Sweet relief 

Hey, I got your new drag name for you. Sarah Tonin.

Pretty good, huh? Everybody loves serotonin. She is a fickle and controlling mistress. Just like you when you shave your chest and wear your vinyl bustier.

Serotonin is a brain chemical that regulates mood like a faucet regulates water: It affects how hot and cold you run. According to Time magazine, serotonin "has been implicated ... in depression, uncontrollable appetite ... obsessive-compulsive disorder ... autism, bulimia, social phobias, premenstrual syndrome, anxiety and panic, migraines, schizophrenia and even extreme violence." I've been implicated in a few of these things, but not all, so I have to hand it to serotonin, which has the kind of power that deep people fear and shallow people crave. God, I just wish I could put it in a squirt gun.

So, now that you know everything you feel is an illusion built on brain chemistry, that it isn't kismet or God but a milliliter of something from the pharmacy that has made you what you are, how do you feel? Depressed? You should be. Your life is not your own, and there's just a fingernail full of liquid between you and Nurse Ratchett. And who knows when it could misfire? You could be puttering to work and next thing you know you're punching your mother or falling in love with something that looks like it ought to be pulling a cart. It's awful to think about what a plastic bag in the wind you really are in this world. You deserve a little something. Have some chocolate.

Feel-good policy

Lots of Americans do. We eat about 12 pounds of chocolate per person, for the same reason people take Ecstasy: Chocolate jacks up your serotonin level. It makes you feel better.

Or you could go shopping. Eight percent of Americans are compulsive shoppers, suffering from a driving need to Hoover up Prada bags, DVD players, candles shaped like pigs and Christ-knows-what-all in their pursuit of happiness. When the guilt at their wretched excess gnaws at them, they shop to cure it, poor things. Well, they're poor after the credit-card bills arrive.

Thank God, though, help is on the way for these unsightly freaks held prisoner by Hersheys and eBay. Dieticians in London are working on a patch, similar to the one for nicotine, that would save chocoholics from themselves, and researchers at Stanford University are trying to come up with a pill to cure shopaholism. Someone actually studied medicine and did this with it.

This is a gross indulgence worthy of Marie Antoinette, which means you have to love it. It's wondrous how lucky we are. Other countries have ebola and cholera, and we live in a place where purchasing Ghirardelli sundaes and Lancome products is considered a disease.

In fact, there's no reason to stop with chocolate and shopping. Why not a gossip patch, a judgmentalist patch, a boring-old-fart patch, a falling-in-love-with-idiots patch, all to prevent people from engaging in these annoying activities? The chocolate patch works by leeching out the scent of vanilla, which makes the wearer feel sated and no longer desirous of Milk Duds. There are plenty of dumb compulsions that could be corrected in the same way.

Vanilla Ice patch: Leeches sound of own voice into skin, prevents white guys from ever saying, "Yo, brother."

Hangover patch: Emits whiffs of stale smoke, beer and stomach acid, for when you swear you're going out for two drinks, tops, and then stay out for three days.

Sap patch: Sap released into skin prevents wearer from needing to see movies that contain Robin Williams, the line "Don't die on me, man!" or three feisty middle-age women teaming up to give the world what-for.

Party patch: Worn by staff at chain restaurants, it prevents them from writing/singing birthday songs to tunes of "Home on the Range," Pagliacci, "Aqua Lung" or whatever other evil they might come up with.

Ill advised

Shallow and trivial, yes, but I'm convinced a chocolate patch and shopping pill will one day rid the world of disease. Here's how:

How would you feel if you had breast or testicular cancer and you found out the brainiest kids at Stanford were hard at work curing shopping? You'd feel like getting out of your bed and kicking a little lab-jacketed ass. Leak this information about these profound medical breakthroughs to the very ill and their families, and they're bound to revolt, going to labs and threatening to sneeze on or shoot anyone who authorizes future research into curing sunburns acquired specifically on transatlantic cruises. With important money funneled correctly, we'd probably have a vaccine for the common cold in 20 minutes.

That's my plan for healing the world, so call the Nobel committee and let me borrow that vinyl bustier; I need something to wear to pick up the prize. If I don't get it for healing the world, I'm sure to get it for my serotonin martinis with fresh kumquats and floating gold leaf. Martha Stewart's going to kill herself. No serotonin in her.

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