Saturday, March 29, 2008
Screwing the Pooch
I've always been thin, but never skinny. And I've always. Always. Had a pooch. While running in high school track meets. Pounding the boards in college. Even as an anxious-nail-biting-gastric-ulcer-Ambien-popping doctor's wife in size 2 Chanel. The pooch remained. It used to torment me, make me self-conscious, cause me to look at my body askance. I did crunches. I cut carbs. I upped my cardio. Still, the pooch.
When I complained to my mother, she'd shrug and say it was in my genes. My people were poochie people; we suffered historical traumas (humiliation, degradation, discrimination) and had thus earned our pooches. Then, she'd wax on about how pooches used to be sexy, especially in pencil skirts. "Just look at Marilyn Monroe." I pointed out that the blond bombshell was long dead and that my generation didn't appreciate the pooch quite as much as hers did. Plus, Marilyn had the boobs to balance her out. And a couple Kennedys under her belt. So to speak. Not a fair comparison.
Finally, on my 40th birthday, that blue sky day in September when I decided, "I don't give a shit what anybody thinks about me. And I'm not taking shit from anybody ever again. Plus, I'm gonna say the word, 'shit' whenever I want. As for the pooch...fuck that shit." Ah, that was a good day. I made peace with the pooch.
In my 40s, the way I see it, my pooch was testimony to a life well-lived: Nutella crepes from a street vendor in Paris, razor thin slices of pork back fat at a Barcelona tapas bar, artisanal cheeses in Point Reyes, handmade paparadelle in Chelsea. Eating is one of my greatest pleasures. I never want to believe it's naughty.
But then I took this job. Teaching yoga at a fitness center. Where all the other teachers and personal trainers are young, svelte, muscular, and there's not a pooch in sight. Early on, the Boss poked me in the belly and said, "That's gonna have to go." He said this with kindness, of course. At a gym, a pooch ain't personal. It's business. This from a man who eats two boiled eggs and a bowl of steamed broccoli for lunch. Then he added, "Of course, at your age, that's not going to be easy what with a slower metabolism. Not to mention hormonal changes."
Nonetheless, I rededicated myself. I gave up chicken wings and beer (which I love). I gave up cheese and ice cream (which I love). I gave up pasta (friends threatened an intervention). I gave up dessert (and nearly broke out in a rash). I ate half portions. I cycled 3x a week, ran 2x a week, lifted weights 3x a week, did yoga 4x a week, and hiked steep hills whenever weather permitted. I did crunches as if a small caliber handgun were being held to my temple, loaded, the trigger itchy. The Boss would stand over me and shout, "Ten more!"
Then one day, as I walked past the wall of mirrors at the gym, I noticed. The pooch was gone! I couldn't believe it. I pulled down my yoga pants right then and there just to make sure it wasn't one of those "skinny" mirrors that always trick us into optimism.
That night, I stood naked in front of the Ranger. "Look Hon, flat as a pancake. Maybe not a six-pack, but I see some definition." I expected him to be happy for me, to tell me how proud he was of my discipline, to say "Damn girl, you're as hot as a 26-year-old." But really, he only looked...well, lonesome. Then he patted his own little pot belly and sighed.
But my recent surgery proved to be a bit of a snag. I couldn't exercise for a month. I needed beer to wash down the Vicoden. And of course cold mugs of beer require chicken wings with lots and lots of hot sauce which in turn requires more beer. Post-op depression called for cheery bowls of ice cream and stinky cheese for those moments when I couldn't imagine a pain-free sneeze. And I ate pie. Oh, baby, did I eat pie. Pumpkin. Lemon Meringue. Pecan. Key Lime. Raspberry. Apple. Peach. Ala mode.
So...the pooch is back. Not bigger or smaller. Exactly the same. But now, I rub it and close my eyes with gratitude because every day, without hesitation, I've said "yes" much more often than I've said, "no." And then I roll over and go to sleep. Pooch to pooch.