Fit, fat and other ‘F’ words

Fitness is a dirty word. It comes from the word “fit,” which nothing  does anymore, and the suffix “ness,” which is a Scottish monster that’s the same size as my rear end.

I’m serious about fitness. But like any serious relationship, fitness and I have our ups and downs. At first, it’s all new and wonderful, and I finish my workouts feeling that glorious afterglow.

But that soon wears off, boredom creeps in, and I find myself avoiding my treadmill’s eyes as I hurry out the door to meet doughnut, my one true love, at the café down the street.

I like the feeling I get when I work out. It’s the actual working out part I hate. For one thing, it’s never quite the right time to walk or run outside. Too hot in summer, too icy in winter, muddy in spring. Can’t go out when it rains, I’m not a morning person and it’s getting dark by the time I get home from work.

But the three remaining days in late September when it’s cool and sunny and not humid don’t quite give me the aerobic workout I need.

I tried seeing a personal trainer for awhile and bought hand weights and one of those balance balls. That thing sits in my living room, mocking me with its giant blueness like the Eye of the Workout God. You can’t store that thing anywhere. It’s messing up my feng shui, I tell you. Plus I can’t see the TV while lying on the couch.

My trainer told me to pick an aerobic exercise I enjoy, because then I’m more likely to stay with it.I believe I snorted right to his face.

Let’s go over the “choices.”

Jogging – don’t think so. I’ve seen those runners stumble down the paths at the park like extras from “Night of the Living Dead.” Seriously, you are in desperate need of more brains if you torture yourself like that.

I used to love biking, but I’m afraid of getting stuck on the side of the road with a flat. Does AAA do bikes? I’ll have to look into that.

I occasionally walk, but was reading recently that the new thing is to wear a pedometer to measure how many steps you take in a day. The article said 10,000 steps a day is enough to keep you fit. Sounds like the death march to hell. You’d think I’d already be in shape, considering how much backtracking I do all day to pick up things I’ve forgotten.

I guess I could always sign up at the gym again. There’s nothing I love more than working out alongside college girls wearing those little baby doll T-shirts.Them, not me.  It makes me feel like Barbie’s dumpier cousin Jane. Comes with double chin and “fat” jeans. Exercise bike/clothes rack sold separately.

I’m thinking at this stage of the game, being perfectly fit might be an unachievable goal. I’d settle for being able to fit my butt in an airplane seat.

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Holiday, schmolidays. Is it January yet?

To hell with mistletoe. And while you’re at it, go stuff a turkey.

That’s right, the holidays are coming and I’m Little Miss Anthrope. Makes me want to drop-kick an elf, you know?

Can you blame me? There’s a lot of pressure on a single girl this time of year. It’s not bad enough that I have to work straight through Thanksgiving and Christmas with a second job and extra writing assignments.

But then I have to turn handsprings (that’s a metaphor, can’t really do handsprings anymore) to get all that other peripheral holiday stuff done. I have cut back. I’ve dropped the card-sending and a whole lot of the cooking – especially making those tasteless cutout sugar cookies that look like snowmen, staring up at you from the cooling rack with their dead silver ball eyes, like something out of an evil doll movie.

But the nightmare before Christmas I can’t escape is the gift shopping.

Even though every year I try to break free from the orgy of materialism, I am still enough of a sheep that I feel I have to buy stuff.

Now that I’m single again, I have to do it all on my own. Deciding what to get, trudging mile after mall mile, picking up little figurines at the Hallmark store and putting them down in a daze, losing the damned tape somewhere on the floor after every freakin’ package I wrap.

In singledom, no one can hear you swear.

Some of us are not good at the whole gift-giving thing. My ex-husband’s main complaint about me was that I never got him good presents. This from a man who one year bought me a giant plastic bowl because he melted mine in the oven trying to make cinnamon roll dough rise faster.

It’s just too stressful to decide whether a recipient would rather have the blue sweater or the green, the strawberry bath gel or the vanilla. I usually end up panicking two days before Christmas, wandering around Wal-Mart, throwing all manner of useless things into my cart – CD polishers, leopard-print slippers, T-shirts with lame New Hampshire jokes (Live Free or Diet!), trying to make up with quantity what I couldn’t do in quality.

I, on the other hand, am a delight to shop for. I like anything – raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, chocolate, books, music, chocolate, things to keep me warm, funny novelty items, chocolate.

As much trouble as the holidays can be, I’m really no elf-kicker. I still put up a tree every year, though now I’m dragging it up to my second-floor apartment and squishing it in next to the TV. A full-size real tree, too. Nothing says “past your prime” than one of those wimpy little fiber-optic ones on a tabletop.

But my holiday fantasies tend to be on the dark side. Santa comes to my house, I throw a sack over his head, chloroform him and then I force him to … do my Christmas shopping for me. Hey, he likes doing it, and he already has the list.

 

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Wanted: Dream dish

Remember that old “Twilight Zone” episode where aliens come to earth and solve all the world’s problems, and everyone is happy, but then someone figures out the alien book they are translating, “To Serve Man,” is really a cookbook?

Well, I don’t. I’m way too young.

But seriously, although there have been a few (one) men in my life whom I wouldn’t mind seeing in a stew, it’s much easier to put together a perfect dinner party for eight, butternut squash soup through chocolate-raspberry fontaine, than it is to find a recipe for a relationship.

Just as in my food shopping, which consists mainly of frozen, unrecognizable chicken entrees bought to fool my co-workers into thinking I’m dieting, I want the ease of men who come ready packaged, like they do on Match or Yahoo.

You get the ingredients list right on the box: height, weight, eyes, hair, or lack thereof, even profession and salary. It’s so easy! I find quite a few I’d like to throw into my cart and move to the checkout with. Then I could take them home and unwrap them … well, the metaphor just keeps going.

This way of sorting out my soulmate is quick and easy – “too old, nice eyes, too boring, too young, funny essay, too good-looking (yes, you can be too good-looking), too so-not-my-type – but reading the ingredients label is no guarantee that the result will be tasty and satisfying.

So I might have to start from scratch.

First, take a raw man, peel off all the bitterness about his ex-wife. Soak him in some cold water mixed with his favorite beer to wash away the relationship lethargy he’s been building up over the years. Careful, not TOO much beer; then he’s not useful for much of anything.

Add a little flattery – all men love this, but some can smell false praise a mile away, so be careful of the amount.
Stir vigorously, whatever that means.

Then, after a few months of simmering, with you carefully tending the pot, he might surprise you and break out into a full boil, making a surprise announcement, such as he thinks he might need you. If he ever needs anything. Which he doesn’t.

And then you’ll have the perfect dish, one that will keep you full and nourished for the rest of your life.
Oh, what am I even talking about? If I were any good at this, I’d already have a guy and my cupboards would no longer be bare. If you know what I mean.

I don’t even know what I mean. When it comes to dating, I’m all flash and no pan. Or is that all pancetta and no flan? I guess I’ll never get this cooking thing down.

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You can’t always want what you get

My hairdresser is a lovely woman who helps me attempt to stave off the ravages of age on a monthly basis.

She’s very good. I mean, she keeps ignoring my instructions to make me look like Jessica Alba, but other than that, most times she makes me appear at least three weeks younger than I really am.

During my last visit, she told me about a trip to Disney she took with her husband and kids. And in the intimate way that only hairdressers and their clients share, she asked me a revealing question.

“Why is it when men go on vacation, they just want to do it all the time?”

Not having had a real vacation or a real husband for the last few years, I could only shake my head and lift my eyebrows in sympathy.

She continued.

“I told him, if I have to have sex with you one more time …”

Now I know she and her husband are happy and have a good life together. But her teeth-gritting vehemence made me think.

I’ve been so focused on “getting a man” that I’ve never taken much time to consider what getting one would actually be like. Because, you know, once you get one, they’re not that easy to get rid of, like stray cats or fleas. Or stray cats with fleas.

There’s a great short story that American writer Kate Chopin wrote in the 1890s, called “Story of an Hour,” in which the heroine is told her husband has been killed in a train crash. Then when he walks through the door an hour later, safe and sound, she has a heart attack and dies, having spent that hour imagining how wonderful her life would be now that she was single again.

So tell me again why I want to get remarried?

Is it because I’m afraid of dying alone? Well, let’s face it, we all die alone. On the other hand, it would be nice to have someone there in my later years, holding my hand and helping me remember where I put my glasses. Though I suppose it’s more likely I’d be yelling at him to turn down the damned TV.

Or maybe I would like to have someone around to help with life’s little aggravations, like yesterday when I got a flat tire and had to change it myself. But I could get AAA instead and save myself the man-bonus of having to constantly clean the outside of the toilet.

Let’s see, what else are men good for? I can take out my own garbage, I can cook on a grill and I can watch football and belch by myself.

OK, there is one thing I can’t do as well on my own.

And that is, of course, turning down sex in Disney World.

I’ll bet Minnie hates it when Mickey sulks.


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Finding my way, shoeless and clueless

I’m looking for direction.

And I’m not talking about directions from that snotty English woman on my GPS. She is such a control freak. My married son loves to change direction on purpose just to mess her up. “That’s RIGHT, you’re recalculating, you dominating harpy,” he yells triumphantly while driving.

Well, he doesn’t say harpy, but that’s the best substitute word I can come up with.

It must give him such a huge sense of power to get the upper hand with a pretend woman. I’m not saying he’s whipped at home, but I’m seriously contemplating getting him a frilly apron for Christmas.

No, the direction I need is what to do with the rest of my life now that it looks like I’m never going to find the man of my dreams.

I’m not kidding, either. I’m resigned to the fact that it’s not going to happen. I loved the line from the new show about cougars that premiered on TV the other night. The protagonist said she’ll never get married again, despite the fact that she’s still hot at 40 and has tons of money, because all the men her age are either broken, gay or dating younger women.

Truer words were ne’er spoke.

Believe me, if there were a nice, well-adjusted straight guy around these here parts, the women would be on it thicker than caramel on a Snickers.

I can’t even be a cougar anyway – not on my salary and driving my little economy car and wearing last year’s sneakers because they’re the only shoes that don’t hurt my feet.

And that’s not to mention the alien-probing procedure I had to undergo recently that ushered in my own personal Age of Agedness. You know you’re past it when you’re forced to use words like “procedure.” When did I turn into my grandfather?

And how old do I have to be to be the cougar in the nursing home, I wonder? I’m beginning to see that as the next upcoming pool of available men. Is a two-year age difference enough at that point?

I can assure you, I won’t ever be dating men in their 20s. I barely dated them when I was IN my 20s. Not in my wildest dreams will that happen now.

Speaking of, boy, did I have a wild dream the other night.

My dreams are usually a hodgepodge of images, things I’ve thought or seen or read about during the day mixed in with some psychedelic stuff left over from the ’70s. But this one was so symbolic it hurt.

In the dream, I was watching one of my favorite guitar players on stage. I was all dressed up, with a black slinky dress and great hair (hey, it’s MY dream). I looked down and realized I was wearing two different shoes. Plus, horror of horrors, they were beige.

I went into a large dark room that was full of shoes, but every time I grabbed what I thought was a nice pair of black pumps, when I went to put them on, they didn’t match again. This happened again and again, the concert still going on in the other room, until I woke up in a startled sweat, no closer to finding a match than I am in real life.

Don’t need a dream expert to interpret this one, huh?

It’s pretty clear I’m destined to remain a misfit, unmatched and missing the show.

In the nursing home, I intend to go barefoot all the time. That way, I can sneak up, cougarlike, on those guys. And without their hearing aids in, they won’t know when I’m about to pounce.

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Please be seated

Great news! Last week, while on vacation, I fell in love. Now I just have to figure out how to explain to my kids that their new stepdaddy is going to be a vibrating chair. Let me back up a little here.

While I was off from work, I spent a half day having some construction work done – namely, a manicure, pedicure and facial. I used to eschew such treatments as expensive and unnecessary, a waste of both time and money. That is, until I turned 40. I realized then, in a panic, that you have to do something. You can’t just sit idly by and let your skin wrinkle up like an unironed Shar-Pei. I mean, I was either going to have to start covering the mirrors in my house with black fabric or start wearing a veil. And it’s hard to pull off that look with shorts and a T-shirt.

That’s when I started haunting what I call the Fancy Grease and Lube Aisle at my local pharmacy. Hundreds of companies display dozens of skin-care lines according to some nebulous concept called “skin type,” in a range that starts with “teen” and goes through “prone to breakouts,” “combination,” and ending with “you and an alligator have much in common.”

Come see my bathroom. It’s where skin-care products go to die. I can’t explain why a woman with common sense (that would be me) thinks yet another “deep wrinkle” cream is going to help. But I’m such a sucker for advertising. I know they airbrush the women in magazines and on TV, but when they show the force field around her face and the cartoon wrinkles bouncing off it, I am powerless to resist. They have me totally convinced I need at least five moisturizers at once: one for day, one for night, one for cavernous wrinkles, one to put under my eyes for puffiness and one to put on my eyelids to keep from having to staple them in place.

But the other day, I realized the futility of the battle. I was searching for yet another miracle at the altar of anti-aging when I noticed the woman next to me. She was 75 if she was a day. I know that’s going to be me in a quarter century, still hoping that something in the $40 range is going to make me hot again. In the future, all women will be buried in coffins filled with Oil of Olay. Maybe it would be cheaper and easier to sleep in a custom-made Tupperware container in the fridge. I’d probably stay fresher that way.

Meanwhile, last week I spent three hours of the few I have left on this earth at Hair Excitement at the Mall of New Hampshire, where two girls named Laurie and Kelly made me look gorgeous. The facial was fantastic – hot towels, steam and massage accompanied by tinkly Japanese music.

But it was the pedicure that changed my life, and introduced me to the object of my desire, the thing I want to spend the rest my life with: a big, comfy chair attached to a little jacuzzi where my feet were soaked and pampered. The beauty part was a remote that allowed me to try five different speeds and rhythms and work an incredible roller thingy up and down my back. I didn’t speak the whole time. It was ecstasy.

You just can’t get that level of control with a man.

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Hand over hand – having the climb of my life

Life can be described by any of several metaphors: a circle, a race, a school or my personal favorite – a ladder.

The ladder describes my single life perfectly. Rung by rung, hand over hand, pulling myself up to some distant height in the stratosphere, sweating, muscles straining, trying not … to … let … go.

Then some guy above me kicks me in the head, and I begin my inevitable drop, slowly at first, my handhold beginning to slip, then sliding faster and faster, my chin hitting each rung with a sickening thud, thud, thud, velocity increasing until my butt bursts into flame like it’s re-entering the atmosphere.

How appropriate then, that I’ve discovered the Ladder Theory. Proposed by what I believe to be a group of young college guys (the funniest stuff on the Web is made up by young college guys. I want to be a young college guy), the ladder theory explains the ups and downs of male-female relationships.

I won’t go into too much detail – you can read all about it on intellectualwhores.com – but the main idea is the same as that proposed in “When Harry Met Sally.” Men can’t be just friends with women, because they want to sleep with every woman they know.

The theory says that men place all women on a ladder according to how much they want to sleep with them. The top of the ladder has the gorgeous, unattainable ones. The bottom rungs contain the “wolf ugly” ones – those where you’d rather chew your own arm off to get away than be intimate with. There are many hilarious levels in between.

Women, on the other hand, have two ladders, one for potential partners and one for friends. And a guy can’t jump from friends to lovers, no matter how much speed or loft he attains.

A young guy I know whined to me about this recently. “Gina,” he said, “why do women I like always want to be just friends?” He’s attractive, funny, intelligent. Why is he having problems?

According to the theory, he’s just on the wrong ladder. He needs to find a girl who will put him on her potentials ladder, yet someone not wolf ugly.

I’m not sure the theory explains why I’m not finding success with men, though. You’d think I’d be on a midlevel rung on some guy’s ladder somewhere. The thought of belonging to the Canis lupus family is just too much for me to bear.

That’s why I’m rejecting the theory out of hand. I mean, it’s just a theory. Like evolution or relativity or global warming or my theory about Angelina Jolie being a Borg.

Meanwhile, maybe a nice firefighter type will come along and rescue me from my Tower of Terror of Growing Old Alone.

They come with their own ladders. Not to mention other firefighter accoutrements that might come in handy.

 

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