BOSTON. Lyman Sturgis is standing at the finish line of the Walk for the Cure for Self-Pity, looking down at a clipboard, and from his expression you can tell that something isn’t right. “It’s funny,” he says as the last straggler completes the 5-mile course. “We had 532 people sign up, but only 286 finished.”
“I know I’m not going to make it.”
A short walk down Commonwealth Avenue is all it takes to get to the bottom of the mystery, however, as one encounters walkers of all stripes who gave up not far from the finish line, convinced that the obstacles ahead of them were insurmountable.
“These shoes suck,” says Kris Mufano, an actuarial accountant who was encouraged to participate by his wife Leanne.
“They’re just as good as everybody else’s,” she says as she drains the last of the water from the commemorative bottle she received for participating.
“Not everybody else’s,” her husband says bitterly as he sees an elderly man in soft leather sneakers that appear from a distance to be the ultimate in pedestrian comfort.
Built for comfort.
Self-pity is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Whiney Disorders as a state of mind in which an individual perceives generally applicable conditions as affecting him or her to a greater degree than others. People who suffer from the ailment consequently believe they are deserving of sympathy and are a gigantic pain in the keister.
For Normand Oliver III, a fifth-generation Bostonian who has never traveled south of New York City, the affliction manifests itself in the form of a excessive sensitivity to heat. “Global warming is killing me!” he says as he takes a seat on a bench next to a statue of the ur-WASP historian Samuel Eliot Morison on the Commonwealth Mall.
Morison: “Get off your duff and get moving!”
“It’s the same temperature for everybody,” says his father, who traveled the South to oversee the family’s investments in cotton mills before he retired. “Down in Atlanta they’d consider this cold weather,” he adds, referring to the pleasantly-cool seventy-degree temperature.
“I don’t care, I say it’s hot and I’m not walking another step,” says his son as he folds his arms across his chest like a stubborn toddler twenty years younger.
Back at the finish line Sturgis says the failure of so many walkers to complete the course may cause his organization, the New England Self-Pity Foundation, to miss its fund-raising goal. “You sign up pledges, and if you don’t follow-through with your commitment they may back out,” he says ruefully. “That can happen to any charity, but still I ask myself–why me?”