They say admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. That’s why I am announcing today, in this column, that I am a pedofrile. I stalk crispy, golden fries with the dangerous lack of self-control that society sees in those other irredeemable social pariahs. I need help. I know it is wrong.

Wow, it felt good to say that.

Let me explain: I live above a 24-hour McDonald’s. Their fries are one of my biggest weaknesses. Hot, fresh, firm fries — the thought of them can be so all consuming that when I catch the slightest glimpse of their golden goodness, it takes a fast-food force field to keep me away.

I want to stop, really I do. But if there were a show called Dateline Predator: McDonald’s, I would be one of those sad, sick people caught at 4 a.m., wearing sweatpants covered in dog hair and a navy stocking cap, embarrassingly trying to talk my way out of the situation.

Picture it: I walk out my front door and do a quick check to make sure none of my neighbors see me. Then I slip into the flophouse of fries. My adrenaline is fueled by shame as I approach the counter. The teenage clerk yells from the back, “I’ll be with you in a minute!”

Waiting, I pace nervously. I dig through my pockets for some loose change and toss it in a Ronald McDonald House donation box to ease my conscience. That 11-cent contribution doesn’t do the trick. A high school kid approaches the register to take my order. I say it quickly so she can shove my crispy contraband in the bag in a flash, but it always feels like an eternity. Finally, she hands me the sack; I snatch it and turn around to escape, but who is staring me right in the face? That smooth-talking Dateline host.

“What’s in the bag?”

“A bottle of water and a salad,” I say, thinking it’s an answer that will make him disappear. He doesn’t move.

I toss in, “With Paul Newman dressing?” as if that’s gonna make a difference.

“Really?” he says with his trademark smugness. “Well, we have you on tape. Let me read your conversation with the clerk” — he quotes me verbatim — “‘I want your large and really hot fries.’”

I am busted.

But would that even make me stop? I fear not. No, just like on the real Dateline, pedofriles don’t stop after just one humiliating encounter. About 100 percent of us are repeat offenders.

McDonald’s loves to pat itself on the back for its green building practices, trans-fat-free fries, and experimentation with biofuels for its UK delivery fleets, while simultaneously introducing drive-thrus in China, a country that already exports major climate calamity. There’s also all the packaging and a French fry sodium content that rivals the Dead Sea to fuel the guilt of a pedofrile like me, the type who obsesses over my health and personal impact on the environment.

I am admitting my addiction to you so you can ask yourself if you, too, are a pedofrile. I know many of you reading this also need help. We can’t kick it alone. Some of us may even need an intervention, but where are our Betty Ford or Promises centers?

Maybe it’s up to me to start a recovery program for pedofriles everywhere. A treatment in which we are forced to hear horror stories about a certain Ronald M, and what happens when you give into carnal cravings and support an environmentally questionable, nutritionally negligent global giant. That way, after going through the program, I could walk the streets, head held high, knowing I am no longer a pedofrile but a recovering pedofrile.

And the best part? Recovering pedofriles around the globe could find each other by asking that simple question: “Are you a friend of Lizz W?”

Lizz Winstead is cocreator of The Daily Show, and former cohost of Air America’s Unfiltered. She currently is cohost of Air America’s Unfiltered and stars in Shoot the Messenger, a satirical review of the media world running in New York City ( 

Story by Lizz Winstead. This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008