Robbie Maakestad

An Open Letter to a Cliché

Dear “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away,”

I find you problematic. People say you when they hear me cough, or when I tell them I can’t hang out because I don’t want to infect, or when I mention that I might be coming down with a cold. You place the blame on my lack of apple ingestion. This seems accusatory.

Remember back when you originated in Wales in the 1800s? You went something like this: Eat an apple going to bed, keep the doctor from earning bread. You were young then, conspiring against medicinal practitioners through prevention of carbohydrate consumption. You have since evolved into a trite phrase lobbed toward ailing persons in American society. That’s like appropriating the Hitler Youth Anthem into a song sung by Barney & Friends—noxious depravity turned vapid drivel. A suspect history to say the least.

Not to be rude, but nobody knows why you exist. Is your goal to cheer the infirm? If so, you are ineffectual; nobody’s gladdened when you burst from the voice box. Is your aim to prevent illness through preemptive consumption of fruit? This seems likely, though in Western civilization, doctors preclude health problems through testing and examination much more successfully than fruit. I hate to be the one to tell you, but your reasoning appears flawed.

What is clear is your inherent assumption that apples avert ailment. However, the validity of fruit’s disease deterrence has yet to be proven. Sure, apples contain Vitamins C, A, and E, as well as fiber, Boron, and Quercetin, but do they stave off sickness? Scientists almost conclusively agree that though apples offer numerous health benefits and contribute to bodily wellbeing, they do not prevent illness. Look it up.

To argue further, I have to get personal: during my sophomore year of college, I sat on the couch slicing an apple, dipping the wedges into a jar of peanut butter. It seemed innocuous enough at the time, but seconds after taking a bite, my left lung collapsed. This left me out of breath and in immense pain. Post surgery, I didn’t eat another apple for five months and remained in perfect health. Do you think I would be alive today without modern medicine? Not a chance. Apples are harbingers of the grave.

I’m not alone in suffering the ill effects of a seemingly innocent orb of fruit. It has been evidenced through the death of Steve Jobs that apples are unhealthy. I mention this, not to make light of his unfortunate passing, but to prove my point. Jobs is said to have eaten nothing but apples for weeks at a time and doctors cite his diet as a factor in his untimely death. If that doesn’t convince you, Ashton Kutcher went on a similar diet while method acting in preparation for his leading role in jOBS and ended up hospitalized with skewed pancreatic levels.

Not yet persuaded? As the famed story goes, Adam and Eve introduced evil to humanity with one bite each of mealy apple. Why an apple? Why not a pear? Not only do apples negatively affect the bodily health of humanity, they also destroy the moral and spiritual health—the worst form of sickness, in my opinion. Theirs was one bad apple. See what I did there? I used one of your apple-cliché pals. There are many of you, but you’re the worst by far. At least that one contains truth.

One crunch of apple deflated my lung, eliminated one of this era’s leading technological minds, and destroyed the perfection of future human generations. You laud disease deflection; I find apples difficult to trust. There exists a vast divide between our respective positions. The question remains, what can be done to absolve this disagreement?

I see two options.

Firstly, you could alter yourself. Here are some options: “No apples eliminates the need for a doctor,” or “A single apple may result in spontaneous pneumothorax.” How about, “An apple a day causes death due to complications of pancreatic cancer, or at least necessitates an ER visit?” Another possibility yet: “A forbidden apple causes systemic moral degeneration.”

Secondly, you could cease and desist, go back to your motherland, and reanimate yourself into a hackneyed Welsh phrase.  

Eagerly Awaiting Your Decision,


Robbie Maakestad is an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus and received his MFA in Creative Nonfiction at George Mason University. He has been published or has forthcoming work in Essay Daily,The MacGuffinFree State Review, and Bethesda Magazine, among others. In 2017, Robbie was shortlisted for the Penguin/Travelex Next Great Travel Writer Award. Follow him @RobbieMaakestad.

JD Thornton