some regions, I am considered a fire hazard. So I thought that I was covered. But there are other things! I've run out of arm! Do you understand? I have no more arm! I would start an awareness campaign to raise awareness for people who have run out of arm and lapel space, but I can't feel anything in any part of my body anymore.

I would donate my money to one of these causes, but I have spent it all on these dang rubber bracelets. Now that I don't have money, I would volunteer my time, but I have to sit by the computer constantly changing my Facebook picture and status to reflect the new, hip thing that I am supposed to be aware of, or putting Twibbons on my avatar. I thought putting a Twibbon on your Avatar was a way of decorating him for valor in combat, but actually, it is another form of awareness-raising!

Look, I like a good cause as much as anyone. I am so aware of things that my Twitter icon is perpetually a murky brown, because when you add green to free Iran and red to be aware of AIDS and purple to end bullying of LGBT teenagers, and then a cartoon animal to end child abuse, you wind up a sort of murky brown. I'm not saying that's a metaphor for anything, but raising awareness has always been distinct from taking action.

Awareness-raisings, unlike barn-raisings, don't leave you with anything nearly so tangible as a barn once they're over. I only hope that at some point, all this awareness-raising leads someone to action-taking. Otherwise, well, what's the point?

That's why I'm declaring this December "Enough Awareness Month." If you're with me, leave your Facebook profile picture the way it is. Leave you avatar the way it is. Leave your arms the way they are. And go donate to something you believe in. Talk to a friend you're worried about. Spend time volunteering. Ring a bell outside a department store. And if anyone asks why you're doing it, say, "I'm celebrating Enough Awareness Month." Because a little awareness goes a long way.

By Alexandra Petri  | December 6, 2010; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Only on the Internet, Petri, Worst Things Ever  | Tags:  Enough Awareness, Facebook, alcohol, awareness  
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Thank you for making me aware of "Enough Awareness Month." I changed my Facebook profile picture to that shot of you sitting on Bob Woodward's lap in a bikini. People aren't aware enough how good Bob looks in his bikini!

Posted by: divtune | December 6, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

While I think that action, by virtue of being action, is more tangible than awareness, I think comparing the two isn't apples to apples.

When you argue that people should actually do something rather than talk about it, which is what spreading awareness is, you're not really placing any value on what awareness can do. What you're essentially saying to people that are spreading awareness is that they are doing nothing, and that instead, they should do something.

And if that's really your logical thrust, then I'm kind of disappointed to see you spend so much time complaining about people who, at the very worst, are doing something on the smallest level. Using your same logic, I'd say you would have better spent your time ignoring them and using your mental linebacker to tackle a real issue in your article.

I've responded thoroughly on my blog.

Posted by: sky76 | December 6, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse


Although you spread awareness of your blog in your comment, your link goes nowhere. This demonstrates Petri's point that awareness is useless without action (actually writing the blog and posting it).

But your comment misses her larger point. She's not saying to eliminate all awareness spreading. She's saying:

Hey, A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark
Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me
Satisfy me baby

Posted by: divtune | December 7, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

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