Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A new self-image

Once upon a time, a really long time ago -- well, really, just a couple of years ago -- I was a skinny little thang. Then one day my metabolism said, "I quit."

And at that point, I started getting great compliments from my husband, who says things like, "I hate to see ya go, but I looooooooove to watch you walk away." And that's just for starters.

Wesley knew I was skinny when he married me. I guess he looked into the future and saw that someday I would develop the kind of figure *he* likes. It was just going to take me 17 years or so, and he was willing to invest the time it took to wait out my skinniness.

So now here I am, and I'm not skinny any more. If you gaze upon the layout pictured above, you really can't tell I was skinny -- but I was. Painfully skinny. On top of my ravenous metabolism, I had a heck of an eating disorder. Any time I felt the least bit out of control, I had no appetite and could go for days without eating. Don't ask me why -- the human psyche is a strange thing, and far be it from me to understand. I'm just glad for the shrink I had when I was 23, who said, "For crying out loud, EAT something. Have a chili dog. A pineapple. A whole buffet. Whatever!!! Just remember life is a banquet and EAT!"

I followed her advice, and man, she was right. Food is actually good. I like it. I like it a *lot*.

Having finally made friends with food, I ate like a field hand for years, and then one day food decided it liked me *back*. So it stuck with me. On my hips. On my arms. On my chin. (OK, I kinda wish the extra chin would take a hike.) On my *cleavage*. I never had cleavage before!!! This stuff is *amazing*!!!! You can get out of speeding tickets with the right cleavage!!!!!

I'm happy. Wesley is *very* happy. I feel good about myself, and I'm happy, and excuse me, but I don't see what the big deal is about gaining weight. I could've used more weight when I was 16 and 19 and 22, anyway -- who cares if I got it now? Does it really matter to anyone if I'm a little chubbier than I was a couple of years ago? I get to buy new clothes every season. I have a happy husband. My kids are still well-adjusted and smart. All my bills are paid and my cat is healthy and my birds are sweet and loving. Just what is the big deal about a little extra weight, anyway???

Well, I'll tell you what the big deal is -- the rest of the world not only doesn't understand it, but they sit in judgment of you if you have a few extra pounds. I'm not grossly obese. I'm a size 16. I'm 5'8", and a size 16, and I don't feel bad.

I went to the doctor today for the first time in years. I have issues with doctors in general and their perception of health in particular. You see, I'm a time bomb. Everyone in my mother's family -- literally every single member of her family -- has died of breast, ovarian, or colon cancer. With me, it's not a matter of "if" -- it's a matter of *when*. So I really needed to see a doctor, and I went to the ob/gyn because, well, it's a been a while since I saw one. They're not the most fun people in the world. Ob/gyns have a tendency to glower at me and growl about mammograms and other, even more invasive tests that are only going to tell me *when* I'm getting cancer, not *if*. They also have a tendency to preach about how I'm getting older, blah blah blah.

My sister found an ob/gyn that she loved, and she has good taste, so I got an appointment with her doctor and was really looking forward to the appointment with a person that I thought was going to be understanding and sympathetic about my ticking-time-bomb physiology.

I was kinda wrong.

It's not my sister's fault. She's already had cancer, so she had different needs than I did. I needed a doctor with a certain level of cynicism and fatalism guiding her conversation with me. Instead I got some kind of lunatic health nut. She informed me -- in so many words -- that I'm fat, lazy, stupid, and crazy. She offered an anti-depressant that might help me quit smoking. (Do I *look* depressed???) She told me to start taking vitamins and cut sugar and caffeine out of my diet. She told me to start excercising.

She ordered a whole host of tests that I'll have to schedule at a hospital near me, and then call her office to tell them when my appointments are and when to expect the results of all these tests. And if I *don't* get all these lovely tests run, then she informed me that I should expect registered letters from her, which I assume will fuss at me because I really need to get the tests run.

Well, duh! I know I need the tests -- I'm a time bomb! But I had no idea that she was going to tell me what a loser I am. It was an absolute downer of a doctor's appointment, and I've already had some bummers in my lifetime. Granted, most of them were my *mother's* appointments while she was dying of ... BREAST cancer, thankyouverymuch -- but I had no idea I was going to have such a lecture at the hands of the person who single-handedly saved my sister's life.

It's not like I intend to die of cancer faster than anyone else intends to. I'm not trying to speed it up. But geeeeeeez, it's going to happen, there's not much I can do about it except prolong the agony once I get it.

The way I see it is: Life is short. Agonizingly, excruciatingly, pointlessly short. As long as I'm here, I might as well live it to the fullest. It doesn't matter if I take antioxidants & vitamins or quit smoking or lose 30 pounds or drink only organically grown decaf herbal tea sweetened with nothing more than a whisper of Splenda (which -- has anyone thought about what the *longterm* effects of Splenda might be? no one knew red dye was going to cause cancer in mice until years after it was introduced!) -- I'm still gonna kick the bucket someday, and probably sooner rather than later.

What -- I ask you -- *what* exactly is the point of living a life that is empty of processed sugar? I *love* dessert! I love fruit!!! (The doctor told me to stop eating fruit and drinking juice. Can... you... IMAGINE????) I love coffee and a cocktail and writing and staying up late and watching TV!!!!!! Why on *earth* would I want to live a long life *without* these things?

And do not -- for heaven's sake -- do *not* trot out the old, "But don't you want to live long enough to see your great-great-grandchildren?" Good God in the mornin' -- NO. Have you ever met a great-great-grandmother? They're scary. They frighten little children and totter around on pained feet, grimacing a lot and saying, "I can't play right now. I have to walk around the track and get my hair done."

When I kick the bucket -- which I most surely, inevitably will do, whether it's from breast cancer or a car wreck -- I want my children to look back and laugh over the way I loved tiramisu and coffee. I want them to remember me happy, not snapping about how I need to exercise now, or grumpy because I haven't had caffeine in 8 years. I want them to remember me dancing around in the summer rain, not shivering inside and warning against pneumonia. I want to be remembered for groaning at the end of a meal that I'm stuffed and I can't eat another bite, but just let me sit here and smell the blackberry cobbler. I *don't* want them to think of me as the mother who spent all her time running, exercising, avoiding everything yummy, and warning snottily, "Don't you know that will kill you?!?"

I am too busy living to start preparing to die.

Oh -- and as for the new self-image... The doctor did say one truly profound, amazingly beautiful thing. She asked me where I live. When I told her, she said:

"Oh, you're an exit on the interstate."

That's right! I am! I am an exit on the interstate of life.

I'm the fun exit with the carnival, complete with corn dogs and funnel cakes and rides that will exhilarate you. I'm the exit with fingerpaints and limericks and parrots that laugh uproariously with me and you -- if you're lucky enough to hear us. I'm the exit with the giant, larger-than-life replica of a dinosaur and the waterslide that shoots you 30 feet across the lake. I'm the exit where it's not just OK to sing the wrong lyrics to the song on the radio, it's *encouraged* to make up ridiculous parodies.

If you don't want to have fun, don't get off the interstate here. You can go right on down the road until you find the boring exit with the skinny-people clothes and the organic non-dairy smoothies. Have a hoot. When you get sick to death of it, I'm right here to give you cake with cream-cheese frosting and espresso and lend you a wild, pink tank top that shows your fabulous, homegrown cleavage.

It's a lot more fun to live than to simply avoid dying.


At 14/7/05 9:31 AM, Blogger Nicky said...

Bay, thanks for a peek into your "exit" and giving voice to how we should all live our lives. You made my day!

At 14/7/05 9:39 AM, Blogger Jane said...

What a profoundly written piece! I am just sitting here stunned.
You see, I've been at that "other" exit and it has wrecked havoc on me. For some reason, my body does better when I'm eating brats (I DO live in Wisconsin, ya know!)instead of lemon water and organic lettuce (God, I hate lettuce........unless it's on a juicy cheeseburger off the grill).
I've tried exercising too but my back and my knees can't take it. (I do just fine when I sit at the computer all day!) Anyhoo, I totally get where you're coming from. Look for me at your exit. I'll be the one without the cigarette, though! (My hands will be too full of donuts or something)

At 14/7/05 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm so far gone (to the fat side) that my doctors don't even mention it. "You don't say?!? I'm FAT? THANK you so much for pointing that out. If you hadn't told me, I'd NEVER have known."

At 15/7/05 1:12 AM, Blogger Amy said...

Aw, c'mon! Give my life-saving doctor a break! Just remember it's her job to tell you you're doing things that are unhealthy. I mean, she went to school for umpteen-kajillion years to learn every single stinkin' thing that might shorten your life. I'm sure she made a list.
- Too much food
- Not enough food
- Smoking
- Drinking caffeine
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating fat
- Snorting glue
- Cancer genes
- Heart disease genes
- Bungee jumping
- Most things that are fun
...and the number one thing that will ensure you'll die:
- Being born

As far as I know, you've been guilty of all of those except the bungee jumping and glue snorting. Heck, so have I. You just didn't use the techniques I used to scare her. On my first visit with her I cried for about 30 minutes in the examining room. Did you do that? No? Well, you still have another chance. (This worked really well for me.) Start crying extra in the waiting room. In front of the other patients. Quietly. Just hiccup and let the tears roll down your face. She'll be too scared to tell you how unhealthy you are.

Oh! And that's why she offered you antidepressants! They stopped me from crying in her office, and she's very proud of herself for that. (Hey, I'm proud of her, too!) She's probably handing out antidepressants to trick or treaters at Halloween after such a brilliant success story with me!

Now, about the mammograms and other oh-so-fun tests -- well, you've had the last decade or so off. You have some catching up to do, missy. Cram your cleavage into the torture device and suffer like the rest of us.

Soon as you're done with that I'll join you at your exit for some tiramisu.

At 15/7/05 2:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bay...this is why I love ya. You tell it like it is. LOVE it. Wish you were here at CHA, though! :)


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