Retox: Booze, Use, And Snooze Your Way to Personal Fulfillment
by Jennifer Traig and Victoria Traig
illustrations by Maria Raymondsdotter
Published by Chronicle Books
142 pages, 2006
Self-Help For the Self-Indulgent
Reviewed by Linda L. Richards
What do you do when your colon has been buffed and scrubbed, your aura cleansed and you haven't eaten a carb in two years? When your energy has been healed within an inch of your life, you've actually used the words "Ayurvedic" and "doctor" in the same sentence and you know exactly what's involved with a Shiatsu massage (and it's nothing to do with dogs).
Where do you go when you've been on a pilgrimage and you came back with nothing but sore feet? When your spirituality has been lifted and your cholesterol lowered and you're looking over pamphlets for chromotherapy like it might actually be a thing?
What do you do when you've done all of this stuff, spent all of this cash, invested all of this time and you wake up one morning and realize that even though you've been heightened and enlightened and set firmly on the path everyone has told you is the right one and you don't actually feel any different -- or better -- than you did when you set out on this whole expensive and time-consuming journey? No really: what do you do?
If you're Jennifer Traig, you grab a relative and sit down to hammer out a mini-tome. And so she begins at the beginning:
The Retox plan begins on the cellular level with a total-body overhaul. Here is where you'll learn to undo all the stinkin' thinkin' you've absorbed over the years about healthy living and homeopathic medicine. Our carefully designed regime of pills, junk food, booze, and tobacco will reverse the long-term effects of good nutrition and regular exercise in a matter of days.
Is it all tongue-in-cheek? With lines like this one, it would have to be: "Remember, substance abuse is a marathon, not a sprint." Or this one: "Dim light and beer goggles can hide only so much." Or recipes for Deep Fried Twinkies and Pizza in A Glass. (Basically vodka, pizza sauce and string cheese. Oh wait: not basically. Aside from pulling the mold off the string cheese, that's pretty much the whole recipe.)
To her credit, Traig doesn't play it for laughs which is what, in the end, makes it very funny. Retox is like a sigh in the middle of doing all that stuff that's good for us. We know -- as does Traig -- that the human body needs exercise not "twenty-four hours on the couch without getting up (except for potty runs)." That the "Discarded Cigarette Butt Squat," "Belligerent Drunk Kickboxing" and "The Urinal Lean" will not replace even a brisk walk through the neighborhood in terms of actual health. We know that the "Tao of Frying" is not a stand-in for spirituality and, like Traig, we've discovered that Pilates is "really hard!"
That's another thing that makes Retox funny: it's tough to be an adult these days. It's hard to make the right choices all the time. To choose organic and low-fat. To say good-bye to all your bad habits. Forever. To take the high road when the low one is a lot less littered with obstacles. And yet we take it, because part of the bargain of our generation is that we must live forever and living forever takes a lot of hard work.
With Retox, Traig lets us play for a little while, if only in our minds. It's fun to fantasize about who we would be if we were really this bad. Retox bad. If, as the Day One menu suggests, we had the "New York Dinner Special": two Krispy Kremes and a Manhattan. Or the "New York Dinner Special Supreme:" two Krispy Kremes and a pitcher of Manhattans, supplemented by four Ex-Lax pills. Or we put together a Retox-approved "100-Proof Home Spa" or we took Librium instead of yoga, or... you get the idea. Think about it. It's fun to think about. In a way, it's a relief to think about.
I can't imagine anyone would take Retox seriously, nor do I think that is the intention of the work. This a book meant to be given as a gift or as a chuckle between friends. You might read it together over a martini. Maybe even two, because you're feeling like being just a little nasty. Then you make plans to work it off at Pilates in the morning before work.
If you do manage to take one thing away from Retox, it should be this: healthy lifestyle is one thing. A good thing. But you really can take a good thing too far. If you spend more time thinking about eliminating your food than you do about eating it, it might be time to reconsider your world. Retox is not the answer, but it might hold the key. | August 2006
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine.