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Fish Fetish: Breatharianism

June 9th, 2008

It was a slow Thursday afternoon when we met the breatharian. Matt, Eddie and I were in the fish shop browsing a livestock list from a big west coast supplier with Mark. Mark was looking for some bread-and-butter fish for one of his high powered lawyer clients tank. Nothing too exotic, just some color please. So, Sgt. Major Damsel’s at 15¢ each, minimum 10? And Yellow Tangs $1.00 or Coral Beauty’s for $1.50?

Pricing livestock is a tricky business; you have to pay a fortune in shipping costs when you ship live fish; fish have to be in water, water ways a lot, express shipping is by weight. Combine that with the loss rates of shipping and holding till the fish is sold and you can end up with a Damsel that cost 15¢ wholesale costing $2.00 in store. High powered lawyers in plush law firms don’t care how much the fish cost as long as it swims around in the tank to pacify the socialites waiting for to sign their divorce papers at $500 an hour. Hence Mark’s $2.00 Damsel’s being sold for $5.00.

While we were debating the ethics of potential markups on the various fish one of our regulars, Sandy, came in. Sandy was a slightly butch skinny-minnie ex-marine that topped out at about 100 pounds. With a huge colorful tattoo of an octopus covering her right shoulder and neck as a memento of her time in Okinawa. Her fish tank was at the heart of a bitter divorce and custody battle. Not that the tank was the cause; maintenance was the issue, because when Matt did the maintenance he did Sandy too.

Besides being a slightly butch ex-marine heterosexual girl, Sandy was a Wholefoods nut. She regularly came into the fish shop raving about this or that new diet fad; One month she’d be macrobiotic vegan, next month it was raw foods only. It was always going to be a miracle cure for her chronic lethargy and insomnia. We all laughed behind her back about it; and as Mark once said, “there’s nothing wrong with that girl a Big Mac wouldn’t fix.” And Mark was a vegetarian.

Today Sandy had a tag-along; an even skinnier girl who stood a head taller but looked more like Skeletor than a real person.

“Hey guys. This is Anne. My tang died.”


“So sad, which one?”

“Yellow one. I brought some water to test.”

“OK. Test kits in the back.” With that Matt took the zip-lock bag of fish tank water and lead Sandy to the back counter. No real need, there was a test kit at the front counter. This of course left Eddie, Mark and me alone with Skeletor.

Mark, did the dirty work of starting the conversation with the third wheel. “So, Anne. Have a fish tank?”

“Not since fifth grade. Sandy says you guys are all vegetarians?”

“Yep. Except Matt, he’s a vegan. We all make fun of him.”

“That’s cool that your vegetarians. Cruel that you make fun of him. I’m training to be a breatharian.”

None of us had ever heard of this term before. Mark looked at Eddie and then Eddie opened the wrong door; “What’s a breatharian?”

“It’s the science of living on the nutrients of air.”

I watched too much PBS as a kid to let that one go. “You can’t live off air.”

“Oh no, see that’s what most people think. Really it’s just fear that kills you…”

“… Not starvation?”

“No, just fear. We’ve all been taught for so long that we can’t live without food and water that when we don’t have food and water we become scared and our minds cause us to get ill and die.”

“So,” Eddie took the bait, “if I stop eating and drinking today, I won’t die, as long as I am not afraid of death?”

“It’s not quite that simple.”

“Oh,” Mark said, “it never is.”

“To succeed,” Anne continued, “you have to unlearn all that you know about food and nutrition and all the science mambo jumbo. You have to train yourself, you can’t quite cold turkey.”

“And where did you learn all this from?”

“There are a number of people all around the world that have been teaching this system for years. It goes way back.” By this time Anna was really into it, her eyes were starting to light up in a remarkablySkeletor like way, “but the media doesn’t want to report on it. No one in the media believes it, so it’s hard to learn about it from TV or newspapers.”

“So how did you learn about it?” I asked.

“I met this guy in California who was just back from Australia where he was studying under a wonderful woman who is like the high priest of breatharianism. She hasn’t eaten or had to drink anything in almost seven years.”

“Seven years?” We all said that, more or less.

“Yes, really. Isn’t it amazing? Seven years, but it took here a lot longer to build up to it.”

“I still don’t believe you can live on air.” I said. Again.

“So how is your ‘training’ going?” Mark asked.

“Well, I’m quite week. I went two days last week without food, but I did drink water. I felt so tired…”

“There’s a reason for that…”

“… I had to.”

“… because you have to eat.”

“I hope that by the end of the year I can go a whole week. Next year a month. It will take at least a few years to be off food and water forever. Then I’ll be so much healthier None of the man made chemicals, no death hormones.”

By this time Sandy and Matt wondered back from testing the water.

“Sandy,” I started, “what do you think about this living on air thing?”

“Breatharianism? I haven’t looked into it too much,” She said.

“You think that will fix your health issues,” Mark asked.

“Maybe. I don’t know. I just started the raw food diet.”

“Does sashimi count?”

“No, vegan, of course.”


“Well, we’re off guys, I’m going to drop Anne at Wholefoods. So I can pick up a new tang next week Matt?”

“Yea if nothing else gets sick.”

“See ya.”


“Nice to meet you guys.”

We watched the breatharian walk with Sandy to her ancient Volvo. They got in and drove off and we all started laughing hysterically.

“You know,” I said, “if you could live without food or water, the ‘Ethernopians’ would have figured it out in the ’80s.”

“I think she needs more than one Big Mac to fix her issues,” Mark concluded, “that girl is Darwinism at work.”

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