Saturday, December 29, 2007

Humpty de Dump, Dumb, Dumb

I have been lolling around on my humpty these last few days, thinking great thoughts and trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. In other words, I have been doing pretty much nothing, day dreaming and trying to recover from the annual, exhausting extravaganza that is Christmas.

I just saw an online ad for Dodge cars. It was one of those "beautiful people" ads, where everyone was slim and gorgeous, and doing fabulous things like surfing off the coast of California and hiking in a beautiful forest. Ho-hum, I thought. That's not me. Then I saw the tagline on the ad and it galvanized me: "Make the most of every mile."

That's something I worry about a lot...that I let myself get so upset, so worried, so unfocused by all the dumb little distractions in my life, that I lose sight of the goals that are important to me and end up wasting most of my time in non-productive ways. I am definitely NOT making the most of every mile. But January is nothing if not a time for new beginnings, so instead of the usual 372 resolutions I faithfully trot out every year, knowing I will fail to keep any of them, I will trot out just one this year. In 2008, I intend to make the most out of every mile, no matter what that mile may be or where that mile might be taking me.

For reasons far too boring to go into here, I have been through an emotional buzz saw these last two weeks. It's not over yet but I can see that light shining at the end of the tunnel, so I am hanging on for dear life, praying for the dreaded Christmas door to close and the hopeful New Year door to open.

I live a quiet, peaceful and solitary life by choice, because I don't like conflict or an excess of emotion. My current situation is a nightmare that landed in my lap. Yeah, I know...Merry effing Christmas. I bear a little responsibility for what is going on but I've been assigned all the blame and am getting all the punishment. Psychologically, I am bleeding from every pore, but God made me nothing if not strong. Soon it will be over and I will go back to my peaceful, solitary life. The damage will be permanent, but there's nothing I can do about that except pick myself up and go on.

Many people have suggested I cut the offender out of my life, but the offender is in deep psychological distress right now, and needs a strong anchor more than ever. I am sorry this person thinks it's alright to be emotionally abusive and cruel and cold to me, but if I return this behavior in kind, then he or she sinks even further into the black hole they are swirling in. I have been so angry and so hurt I have seriously considered slamming the door, then I saw Oprah yesterday, a show about people who attempted suicide and yet, against all odds, were saved. These were not half-hearted attempts, either. One lady threw herself off a 200 foot tall bridge, a teen girl threw herself under a roaring freight train and a teen boy blew his face off with a shotgun. None of the three should be here, but they are.

Normally, I would not have even watched such a show. I think to take your own life is a sin, courtesy of the Catholic upbringing that I just can't seem to shake. But something told me that I had to watch and so I did. In all three cases, it was a rejection or a judgment by the person who has the same relationship to these people who tried to kill themselves that I have to the person who is being so abusive to me at the moment. That rejection was the trigger that sent them over the edge. So I know this person who is feeding me inch by inch into the wood chipper right now is in a lot of pain and knows no other safe way to rage than against me. And I know more than ever that I have to hang on and be there for them in their crisis, even though all their behavior is designed to crush me and drive me away. I am strong enough to do it, but the person is away for a few days, visiting other relatives, and it's only now in the last two days, as I have drifted without purpose from one silly little activity to another, that I have come to realize what a toll the last two weeks have taken on me. I feel hollow and empty and every cell in my body rings with a sort of dull ache.

For fifteen years, I wrote a humor column. It won the top award for newspaper columns in two states, and for a while there, I entertained the thought that I might make it as a nationally syndicated humorist. Then I went to New York and met with some agents and mostly got this response..."Who are you? Are you Erma Bombeck? I don't think so. No one's going to publish you unless you are Erma Bombeck."

I imagine some variation of this was told to hundreds of aspiring humorists back in the 80s and 90s, when Bombeck, Dave Barry, Mike Royko, and Art Buchwald reigned supreme and made millions of people laugh every week. We weren't needed or wanted so our work was rebuffed.

So where are our humorists now when we as a nation and individuals need them more than ever? Bombeck, Royko and Buchwald are dead, and Barry is retired. And some of the very editors who spent 20 years rejecting every new humorous voice because it wasn't one of the giants are looking desperately for a new voice now. But they're going about it the wrong way. They've forgotten the vital role that editors used to play in bring ing new writers along. Now the publishing houses and editors that used to help refine and develop talent demand that talent arrive on their doorsteps with a well-established name and millions of loyal followers already in place. And my question in this day of e-books and print on demand is, if you have accomplished that all on your own, exactly why do you need a New York publisher? Answer: you don't.

After several brutal rejections, I went back home with my tail between my legs, thoroughly beaten, convinced I was a lousy writer, even though I had thousands (but not millions) of faithful fans. Then another awful thing happened. My kids, my inspiration for all the funny columns, became teenagers, and suddenly life was not so funny anymore. Overnight, I became stupid, embarrassing and "the worst Mother in the world." Those turbulent years robbed me of my sense of humor and I found I was no longer able to produce a weekly column that made people laugh out loud. What I wrote made people want to swallow whole bottles of pills, or slit their wrists, kind of like what I am writing today. Just like that, my 10-year career as a humorist was over.

Then I met Pigassus and his lovely wife, Trina, and they made me laugh again. I reconnected with who I really was. They became my older, more loving and much more kind children. My own flesh and blood hated them with an unreasoning hatred. They didn't love me and they sure as hell didn't want anyone else loving me either, because that gave the lie to their theory that I was horrid and essentially unlovable.

Ah, motherhood. All I can say is...consider carefully before you have children.

Anyway, as kids grow older, sometimes, they realize the error of the harsh judgments they pass on their parents. I occasionally see glimmers of hope but I am not there yet. And this Christmas reminded me just how far I still have to go. And it also reminded me that I cannot let go, no matter how appealing that may seem, because it is often when people are pushing against you the hardest that they need you to stick with them the most. So stick I will, even though the battle is costing me dearly.

I find myself drifting into another day of ennui, so I think I will rouse myself, go walk on the treadmill, and see if I can do something productive today. I sure hate to let another days' worth of miles go by without making the most of them.

Feeling blue...

Planet Fat Cat

Friday, December 28, 2007

Good Luck, You'll Need It!

So Christmas is over and it is on to the next big “Ha, You’re Still Single!” event of the year, New Year’s Eve. Which means that even though I survived crawling into bed alone Christmas Eve and waking up alone Christmas morning, I now get the honor of standing alone, looking cavalier and faking good cheer at the stroke of midnight on the 31st, while my friends all do a lip smack-down on their significant others.

But hey, ya pays your money and ya takes your chances. I don’t have to go to a New Year’s party; I can sit at home watching soft-core “adult” movies on Cinemax, right? And a few days later I can go get a cat, the first of a few dozen, and start my year with all the furry companionship I can stand. Then a couple years from now, when they come to saw the door off my apartment so they can take my 800 pound ass to the hospital, cats racing to and fro for cover, I can look up with my Crispy Crème encrusted face and say to the paramedic, “Hey, at least I wasn’t alone this New Year’s…”

Heck, maybe Karl, the really strong and heavily mustachioed paramedic, will give me a lip smack-down so the horror will be complete.

Who am I kidding, that won’t happen… Karl probably has a really hot boyfriend.

But I digress.

I didn’t intend to go on about the tragedy of single-hood, I actually wanted to talk about the insanity of placing any serious meaning on the first of the year. Why, as reasonable and educated adults, do we place so much emphasis and pin so many hopes on a date on the calendar? Just another day, another Tuesday like any other, but we make it out as if we are sending off the space shuttle of our whole year and screwing the launch will bring explosive disaster. F**k up New Year’s Day and spend the rest of the year searching the ocean for flaming wreckage.

Is that really how it works? Can anyone say that the successes, failures, promises, or recriminations on New Year’s day really had an impact on the rest of the year or the rest of a life? If I want to lose weight, am I only serious on the first and just kidding today, a Friday? We must be more “evolved” as a species. Aren’t the creatures that invented nuclear reactors and comfort-adjustable beds far enough along that each and every single day has the same opportunities for greatness, glory, anguish and angst as the next? Will Pakistan wake up Tuesday morning repaired and ready to make a resolution to stop fighting and start the “healing process”?

Somehow I doubt it.

Yet as skeptical as I am, I can’t help but think there is a little magic in that old silk hat they found.

No, that’s not right, I’m behind a holiday.

I’m suggesting that we do give meaning to the day beyond the rising and the setting of the sun. The Earth knows nothing of our calendar; it will turn inexorably around no matter that we call the day “January First 2008” or we rename it “Spaghetti-O’s” in honor of the famous Chef Boyardee. But it must mean something to us. We give it some power over our lives. We invest hope in the day.

I still don’t understand why we do, but I am willing to accept that we do. I have always said my understanding or acceptance of a thing is not necessary for it’s existence. So when I wake up this year on January 1st, I too will look with new hope for the future.

Even if I had to stand there at midnight alone, faking that bitter smile, and hoping that somehow in the next 365 days I might find another wandering soul to keep me company for at least a little while.


Monday, December 24, 2007

A Year-Long Fuse

In the rare moments when I can quiet my mind enough to actually think, I think about the human condition...our virtues, our foibles, why we do the things we do, why we're so wonderful and so terrible all at the same time.

I think about life. Life has a rhythm and flow to it, just like a river. Sometimes life is joyous and flows quickly, so quickly you can scarce keep up with it. It's joyous and full of anticipation, of dreams of the possible and unexpected.

Other times life puddles into stagnant little ponds and you feel like you're going nowhere. 2007 has been one of those "puddlin'" years for me, so I will be happy to kiss it goodbye, kick it to the curb and start over again.

It's funny how we arrange our lives into years punctuated by holidays and special events like birthdays, weddings, births, deaths, anniversaries and funerals. We've all had our share of most of these occasions, sometimes more than our share. We get new jobs, new friends, new lovers, our lives spin around and flow in new directions, and sometimes we crash head first right into a wall, or stall out in a dead end alley just because we refuse to acknowledge we don't know where we're going, and sometimes, even what we're doing.

My dad always told me that to get anywhere you had to have a map. I assumed he was talking about roads because he was an engineer and loved maps with unbridled passion. But he was wise, so as I grow older, I came to know he was talking about life, too.

When I was young, I was so full of passion and fire that I was like a raging spring river, full of ideas and imagination. I was going to take 34th Street, 7th Avenue, Madison Avenue, Wall Street, Broadway and Sunset Boulevard all by storm. I was going to own the world. But looking back, I realize I never had a map. I didn't know where I was going so I had no clue how to get there. I just had these deep-seated yearnings to do something, to be something...I just never knew what. As a result, I never got anywhere.

Age and experience have taught me a few things by now. One truth that always hits me square in the face this time of year is how we human beings are like candles with year-long fuses. We light up in January, when the year is full of possibility and promise, and splutter out in December, when we are tired and our options are gone and it's getting harder and harder to lie to ourselves about what a mess we made of the year.

I will say without equivocation: 2007 sucked for me. It was probably one of the worst years of my life. I tried to make sense of it all but the body blows just kept on coming...some my fault, most not.

Still, there was no tragedy in my year, so I hesitate to complain to God too much.

Whether I muster up the strength to complain about it or not, 2007 was a sucky year in many ways. Possibly one of the most annoying was that I finally made this decision to lose weight and get fit; I found a program and stuck to it for 90 days, and what did I get out of it? Almost exactly nothing.

But I did learn I can stick to a program, and that was huge. As a result, I have ordered a significant piece of exercise equipment for myself. I didn't do it precipitously. I studied and read about all sorts of different programs and pieces of equipment and finally settled on this one as being best for my age and state of fitness and for my inclinations. I also ordered a particular exercise program on DVD to complement the equipment I ordered. Once these arrive and I start doing them, I will report my results.

There's nothing to report right now except that I am sitting on my haunches for the rest of the year, and the interesting thing is, I haven't gained any weight even though I'm not exercising at the moment. So maybe I changed my body's metabolism ever so slightly with those 90 days of walking on my treadmill, or maybe the God of Fat Asses took pity on me and is giving me a Yuletide pass.

Here's wishing all our loyal readers a safe, happy and prosperous 2008. And here's wishing myself and Pigassus the same thing.

Planet Fat Cat

Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't Eat Green Jello

First of all I would like to thank my friend Fat Cat for supplying the world with perhaps the most poignant, and funniest, rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” extant. I am not really sure what “dew-laps” are, but they sound revolting, so I imagine they fit nicely in the song. Unfortunately this year I can empathize with the extra chins, stretch marks, and thunderous thighs because of the many times in the last 12 months I have stared down at my scale and screamed, “FIVE GOLDEN POUNDS?!?!”

For the sake of accuracy, please substitute “golden” in the above exclamation with a word in common usage that refers to the act of reproduction in higher mammals.

BUT don’t think this year was without some victories and I am here merely to whine again about my failing joints and expanding ass. Because in addition to those things, I can also report that the standing desk investment might in fact have begun to pay some small weight loss dividends. Last week, for the first time since I challenged Fat Cat to a “Weight Loss Mardi-Gras to the Death Buffet”, I actually lost weight!

Yessiree folks, I am now only 217.5 gorgeous pounds of man-flesh. Instead of gaining two pounds last week, as I had for the last couple months, I actually lost 1.5 pounds.

I should mention too that since I installed the standing desks and began to “waterboard” my back and feet, I actually exercised LESS than in the five or six months prior. My reluctance to actually cause permanent damage to my joints by over-stressing them with hours of pong or jogging, while also spending hours standing at my computer, limited me to just three hours of “aerobic” exercise in each of the last two weeks. Normally I would easily work out three times as much. But, and this is my unscientific belief, the incredible benefit of standing for up to 12 hours a day instead of sitting has overcome my exercise deficit and actually gone far past it. I wasn’t even really dieting the last two weeks. I just stood around and lost weight.

I don’t wish to push religion onto this blog, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a small Christmas miracle. Thank you Lord!

Now of course I am cautious since it has been only one week of a loss preceded by a week of a smaller gain, but I love the trend line. And because I am a pragmatist and also a surrealist, I am even going to assume a gain this week and next given the certainty of over-indulgence in Christmas holiday dinners and treats. But in my mind, even if I gain a couple of disgusting fat pounds, I will assume without my new desks I would have gained many many more (since I have the will-power of sorority girl on Ruffies when it comes to cookies and ham).

So although I am loathe to do so, I am allowing hope to fill my shriveled, cellulite covered heart. Next year will be that year: the year I stop being worried about my health and start being PROUD of it.

Many Christmas blessings to all and thanks for reading,

Monday, December 17, 2007

The 12 Weighs of Christmas

On the 1st weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 2nd weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 3rd weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 4th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 5th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 6th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 7th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 8th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 9th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...nine stretch marks spreading, eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 10th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...ten diets a-failing, nine stretch marks spreading, eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs tocks and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 11th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...eleven fat cells plumping, ten diets a-failing, nine stretch marks spreading, eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 12th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...twelve dewlaps dangling, eleven fat cells plumping, ten diets a-failing, nine stretch marks spreading, eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

Thank you ver-r-ry much. Planet Fat Cat has left the treadmill! I've completed the 90 Day Fitness Walking Program without losing much weight or gaining much fitness. Tune in starting January 2nd for my new and improved exercise program, whatever that may be. It will include walking, but won't be only walking.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Holidays!

And may 2008 weigh less on my mind (and behind) than 2007 did.

Planet Fat Cat

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Biggest Loser - (Hint: it's not me...)

When my dear little Piggie and I started this blog, we were both full of the fervor of the naive and deluded. We truly thought if we reduced the number of calories we took in each day, and added vigorous and sustained exercise, our bodies would follow the laws of science and slowly become smaller.

Hah! We were wrong. So much for what we thought.

My body has become smaller, but only by a miniscule amount. 4 days from now, I wrap up my 90 Day Fitness Walking Program without much to show on my body change-wise. I will have those 90 deceptively cheery little check-marks in my journal. Sorry, but that's cold comfort.

My inspiration, as I have said right from the beginning, was the contestants on The Biggest Loser. While I sweated and starved and lost 5 pounds, they sweated and starved and lost anywhere from 50 pounds to more than a hundred pounds in the same time frame. Okay, so I didn't have Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper beating my hump, but I did a decent job of beating my own hump, staying faithful to the program I had chosen. I just didn't understand the program I had chosen wasn't going to do me much good.

Hard to believe, but in 90 days of greatly increased physical activity and greatly reduced caloric intake, I have managed to shed exactly 5 pounds. Now 5 pounds is something, and I'll take it, but I was reading some ads for exercise programs last night, and one woman who started out a bit heavier than me at 215 pounds, claims she lost 41 pounds by doing nothing but this exercise for 90 days. She didn't even go on a diet and lost 21 inches and 41 pounds.

Needless to say, I ordered the DVD right away and will be reporting if it works or not. That's not such a self indulgence as it may seem. One thing I have proven to myself over the last three months is that I do have the will to stick to a program. I truly do want to change my life and remake my body; I just haven't found what works for me yet and that is frustrating. So I guess I made the wrong choice; I walked and dieted for 90 days and lost five pounds; this lady did an exercise tape for 90 days and didn't diet and lost 41 pounds. So she will go to her Christmas celebrations a new woman at 163 pounds and I will go to mine looking like the same old marshmallow in a dress.

Doesn't seem fair to me.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand...The Biggest Loser. Isabeau finally won a challenge, dragging the 73 pounds she had lost so far across the desert faster than anyone else on the team. When she dumped those pounds into a trench and raised her flag, she won $10,000. I was really happy for her. She has grown up a lot since the show began. At first, she was kind of a whiny baby, but with Jillian beating her regularly and forcing her to confront the issues that made her overeat, she finally accepted responsibility for her own health.

Tuesday's show can be summed up in two words: poetic justice. When Neil weighed in and it was revealed he had lost 10 pounds, my heart sank. I thought there was no way he was going to fall below the yellow line with that double digit weight loss. So it looked like he had made it to the finals, and from there, I think he would have been a shoo-in to win.

Then Holly weighed in and lost 5 pounds, a pretty good result for her, but still dicey. Then Bill weighed in with a loss of 9 pounds, and as a percentage of his body weight, that made him beat both Neil and Holly. Then Julie weighed in, and was told she had to lose at least 7 pounds to stay above the yellow line. I was sweating bullets because Julie usually only loses 2 to 4 pounds a week. I thought sure she would fall below the line, but she came through with a loss of 8 pounds, catapulting her to the top of the chart. Finally it was Isabeau's turn and she lost 8 pounds, too, pushing Neil and Holly below the yellow line.

The Black Team did it! Rejected and left alone in the desert, they came back with the guidance and leadership of their kick-ass trainer, Jillian Michaels, and totally eliminated both the Red and the Blue Teams, a first in Biggest Loser history. They stuck together and voted Neil out, which is where the poetic justice comes in. Neil finally paid for his cheating ways and no one could be happier about that than me. If he had ended up being this season's "Biggest Loser," I'm not sure I could ever bear to watch the show again. For once, justice triumphed!

Anyway, I have a dumb business meeting next Tuesday night so I am going to have to tape the program, but I am still anxiously awaiting two things...the arrival of my new exercise tape, and the outcome of The Biggest Loser. I will actually be happy no matter which one of the four Black Team members win, but my sentimental favorite is probably Isabeau.

Planet Fat Cat

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oinks On the Passing Scene

One of my favorite columnists is a gentleman named Thomas Sowell, noted economist and professor. Although I appreciate reading his well written and erudite articles and books, my guilty pleasure with regards to his works, given my excruciatingly short attention span and limited retention, are his “Random Thoughts” columns – bulleted lists of short observations about life in general. I am far too small a person, in stature and metaphorically speaking, to pass upon the opportunity to clamber onto the shoulder of an intellectual giant and try my hand at something similar. I shall call my inconsequential observations "Oinks On the Passing Scene"... which I hope is not already in use and likely to provoke legal action.

* This Monday, after a full week of standing at my new desks, I have several squealings and oinks to report.

1. My feet and back hurt badly enough to make me wish for an immediate morphine addiction and a subsequent treatment program that includes more morphine and a private room with Lindsay Lohan. Actually, screw it, just more morphine.

2. The simple act of standing at my desk has given me the impression that even unproductive, pedestrian activities such as playing World of Warcraft suddenly feel more important and useful. Now when I kill goblins and orcs, it really seems like I am accomplishing something and am not just a huge freaking dork.

3. The pooling of blood in my legs and subsequent starvation of my brain has made me delusional enough to think online video games are not the life-sucking wastes of time they really are for huge freaking dorks.

4. I gained one pound this week (now 219), but since the previous two weeks saw gains of two pounds each, all this delirious standing around has at least slowed the rate of “massivication”, my new word for becoming fat enough to scare children to tears and repel woman fast enough to provoke skid marks even from high heels.

* Having watched the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”, I can agree with Fat Cat that those women have 14 feet of legs… 14 happy, awesome, gorgeous, tasty, yummy, sexy, beautiful feet of WHERE CAN I GET ME SOME OF THAT??, legs. My question: what exactly are they selling again?

* As Christmas approaches, I can’t shake the feeling that everyone I know personally must be damn blessed (see what I did there?) if the main problem this year is that they’re hard to shop for because they already have almost everything they could use or want.

* There is so much partial nudity, sex, foul language, and amorality on television now that I am seriously tempted to start watching again.

* Our society took another step towards Hell this week now that Michael Vick has been given 23 months in prison for promoting dog fighting while O.J. Simpson walks free. What has happened to proportion in this country?

* The women at the pharmacy where I get my prescriptions for prostate medication look amused (and damn unprofessional!) that someone my age might have trouble of any kind “down there”. I also can’t think of a good way to legally convince them that I don’t.

* With any luck, the Writer’s Guild strike will put a big nail in the coffin of the Hollywood studio elite network that is designed to reward producers, agents, and stars to the detriment of the people who actually create the stories and characters we all love to watch on television, the computer, and especially the silver screen.

* If the aforementioned strike goes on too long, however, the national I.Q. will drop to historically low levels as the entire network television line-up becomes “reality” programs such as “The Hills” and “Kid Nation”.

* Winter is magical and wonderful not because of the holidays or the vacations, it is awesome because fat people can finally wear clothes that manage to hide some of the pounds they have packed on the first 10 months of the year.

* Because your mirror lies, don’t be fooled that your enormous overcoat is hiding ALL of those extra pounds. People still kinda know, with or without the furry muumuu you call a “jacket”.


P.S. Did I mention my feet and back sorta hurt? Like crazy, tears-in-my-eyes, hurt?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Okay, Now I'm Really Going to Kill Myself

Sometimes I do things that are just inexplicable. For example, if you were an overweight older woman, trying desperately (and unsuccessfully...) to lose weight, would you willingly torture yourself by watching The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show?

Probably not, right? So you're already much healthier mentally than I am. But everyone expects writers to be a little loopy anyway, and I sure would hate to disappoint my fans. So I watched it.

But see, I didn't set out to watch it. I dutifully watched this week's edition of The Biggest Loser and then cast about for something different to put on. If it sounds like I watch too much television at night, you're right, but I don't just watch television. I watch television and write, or pay bills or yack on the phone, or wash dishes or cook, or walk on my treadmill. So see? I'm a real multi-tasker.

Okay, the real truth is I don't watch TV so much as listen to it. After years raising my children in a house full of activity, and more years spent in newpaper and television newsrooms, the noisiest places on the planet, my quiet, quiet, empty house seems strange. So I turn on the TV to provide my accustomed level of background noise and forget I am alone.

Back to the topic at hand. All my male friends are always going on and on about Victoria's Secret models. I have a special pair of earplugs I keep just for when this happens. I can nod and look interested when in fact I am on the verge of slipping into a coma. So I never knew what the fuss was about until I turned on that TV. Did you know there existed anywhere in the human genome DNA for women with 14-foot-long legs? I didn't. Did you know there were women with skin that looked like molten honey? I didn't know that either.

Now, I've never really watched a fashion show except for the mini shows on Project Runway, so I wasn't prepared for the full blast of music, style and color the highly produced Victoria's Secret show provided. I've never seen women stomping down a catwalk like they did, keeping perfect rhythm with the music while wearing these wildly elaborate but still stunningly skimpy outfits that no woman I know would wear under any circumstances. I mean, I don't care how festive you're feeling; would you dress up like a Christmas tree complete with floor length cape covered with fake needles and nothing but a teeny bikini underneath?

Of course you would, if you looked like these girls. Once again I must make a note to talk to God about where I was standing in the pulchritude line. Yes, he gave me brains and a kind heart, two wonderful children and a wonderful family and friends, and that's a lot of blessings for anyone, so I feel bad complaining. But in the beauty department, um, I was not close to the front of the line for anything except maybe my eyes, and before childbirth ruined it, my navel.

But my body? Let's just say I am Sophia Loren struggling through the age of Twiggy. I am zoftig, with big, curvy hips, big thighs, and a relatively small waist...the classic hourglass. Nobody seems to like hourglass figures anymore, especially not after they go soft. I am most definitely NOT a Victoria's Secret model type. My legs are only 12-feet long, way too stubby for the runway. And my skin is a splotchy, pasty shade of blue-white, not molten honey.

Here's another funny thing about the fashion show. The camera kept cutting back over and over again to three celebs in the audience: Neil Patrick Harris, Ryan Seacrest and Joey Fatone. I kept asking myself, "Are these really the only three recognizable faces in the whole audience?" If so, and I'd been producing that show, I wouldn't have had my cameras cut to them at all. First of all, except for Ryan Seacrest, they're not exactly A list. Second, there seems to be this conceit in TV Land that all Americans breathlessly wait to see what their favorite stars do before making a move, but I think a conceit is all it is. I personally get tired of seeing the same names shoved into my face, as if what they thought was important to me and could actually influence how I live my life.

Anyway, back to the show again...there were some interesting outfits; well, actually they were more like costumes. But even though the costumes were skimpy and outrageous, they weren't cheesy or skanky, quite an accomplishment.

I watched for the full hour, my hands never once touching the keyboard of the computer on my lap. I didn't get up, I didn't talk on the phone, I just watched dumbly, the little green monster of envy growing in my heart. Why couldn't I look like that? If I looked like that, wouldn't I have a great boyfriend, or several great boyfriends?

Well, not necessarily, but probably. More than likely. Alright, yes. Who am I kidding? I'd have my pick of great boyfriends.

After seeing those models, I really had to struggle with my self esteem for days. Even in the bloom of my youth when I had a perfect figure, I never looked like those girls. They were all teeth and legs and massive heads of billowy hair they kept flipping over their shoulders. If I was a man, I imagine I would have had to take several cold showers during the show. But I'm a woman so I felt a different kind of cold...the cold, green fingers of envy that were squeezing tight around my little jealous heart.

So briefly, I thought, "What's the use?" Then I remembered I have a different mission in my life than tromping up and down some runway in 7 inch heals and acting like I was enjoying it. And sometime before I retire, I truly hope I figure out what that is.

At least I know what it isn't.

Planet Fat Cat

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Last Stand

A few days ago I read an article that suggested if a person only stood more they could improve their health and maybe, with exercise and diet of course, lose weight. Although I am a card-carrying cynic, I took the advice to heart and vowed that I would quickly find ways to sit less in my waking hours. By the weekend I was on the hunt for a “standing” desk and today I finally found one I could afford. In less than five hours this afternoon, I even managed to inexpertly put it together.

And there it towers over in the corner looking pretty and tall while I sit at my short, comfortable little computer desk writing this column.

Of course more story stands between me and my new furniture than just a general reluctance to start doing all of my writing and computer work off my enormous ass and onto my feet. Like feuds and families, a history makes the simple complex. My old desk means more to me than just the place that props up my monitor. Even with its chipped paint and scuffed legs, the heavy, squatty, dark and simple little beast has more meaning to me than its use warrants.

You see, my wife painted this table for me by hand years ago as a way of customizing it just to my liking.

Almost nine years ago when I “inherited” the desk from a friend who was buying “up”, the very plain, cheap thing was solid wood, but with a faux-grained laminate and an unattractive light-brown color. I hated the way it looked, but it was exactly the height I desired and had just the right amount of surface real estate for my needs. A lack of one of those annoying under-desk pull-out keyboard trays or shin-mashing bottom braces made it safe and extremely comfortable as well. It never fit in with our other office decor, and I was always a tad ashamed for people to see it since most of our other furniture was fairly attractive or new… and usually black or silver or grey, my colors of choice. I tolerated it, but always vowed to get a better looking desk when I could find one I could afford.

Then one day, out of the blue, I came home to find my desk in the garage and Trina bent over it, blasting the heck off the top of it with an electric hand sander. As I walked up I could see her just muscling that sander back and forth with a look of pleased determination in her eyes. As I approached and screamed a hello, she pulled down her dust mask and gave me one of her trademarked grins, maybe just a little bigger.

Turns out she had decided that if we couldn’t afford a nice desk that met all my requirements but looked modern and flashy in a shiny black paint, then by God she would make me one.

It took her the better part of a week to completely strip, sand, paint, repaint, and seal the desk, but when she was done it was beautiful. Sleek and dark with a durable finish for my heavy use, it was awesome and I loved it. I couldn’t have bought a more perfect desk for me, but she had made it happen with her own effort, blood, sweat, and bone. It was not possible to be more blessed than at the moment she proudly set it up in my computer room and the two of us gazed upon such a fine piece of work.

I have had that desk ever since and loved it every day.

But now time has forced me to try something new; some of the old won’t work any more. The truth is that I DO sit way too much at the computer and force my body to go dormant for most my waking hours. I know I won’t magically transform into an underwear model overnight, but I know this will help. And I will enthusiastically embrace all the help I can possibly manufacture right now.

But still I am sitting here.

It seems like such a small effort to just get up and sweep clear the junk on this old thing and make way for the new one. It’s only wood and paint and screws and nails. But more every day the new buries the old and week by week Trina grows fainter in my memory. I know I need, for physical and probably mental health, to take a stand at that new desk, but part of me doesn’t want to go.

I will get up soon and set up that shiny new four-legged metaphor; I have to do it.

But for a few more minutes I think I’ll sit here and run my fingers over the chipped and fading black paint, just me and these little memories.