Ever shake your salad dressing without fully closing the top? Ever spill coffee on your nice white blouse before a meeting? My god, if the answer is no, you have not lived, my friends. My aunt gave me and my cousin Aimee a long, tiered skirt. My cousin pulled it up under arms over her boobs and added a long beaded necklace. She looked great, and the skirt looked like a cute, strapless summer mini dress. I copied her style and was feeling it, til I caught my reflection. I did not look like I was wearing a cute, strapless mini dress. I just looked looked like a crazy lady who put her skirt over her boobs.
I had this vague memory of being at an uncomfortable party at a luxurious pool in the countryside. I couldn’t tell if it were a memory of an actual experience or a film, but my friend B recently reminded me we went to a freshman mixer at this older wealthy professor’s house in a rural part of Connecticut. He was no longer allowed to advise male students. She remembers because he was her academic advisor and he was terrible. The world is a strange place.
I’ve yo-yo-ed in my weight class since kid-hood, a challenge for someone like my mom who is emaciated for all the years I’ve known her and who channels all of her anxiety into controlling weight, including mine. When I’ve reviewed journals, almost half, maybe more of the content was about losing weight. We have long since come to peace with our differences on this topic regarding my own weight, but I’m thinking about it lately because she is slowly making First Son self-conscious about his weight. I thought she was keeping her relentless commentary to me. I get an ream of emails on texts asking me to cut back on his carb in-take and how once you gain weight, you can’t lose it. It’s tricky, since she’s so emotionally fragile and this is definitely one of my hotspot issues, I have to proceed with caution and yet also protect my guy.
I let her deliver her lecture and try to counter calmly. Let’s deal with reality. As long as his pediatrician says his weight is normal, his weight is normal. Does he look normal? Yes. If First Son ever got into a position of being overweight, then we would just make sure he gets more exercise. The way to maintain a healthy weight is to not become neurotic about it. She seemed okay with this for a while.
But then, perhaps due to recent events like poor thing broke her wrist, mom has escalated the weight talk. Now she says she has looked up the weight range for the kid’s age group and he is absolutely overweight, this is an emergency, etc. (Um, yeah, did you look for weight and height combo? Yeah.) Slowly, I’m hearing things like First Son weighs himself at her home, he is looking at grams of sugar on packaging, but some of this may be due to his intense enjoyment of counting stuff.
Once my guy asked about when he could start counting calories and whispered a request for a snack, I had to make a more serious effort to get mom to back off.
“He is afraid to eat in front of you. Your help doesn’t actually change the behavior. Every time you put me on a die when I was a kid, I would just cram food into my mouth after you went to bed. What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want First Son to remember you?”
It seems like she got my message and agrees, and I think, when she sees her behavior, she’s seems to experience chagrin. Hope it stops, but you never know.
When First Son was five months old and in full-on Michelin Man baby status, Mom told me he needed to go on a diet. It was an incredibly liberating moment. It made me see, god, all those years you were on my case about my weight really were all about you.
Anyway, after all this gabbing about the topic, I had the realization that losing weight is actually not that important. It’s just not. After years of obsessing over it, I suddenly just got an upgrade in mental real estate.
Recently went on a long road trip with the family, and I gab constantly to Husband so he doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel, but among the goofy things discussed were great, great sitcoms we loved growing up that are so not famous or that good, but here they are:
* “Jennifer Slept Here”
* “Mr. Belvedere”
* “It’s a Living”
* “Happy Days”
He loved “The A-Team.” I loved “The Cosby Show” (ugh, why did you ruin this for me, Bill, ugh).
I have been recruited to practice throwing and catching with baseball-obsessed First Son. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a baseball mitt before this year, but now I’m out there regularly, and god with a mitt, it is so much easier to catch a ball and I’m getting better at throwing. A baseball is the perfect size for your palm. The mitt is making me feel like I’m The goddamn Natural. (If I missed my calling and I’m secretly a baseball prodigy, can you tell me? Thanks.)
This is a ridiculous conclusion, because among my attributes as a human, being athletic is not on the list. I was on varsity tennis in high school, but that was due to the lack of people going out for the team than any actual true ability. I think I actually placed third place singles, but the girl I beat had been playing longer and wept, so the Coach felt sorry for her and gave her the position, and I ended up playing doubles with a partner who hated me.
Years later, I found out my parents went to speak to the coach because they were worried it was racism. It wasn’t. That coach was just a wack job. Coach was a glamorous lady — sixties, short blonde wave, always with her polo shirt tucked into her shorts. I remember her Jackie O sunglasses and her preoccupation with her/us staying slim. She like to threaten to “black ball” us for the Honor Society if we didn’t acquiesce. My best friend and I complained to a gym teacher who sympathized but said there wasn’t much he could do. Soon, we heard the Coach asked around if the kids who complained were Jewish and Asian (me and BFF, of course).
All of this might sounds serious in writing, but I laugh when I think about these times now, all that long ago drama. I was really so bad at tennis. I would go for shots across the court screaming an elongated “sh******t” and still miss, not realizing that I was cursing out loud and not in my head. I had no sense of discipline or understanding or connection to what I was doing on the court. My cousin Ed who is a musician and very well-coordinated said when he played (he was great at tennis as a kid), he always heard a song in his head to base his game on. (So interesting how different people’s brains work.) I think he drives to a song in his head too. Yeah, me? No rhythm. I just sort of flail and hope the ball is there, which is exactly how I throw and catch with First Son now. He now has a move he calls “The Mom,” which includes spastic gesticulating and weird-sounding noise-making while simultaneously dropping the ball.