Joseph Epstein’s piece on corner grocery stores (“Getting the Groceries,” May 4) not only made me nostalgic, it forced me to recognize the value of having a relationship with the purveyors providing for our basic needs. Here in Cambridge, Md., we have Simmons Center Market — a small grocery store with an excellent butcher counter and all the necessities to weather the coronavirus pandemic. After finding nothing but chicken feet — literally — at the meat counter of our local supermarket, I went to Simmons with a hope and a prayer. There I found packages of every other part of the chicken, plus beef, pork, eggs, and freshly made sausage. I asked the proprietor how they managed to stock what Food Lion could not. She smiled and said, “If we run out, we don’t wait for the next delivery. We drive to our local farmers and get more.”
Trends of Despair
Robert VerBruggen’s book review “What Drives Deaths of Despair?” (May 4) leaves open a possible explanation for the alarming increase in death rates in middle-aged white males, a trend beginning around 1990. One could speculate that this phenomenon is related primarily to the waning demand for masculinity in our society.
At the onset of this trend, 50-year-olds had been born in the Forties. Many were small boys during World War II, and soldiers were their heroes. The decades following the war saw an industrial and economic boom in which the male persona flourished. Fast-forward to the present, in which women are more present in the workforce, and job-market demands are more cognitive and less hands-on.
Programmed to function in a testosterone-dominated milieu, but now confronted with a vanishing demand for such conditioning, middle-aged middle- and lower-class white males find themselves increasingly marginalized and turn to drugs and alcohol for escape. Such groups typically have their cause taken up by social-justice warriors, but since these men are white, they are written off as deplorables, adding to their alienation.
Noteworthy in this regard is that testosterone levels have fallen progressively in American males from 501 nanograms (ng) per deciliter (dL) in 1988 to 391ng/dL in 2003 (according to a study published in 2007 by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism). The cause(s) for this decline remain unclear but could possibly represent a physiologic adaptive response to a decreased demand for testosterone-driven behavior. If so, as declining levels become more entrenched, we may see a spontaneous decline in deaths of despair, regardless of what policymakers may do.
A. Frascino, M.D.,
Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Because of an editing error, “Imagine a Pre-modern COVID Pandemic” (Marian L. Tupy, May 18) mistakenly stated that real family income in the United States had risen from $1,980 in 1800 to $53,018 in 2016. These figures in fact refer to real income per person.
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