Optatio (op-ta’-ti-o): Expressing a wish, often ardently.

“Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d truly like to be.
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,
Everyone would be in love with me.

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I’d never want to be.
Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.
There would soon be nothing left of me!”

When I first heard this as a kid, I wondered what was wrong with the kid singing the song. He thought people would love him if he was a hot dog. Can you imagine that: “Oh honey, you’re the sleekest, pinkest hot dog I’ve ever known. I love you. Let’s make some ‘little smokies’ together.” But it gets worse. The kid with wienerphillia wants everyone to love him, and believes that being a hot dog will make that happen. Sadly, the concept of love the he has is not agape. In fact, it is just the opposite. Within the short scope of the jungle, he reverses his position, deciding not to be a hotdog. The abrupt turnabout is puzzling at first. But when he musically tells us that being loved leads to being eaten, we can see why he changed his mind. And it is people who are eating him. As a hot dog, he eligible for lunch. Of course, being eaten would be painful, not to mention the boiling water or microwaving that make him edible. Not only that, being eaten is a death warrant. The only up side I could imagine, was getting to go to Labor Day and Fourth of July gatherings, and being loved.

So, when I first heard the “love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener” song , I was 12 years old. We had “beans and weenies” at least once a week. I couldn’t get over the idea that love is a kind of cannibalism that involves eating the object of your affection, and that hot dogs, accordingly, might be made out of processed people. My big sister didn’t help that much when I asked her about hot dogs. Our across the street neighbors had recently moved and their house was vacant. My sister told me they had actually been made into hot dogs, and we were going to have them in our beans and weenies the next night. I was the most gullible 12-year-old on the planet. “Wrong reasons” underwrote my thinking: I would believe things were true for the wrong reasons, and I would think things weren’t true for the wrong reasons. For example, in the case of the wiener song, I thought it was true because it was on TV—that the singing boy was sincere, his wiener-desire was powerful, and his fear of being eaten by humans was well-founded. So, I believed my sister: our beans and weenies would include pieces of our processed neighbors. I was filled with dread.

It was bed time. I kissed Mom good night and shook hands with Dad. I’d tried to kiss Dad on the cheek once, and he shoved me away. I fell on the floor and I cut my knee on an errant Tinker Toy. My mother hit my father in the face with a rolled-up magazine and yelled “Apologize to the boy you goddamn oaf!” He apologized, and we agreed to shake hands instead of hugging or anything like that in the future.

Mom tucked me in and I quickly fell asleep. I had become a hot dog! I dreamed I was driving a hot dog-limo with a beautiful blond wiener by my side. We were headed to Las Vegas where I was booked for 2 weeks to sing my wildly popular “I’d love to be a Wiener” song. We crossed the Nevada state line and stopped for gas. I got out of the hot-dog limo to stretch my legs and the guy pumping gas said “I’d love to eat you.” My blond wiener-friend suddenly disappeared. Then, four men came out of the gas station carrying a very large hot dog bun on their shoulders, like a casket at a funeral. They put down the bun and wrestled me into it—being a hot dog, I wasn’t very strong or agile. While two of the men kept me pinned in the bun, the other two covered me with ketchup and mustard from four #10 cans, and chopped onions and pickle relish from two big glass jars. They couldn’t pick me up to eat me like a regular hot dog. So, one of them plugged in an electric chain saw. Just as the chain saw started to cut me in half, I woke up screaming, “You can’t eat me! I’m not cooked!” I ran to my parents’ bedroom yelling “You can’t eat me! I’m not cooked!” Mom and Dad were bouncing up and down on their bed making weird sounds. When my father saw me standing in the door, he yelled “Get out of here you perverted little bastard. Goddamnit!”

So, I went to my sister’s room to tell her about my hot dog nightmare. She apologized to me about lying about our neighbors being made into hot dogs. I felt somewhat relieved until I noticed the big bottle of ketchup on the nightstand by her bed. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror to see if I was a hot dog. I wasn’t, but I had bread crumbs all over my pajamas and I smelled funny.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetorica” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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