An e-mail from Fort Smith implores me to write about the issue by which Hooters, the restaurant showcasing youthful female anatomy, is coming to that famously conservative, family-values town.

I suspect the correspondent holds a viewpoint on the matter that he or she assumes I share. But I do not know what that viewpoint is. I don’t even know what mine is.


It could be that my correspondent laments that sin has taken over Fort Smith. First there was the local business leadership’s endorsement of a casino. Now we have a chain restaurant noted for immodestly clad young female waitresses springing up at Rogers Avenue and I-540.

It might be that the correspondent knows of my interest not necessarily in condemning sin, but in exposing hypocrisy and irony. That’s particularly true of the moral hollowness that preaches straight-arrowness, then promptly abandons it when commercial profit rears its head.


Or it could be that my correspondent wants me to stand up for our civil liberty to associate as we please with whatever willing waitpersons we choose.

Or it could be that the e-mailer wants me to defend the free marketplace against those who would arrogantly and ignorantly impose moralizing sanctions.


Or it could be that he or she abhors exploitation and objectifying of women and seeks my outraged commentary.

Or it could be that the correspondent wishes me to deplore overdevelopment along already poorly planned and traffic-jammed corridors.


Clearly I have mastered the possibilities. I simply don’t know which I embrace.

It bears mentioning that this will be the third Hooters in Arkansas, joining one in North Little Rock and another in Fayetteville. Pulaski County and Fayetteville are blue islands, in presidential vote terms. Fort Smith thus will be the first red region to get Spandexed and short-shorted.


I am unable to say whether Hooters is generally red state or blue state. Its most direct appeal is to primitive, maturity-arrested young American males, and they tend to be red staters if they vote at all. But exploitation and objectifying of women is hardly a matter of red-state exclusivity. Clinton, Hart, two or three of those Kennedys — they lend a deep blue.

I’m told, by the way, that Hooters also is expanding this year to Israel and Dubai. I have no idea what to make of that. I’d love to see the company memorandum: “Expansion 2007 — Dubai, Tel Aviv and Fort Smith, Arkansas.”


After studied consideration, I suppose I would have to say that nearly all of the aforementioned possibilities apply. But they cancel each other out, leaving me still bumfuzzled.

I indeed see hypocrisy and irony. But I also embrace freedoms of association and expression and the marketplace, so long as people have enough sense to keep their kids out. And I deplore the exploitation of women, though, in Hooters’ case, these women knowingly enter into employment. They are a lot less exploited serving hot wings in short shorts and tight, low-cut tops than some women are willingly exploited at certain other establishments.

Yes, it strikes me as foolhardy to cram something else onto Rogers Avenue near I-540. But that kind of expediently clumped madness applies in every commercially expanding part of the state, and much of the nation.

All that aside, here’s what really worries me: My research into Hooters tells me that the restaurant is designed to appeal to this market demographic: males aged 25 to 54.


I’ll soon turn 54. What does this expert market research indicate is about to happen to me? Am I fixing to pass into old codgerness, no longer worthy of a sexually overtoned restaurant’s bother? Is my digestive system soon to become ill-equipped for the spiciness of hot wings? Is the market handing me over to the no-sodium senior buffets?

Somebody else needs to get passionate about Hooters, one way or the other. I’ve got becoming outdated to worry about.

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