Diagnosis: Foot-in-Mouth Disease

My favorite teachers were always my art teachers, except for that one.  That one that I lamented to a classmate, “Mrs. Strickland is such a bitch – I can’t stand her and her stupid “art should always be beautiful” crap.  If you think art has to be beautiful, then you’re a moron who doesn’t know a damn thing about art.  Why doesn’t she go teach Hygiene or something?”

Then my classmate said, “Umm, you know she’s my mom, right?”

And that’s how I found out Emma was Mrs. Strickland’s daughter.

You know how much I just can’t stand to brag (all evidence to the contrary), but I’ve got an unparalleled knack for putting my foot in my mouth.  I don’t even really have to try that hard, it just sashays into any scene like 1950s Marlon Brando in a stained white t-shirt and starts smashing lightbulbs.

If you have something you care about, like and respect, please feel free to count on me to say the most awkward thing about it after having mistakenly thought we were on the same page about it.  Oh, you like Paris Hilton and named your baby after her?  How…interesting!  After I just spent ten minutes trashing her.

I used to try to backpedal when this happened, like I did with Emma when I’d responded to this mom business with, “Oh, uhh.  Well, I mean, she’s actually really nice!”

Even though Emma was only 15 years old at the time, she gave me that look of, “Don’t patronize me.  Just take your awkward medicine and live with how uncomfortable you just made both of us.”

It has taken me years to understand that look, that sometimes you just have to exist in a bubble of discomfort until it passes.

In a recent foot-in-mouth incident, I was forced to attend a seminar on healthy lifestyle habits that turned out to be one long sales pitch from a Real Housewives of Orange County-looking chiropractor who wanted to sell me magnetic shoe insoles to solve every health problem under the sun.

If a chiropractor has helped you in your life, that’s great.  I just don’t like being told that I’m going to learn about healthy lifestyle habits and then get the hard-sell on magnets – unless it’s that weird guy who’s on The History Channel all the time.  He’s like a train wreck I can’t look away from, like The Hogan Family after they replaced Valerie Harper with Sandy Duncan.

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The next day I walked into my office and someone asked how the seminar had gone.  My coworker butted in and he and I answered at exactly the same time, only he said:

“I was impressed.  It’s exactly what me and my wife need.  I signed us both up and we start on the whole regimen next week!”

And I said – at exactly the same time:

“It was some hard-sell, snake oil bullshit from a chiropractor who looked like a reject from the blow-up doll factory.  Yeah, no.  I didn’t sign up for her magic beans.”

I may have used air quotes around the words “magic beans” for effect.  Maybe (yes).

I can tell you, the ensuing silence clung to the air like a dog fart.  And not one of those dog farts from a beautiful dog.  It was a junkyard dog fart.  A fart from a dog that eats a steady diet of discarded, rotting mob victim-flesh and spent motor oil.  The kind of dog fart that makes you banish even a beloved dog from your dining room and think less of them as a family pet from that moment on.  A dog fart of destruction.

Did I immediately backpedal?  No – this time I didn’t.  Because I believed in every word I had just said.  I hadn’t said it to insult my coworker – I said it because I truly felt this magnet saleswoman was a scam artist and should be called out for it.  I had no idea he was going to barge into our conversation.  Nobody had even asked him his opinion to begin with.

So I let the dog fart sit in the room, and did nothing to dispel it.  I didn’t say, “Oh, I was just kidding!  I’ve actually heard great things about those magnet soles!” like I would have years ago.

Because sometimes you just have to sit with the discomfort and let it be uncomfortable.

As a lifelong codependent and people-pleaser, this can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do.  To let someone be mad at you and then just sit with it?  Not cow-tow to them to try to make things all better?  Not rush in to smooth things over?

It’s not your job to make everybody feel better.  Say it with me, out loud:

“It’s not your job to make everybody feel better.”

I’m not saying be rude – far from it.  Just stop making it your job to fix everything.  Be okay with the discomfort, and don’t change the subject to distract everyone from the discomfort.

Man, that Hogan Family went downhill after Valerie Harper got fired.

When Your Pants Shrink on The 250th Wash

“Don’t get on the scale.  Ever.  It’s just a number, and it doesn’t really correspond with your health or your fitness level.  So throw it out!  Never step on a scale again!”

I had an eight year period of my life where I embraced this philosophy.  After being fairly small for most of my life, I gave up the scale in my late 20s and what do you think happened?

Did I feel unchained from watching my figure?  Did I gain a newfound sense of confidence?

No.

I put on forty pounds.

I know what you’re thinking.  It was probably because I was putting on muscle!  Was I really fit under that doughy layer of marshmallow fluff?

For some people, I’m sure that’s the case, but it was most certainly not the case for me.  I personally chunked up for a few reasons, and none of them had anything to do with having too much muscle mass.

The first reason for My Own Personal Chunkening was that I ate anything I wanted, anytime I felt like it, until I felt uncomfortably full – and I mean packing it in.

Wendy’s Double Cheeseburger, fries, and a Frosty for lunch?  Thank you!  And not just as a treat.  Every day.  Then round off the workday afternoon with some cookies, maybe a bag of chips or two.

Dunkin’ Donuts sausage, egg, and cheese on a bagel as a midnight snack, after already having eaten three meals and two snacks that day?  Please pull forward and pay at the first window.

Brownie sundae at every restaurant meal?  I would order a brownie sundae and when the other person with me would say, “We’ll split it!” I had absolutely no qualms about giving them the look of death, saying, “No,” and then inhaling the sundae like it was my last day on Earth.

People loved this.  Any time I shoved an entire slice of pizza into my mouth, my cheeks expanding out to those of a hamster, they practically applauded.  People love to encourage bad behavior for some reason, I assume so they don’t feel so bad about their own?

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This is a good look and you know it.

The second reason was that I sat at a desk-job all day.  I did zero exercise.  Literally none.  I was so unfit, I was constantly out of breath even just walking fast, and my joints hurt all the time.  Knees, hip joints, even my finger joints.  I wasn’t even 35 and I hurt all over.

The third reason was that I was perpetually very stressed out and under-slept.  I was out playing shows with the band at night and still waking up at 6am for my 8-to-5 day job every morning.  I dragged myself into work in the morning on 2-3 hours sleep regularly, and I was all kinds of messed up and constantly sick.

I was so exhausted that I felt I had earned the right to stuff my face and slowly become one with the couch.  Hadn’t I suffered enough with my financial problems, stressful workload, and unsupportive boyfriend?  The least I deserved was fresh-baked cookies and an episode (or eight) of The Golden Girls.

And I tell ya what, my thick ol’ body onstage with the band?  People loved it, especially the women in the crowd.  They couldn’t believe the confidence I displayed onstage despite my yuuuuuuuuge ass.  They were encouraging, and sweet, and awesome, and always made me feel like a million bucks.  I was never actually as confident as I appeared to be, but I felt like I owed it to women to show them that they could be confident no matter what size they were.

The reality was that deep down, anytime I saw a picture of myself, I would get very upset, delete it, and spend the rest of the day freaking out about my double chin.  Clothes didn’t fit me unless I put on practically head-to-toe Spanx, and I had to wear biking shorts under my dresses so that my thighs didn’t rub together.  I sat down at my kitchen table one time, and snapped a leather belt I was wearing right in half at the back.

I knew I’d put on weight, but I didn’t think it was that much.  As someone who’s exceptionally skilled at living in denial, I made up every excuse in the book when I split a pair of pants that I’d had and worn on a weekly basis for ten years.  “Oh, the washer must have shrunk these!  On the 250th wash!”

I went to the doctor for the first time in a lot of years, and they made me get on a scale.  When the little metal slider thing clicked into place and the number was read aloud, I felt my knees go weak.  I could not believe how much I weighed.  I had estimated that I weighed about 30 pounds LESS than the number that was staring back at me on the scale.  Holy ballz.  I’m only 5’4″.  When you’re that short, every 5 pounds puts you up at least another dress size.

I had finally had enough of feeling like crap all the time, so I started working out, and kind of watching what I ate.  I lost about ten pounds, and I was really happy with it.  Then the ex-boyfriend dropped a nuclear bomb on my life and I lost ten more pounds in one week.  (Related – I don’t recommend grief-rage vomiting as a diet.)

Then I straightened my ass up, decided I needed to get healthy, and signed up for a paleo local food delivery service and lost another twenty-five pounds.  I started exercising just 15-20 minutes a day, six days a week.  (That paleo diet made me lose weight like crazy.  I literally could not stop losing weight on it, and eventually had to start adding stuff like bread and pasta back in to even maintain my weight.)

I wasn’t surprised at the people told me I looked great with the weight loss, but I was surprised at how many people were total dicks about it.  I mean, really, really surprised.  They would ask outright how much I weighed (something that would NOT have been cool when I was overweight), scrutinized my diet, accused me working out for hours every day, and there was even a rumor going around that I had developed an eating disorder.

When I was inhaling pizza and cheeseburgers until I was so full that it was physically painful and I could barely move, nobody accused me of having an eating disorder.  They cheered me on.  When I stopped eating pizza, people gossiped that I needed to go to a clinic.  It was really weird.

So don’t let random unsubstantiated tips like “Don’t get on the scale!” take over your life.  I get on the scale at least a few times a week so that I know when I need to tone it back on the pies, because it works for me.  Do what works for you.  Paleo worked for me, might not work for you.  Running 10 miles a day might work for you, doesn’t work for me.

And the washer totally shrunk those pants.  On the 250th wash!

My Sad and Weird and Angry Milkshake Brings All The Boys to The Yard

I was in ninth grade, sitting on a bench with a friend waiting for the first bell to ring.  The usual group of older kids walked past us from the art room over to the 600 Building, like they did every morning.  There were probably a dozen of them, all friends, boys and girls, with one couple who seemed to be attached to each other as if their limbs were going to fall off and die when they got separated from the host-body of their love.

I always took notice of the couple because she was adorable, like a smiling little elf, and her boyfriend wore one of those hats that guys wore in the early 90s, which probably resulted in a lower birth rate in the early 90s, because those hats were sexually repellent.  This one.

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About four months into the school year, Hat Boy walked by one day, poured across the girlfriend as always, and leaned over and handed me an envelope and walked away.  On the outside of the envelope was written, “To the girl with the beutiful eyes”.

You have no idea how many times I just had to type that to get it to stop auto-correcting the spelling of “beautiful”.

As a professional social leper up to that point in my life, in my stretch denim skirt and turquoise mock turtleneck over my much not-sought-after chest of an anemic 10-year old fetus, I assumed he handed this envelope to me as a joke of some kind, and that if I opened it, a can of snakes would shoot into my eyeballs.

Or maybe it was a case of mistaken identity?  Either way, he was just an intermediary passing this card off on behalf of one of his dozen friends.

I opened the envelope and there was a Christmas card inside, with a cute cartoon chipmunk wearing a Santa hat on the front.  Inside the card it said:

You’re too pretty to be so sad.  I’ve never seen you smile, but I hope you will.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

From someone crazy.

Someone you don’t even know.

Okay, no case of mistaken identity there.  In walking past me every day for four months, nobody in that group had ever seen me smile?  That sounded about right.  I was conceived, gestated, born, and raised with Resting Bitch Face.  These are un-retouched progression photos of me from birth to today:

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I know, it seems impossible that a person could look so permanently sad and weird and angry and not be in prison for life or at the bottom of the East River after plunging off the Brooklyn Bridge.  I know this about myself.  Sad and weird and angry is my charm.  If I were a man, you’d call it “brooding”, thereby making male-me irresistible to women with perilously low self-esteem.

And I should know.  I spent most of my dating-years being that woman.

“This guy seems sad and weird and angry!  Let’s date him and then be surprised at how sad and weird and angry he continues to be!”

I spent the rest of the school year trying to figure out which one of those guys had written this card.  It drove me crazy.  At that point in my life, most guys’ opinions of me were, “I guess she’s kinda funny?” and the notion of any of them desiring romance with me was as laughable as I thought my jokes were.  And by “most guys” I mean literally one guy named Mike.

Nothing came of it.  Their big group of friends still walked by every morning, and I had no idea who was behind this.

Four years later, I was seated at a table at Denny’s around 3am with my degenerate friends, and guess who our server was?  Hat Boy!  He took our order as if we had never seen each other before, brought us our food, and eventually the check.

As we went to leave, I found my nerve and said, “You handed me a card from a secret admirer like four years ago.  Who was it from?”

He said, “It was from me.  Why would I give you a card from someone else?”

I said, “Well, you were with your girlfriend when you handed it to me…”

He said, “And?”

Dewds.