Monthly Archives: August 2007

Our bodies, ourselves

Last year I spent several months, lots of mental energy, and hours and hours in the gym trying to lose a little bit of weight for my high school reunion. Well, that was mostly the catalyst – the reason I gave myself. I’m still not entirely sure why I did it – months of depriving myself of foods that I like, exercising almost religiously, and I lost probably about 10 pounds that I really didn’t NEED to lose, all of which came back 2 months after I stopped being so stringent. Looking back on the experience, in some ways I’m glad that I did it because it made me realize that I *can* lose a bit of weight, but it takes a Herculean effort unless I’m in a foreign country and walking for 6 hours a day (the 10 pounds I lost in China in 3 weeks, which all came back within a month or so after we returned from our trip). On the other hand, I was kind of scary. It was all I was thinking about, and one of the first thoughts that ran through my head after I got whiplash from the car accident last summer was “Is this going to keep me from my gym schedule and make me gain weight again?” Which, admittedly, is probably not an entirely healthy attitude to have.

I still go to the gym 4 or 5 days a week and try to get exercise on at least one weekend day. I still carefully monitor what goes in my mouth most of the time. I follow almost the same regimen I did last spring and summer, but those few pounds don’t seem to want to go anywhere. In some ways, I’m OK with that – I bought a dress for the wedding and it fits me perfectly and looks great. In other ways, I’m still totally focused on looking better, striving for perfection (well, as “perfect” as I can get with the body type I have) and frustrated that I don’t WANT to deprive myself again for months, all for 5 or 10 pounds that will creep back on as soon as I stop. I eat healthily; I make the right choices all the time about what goes into my body and what I do with it, and it’s very rare that I choose junk or something unhealthy. But the little bit of “wow, you look great” that I got last spring and summer made being a dress size 6 that much more rewarding, despite all I had to do to get there.

I’ve been feeling pretty stuck in my exercise routine recently; I’ve been going to the same gym for years and doing the same exercises on the same machines. Something needed to change. So on Wednesday I left work a little early (didn’t take a lunch) and did 30 minutes of hamstering on the elliptical, then went to a Vinyasa yoga class.

My first experience with yoga was nearly 10 years ago in college, when College Boyfriend was into all kinds of eastern philosophy stuff and thought it would be fun to take yoga at the YWCA after our swing dance classes ended. I thought it would be an interesting challenge, and wasn’t sure how I would fare what with all the injuries from ballet. But we started the prana hatha yoga class and 12 weeks later were all sorts of bendy. I began to realize how much I looked forward to the class, how it would quiet my mind and I could focus on my body in a way that was holistic, not judmental, not exercising for the sake of burning calories, not thinking about what my body couldn’t do, but what it COULD – and how I was my body – it wasn’t a separate thing. Then that teacher stopped teaching classes at the Y and we (being college students) couldn’t afford to take yoga at any of the fancy studios in town.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that I ever took another yoga class. I didn’t know anything about the types of yoga (other than hatha yoga, which I had taken, and that bikram yoga was done in a really hot room), and I told the teacher that I hadn’t done any yoga in many years. “You’ll do fine,” he said. It took a few minutes after the beginning stretches and then starting our downward dogs and other poses for my mind to stop racing through thoughts of the wedding this weekend and the report at work that I couldn’t do because I didn’t have all the information I needed, the outside situations that were causing me internal stress. “Focus on why you came to yoga class today,” the instructor told us. “Focus on your body. There it is. It is you.” And then, suddenly, my body was me. There I was. There were no outside thoughts to bother me like buzzing flies. It was just me, and the poses, and the music, and the instructor’s voice.

My body wasn’t capable of doing all of the poses or balances – but I wasn’t expecting it to be. It had been nearly 10 years after all; I’d never done this kind of yoga before and I wasn’t used to any of the postures or poses. The downward dogs hurt my shoulder (still bothering me a year after the car accident) after a while, so I had to modify the pose some. Some things that looked easy (warrier one) were not. I felt self-concious because the other people taking the class were all svelte and tiny while I’m muscular and curvy. But after a while, those things stopped mattering, too. I began to focus on what I COULD do, and how the poses were making me feel. I ended up pulling off a couple of really intricate and weird balanced poses that I never would have thought I could do. And by the end of the class, my mind was quiet. My body had (mostly) done the things I had asked it to do. There it was. I no longer desired to fight it, to tell it “this is the shape I want you to be, so do these things until you become that shape!” It was me, and this is me. This is what my body looks like. This is what my body can do.

I’m still going to keep exercising, and eating healthy food, because they make me feel good (and because I hold out hope that somehow I’ll end up a little more trim before the wedding). But I think I’m going to take more yoga classes, too. I’ve still got a few little physical reminders of Wednesday’s class (stretched some things that haven’t been stretched like THAT in a while!) and when I get a twinge I think back to the pose I was doing to stretch that bit, and I think about how it felt, and about how quiet and at peace my mind was when I was all pretzeled up in that way. I have the body that I have, and it is not separate from me or who I am. Here it is. It can climb mountains and dance and run and turn into a pretzel. If it doesn’t look perfect, that’s OK, because what matters more is that it’s healthy and strong. And I need to spend more time focusing on what it does for me, what I’m capable of doing, and not punishing myself for never looking like the airbrushed photos in the magazines. It’s still a fight going on inside me, societal pressure to look a certain way versus that focus on what I can do with the body I have, with the body I AM. Maybe more yoga classes and spending more time on accepting myself for what I am will help the healthy self, rather than the disordered self, win that battle.

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And then he wrote about it on the internets: another tragedy in 3 acts

Prologue:

The worst date I ever had, as I related to Leah and Simon when we were visiting, happened when I was 13 years old. I was a freshman in high school; my best friend was a sophomore; we were both giddy and silly about the idea of going to the dance with cute boys and dancing with cute boys and that was about the extent of our imagination. Little did I know that one of my schoolmates was planning to ask me to the dance, and that experience would remain, 15 years later, as the worst I ever had in the world of dating.

Act 1: Preparation

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I grew up in a very small town and attended a tiny high school (the school population for four grades was approximately 350 students). Everyone knew who everyone was, so when new kids moved to town it was kind of like hungry sharks surrounding a cage full of guppies – everyone wanted a piece of the new blood before the guppy cage decided what clique he/she fell into. My friend had a crush on this new kid in my grade because he was pretty and emo before anyone knew what emo was, with piercing blue eyes and black hair. He wrote poetry and had an unusually-spelled name, so my friend decided to ask him to the homecoming dance. I, on the other hand, was planning to go to with them to the football game in my awesome blue-jean jacket and then change into a cute outfit for the dance. I’d follow the same MO I had for middle school dances, which was to dance with friends and then either hide or boldly march up and ask boys to dance during the slow songs, depending on how the crowd was reading.

But about a week before the dance, this guy in my friend’s grade sent through the rumor mill that he was going to ask me to the dance. So I did have some warning, but I wasn’t sure what that meant, because this was High School now, the big kids, and I had never gone to a High School Dance before. When he finally caught me after PE one day to officially ask, I probably turned 18 shades of embarassed and mumbled assent (I honestly don’t remember what I said, but he must have taken it as a yes). I got all excited, because he said there would be a limo (!?!) involved. My mom took me shopping in the middle of the week and I got this cute Blossom-esque outfit complete with hat. Shut up. It was 1992.

Act 2: Mortification

The big day arrived. I went home from school and got ready to go out, since the guy said the limo was going to pick me up at 5. At 5 PM he walked up our driveway and then walked me back town to the main road (for some reason, he didn’t want the limo driving up our driveway?) We got in the limo, me with a raging case of stomach locusts, and I saw that his friend was going to be in the car with us. A small wave of relief quieted the locusts briefly, as the guy told me we’d be driving a half hour to pick up the other guy’s girlfriend and then we’d be driving out to the coast and back before the dance.

!

What?!? What happened to going to the game? What happened to hanging out with my friend and Emo Boy? I was really nervous to the point of illness, and felt only marginally better when the other girl got into the limo – because at least there was another girl in the car, and my awkward 13-year-old self didn’t feel as unsafe with two relatively strange guys. The limo headed out to the ocean, which took at least an hour, and then stopped at a fancy restaurant. The sun was setting; it was a beautiful and romantic view over the ocean, but all I could think about was trying not to vomit from nervousness. The other guy and his girlfriend started making out, and the guy who asked me to the dance sort of half-fumbled an embrace while I turned 18 shades of green. It was time to eat, so we went into the fancy restaurant and I could hardly read the menu I felt so weird. The prices were all so much higher than any restaurant I’d ever been in before (mainly fast food and Chinese; my family almost never went out to eat) so I picked the cheapest thing on the menu that I thought I could keep down, which was a salad.

The guy and his friend and the girlfriend seemed to be enjoying their meals, but I could only choke down a few bites, as I was dreading the more-than-an-hour back to our town in the limo with nothing to say. I wasn’t at all attracted to the guy; I was still just a kid; this was all way too fast and grown-up for my social and romantic maturity level. I don’t even remember whether people talked for the trip back, but I do remember that when we got back to town and drove up to the dance, the guy told me that he’d see me later; he and his friend had decided to ride around in the limo for a few more hours. The girlfriend ran over to some friends (she’d lived in our town before but had moved away). So I walked into the dance, already in full swing, alone.

Luckily, my friend and Emo Boy were there so I had people to talk to. I ended up having a relatively good time at the dance, and my friend dumped Emo Boy for this other guy who she thought was waaay cuter, all in the course of a few hours. The sick nervous feeling in my stomach had finally started to dissipate when the guy and his friend showed up and he came over and made me dance with him.

I really didn’t want to dance with him, because I was pissed that he’d done all these things without telling me or asking me, and then left me alone at the dance. But I did anyway, because I felt bad about him spending all that money. I got a ride home from my friend’s dad and never talked to the guy again. Luckily, he started going to another school after that year and I didn’t see him around town very much, so I didn’t have to worry too much about it.

Part 3: Humiliation

A couple of years ago, I googled my name one day for kicks. And, lo and behold, the guy who had asked me to homecoming all those years ago had written about our disastrous date on some message board. He used my full name, and his story (his point-of-view) was very different. It was all about how he’d shoveled poop for months to save up enough money to take me out, and what a cold and ungrateful bitch I’d been. Granted, I was pretty immature, and could have handled the situation at the dance a little better. But I was 13! I was a freshman in high school! Looking back I realize how much of a kid I still was, and I wasn’t in any way ready for such an adult evening. Unfortunately, there was no way to rebut what he’d written, as he’d written it a couple of years before (hooray for the internets!) and the message board where he’d written it was no longer active. I was red-faced and humiliated all day after finding it (and if you know my full name you can google me and find it too!) But here’s my side of the story. The world can judge for itself. And if his name were at all unique, I’d write it out here in bold caps 3 or 4 times so if he ever googled his own name, he’d find this post. But there’s thousands of hisnames in the world and only 1 of me (well, 2, but the other one of me has a different middle name and lives in England).

How about your worst date? Someone must have a more awful story than mine.

It’s the only explanation

It started out as an innocent glance; he was getting his mail and she came in the front door, sweaty, accompanied by her large expensive mutt. He noticed the delicate dew on her forehead. She noticed his pleated-front khakis, ironed to a starchy crisp by the Vietnamese lady at the cleaners two blocks away. Each was sordidly intrigued by the other.

Weeks passed. They’d see one another in the elevator, he going to his thankless investment banking job, she in pointy-toed stilettoes and expensive haircut or flipflops that showed off her french pedicure. They exchanged glances, then nods, then meaningless platitudes about the weather or her dog or his newest in the collection of hats he was purchasing to hide his receding hairline. Each imagined the other, naked and vulnerable, encased in the patter of neighbors who saw one another for 30 seconds a few times a week.

Eventually one asked the other over for a drink or a meal or maybe something they both knew was probably something entirely less platonic. This drink or meal led to the entirely less platonic event, and he discovered that she had a port wine birthmark on her left hip. She watched the hair on his forehead march further back as the weeks went on. They’d stay in on Sunday mornings, giggling as his downstairs neighbor or hers would bang on the ceiling with a broomstick when their entertainment got too loud. “I frickin’ hate Celine Dion,” she said one day at the grocery store as the store’s system piped an inoffensive version of “My Heart Will Go On.”

The seasons changed. Their relationship grew stale. She got bored and decided to start boning his next-door neighbor. He only figured it out when he recognized a tell-tale series of moans coming from the condo to the left on a night where she was supposed to be out celebrating the impending nuptuals of some girl she pretended to like. He dumped her, telling her she was just too high-maintenance, and she continued to dally with Condo-to-the-left guy. So one day, he headed down to the local used record store and bought a copy of Celine Dion’s greatest hits. In the evenings when he was pretty sure she’d be next door, he started to play each one in turn, and invited his buddies over for beers or shots of Jaeger, after enough of which they’d sing along with the French-Canadian crooner. It didn’t matter that nobody else in the building wanted to be subjected to his third-grade revenge strategy, nor did the nice couple with the two cats in the house across the street. All that mattered was that she knew he knew who she was doing.

It’s the only explanation I can think of for the continued loud playing of Celine Dion over the last week from one of the condos across the street, sometimes accompanied by raucous singing. Because who actually likes that stuff?

Things I have won

* When I was a little kid, my mom entered my name into some sort of contest at the local mall. I won the grand prize, which turned out to be a birthday party at the McDonalds near the mall – I got to invite 10 friends and we got McDonalds food, got to play on the playground, got special toys (they were far better than the happy meal toys IIRC, but I don’t remember what they were), and there was a great big ice cream birthday cake. This was a really big deal to me at the time, because a) we almost never went to McDonalds – it was a big treat that my family could rarely afford, and b)I got to invite so many kids and had bragging rights at school after that. I think it was my sixth birthday.

* When I was in seventh grade I entered my own name into a drawing for a Super Nintendo when they first came out, thinking that was the end of it. I ended up winning the game system which came with one game (Super Mario World). This was a fabulous prize (there’s no WAY my family could have afforded such an expensive toy), and I quickly became addicted to playing the one game (because I never got any other games). It got to the point where I would sit with a remote control in my hands, fiddling around with it, anytime I was sitting in front of the TV (ie, even if I wasn’t playing the game). Then I developed calluses on my thumbs. I took one look at myself and said, “Self. You have to stop playing this game. You are pathetic.” I never started playing video games again – even the ones my college boyfriend and his friends played, I was too afraid to play because I didn’t want to get addicted again.

* In 8th grade I came up with this really cool science fair project that involved collecting bugs from the two forks of the creek that ran behind our house and then further downstream to see how the stream might be affected by the construction project that was going on near one of the forks upstream. I got this kit from a local water conservation and health group that would help one identify the bugs in the water and determine which ones were more likely to live in polluted water versus clean water. My science teacher allowed me to use her microscope for the smaller bugs to make them easier for me to identify. I was able to show in the project that the construction project was affecting the health of the creek, and my dad helped me do the display for the project. I ended up winning first place!

I’ve entered a lot of contests in my time, but the above situations are the only times which I remember winning the grand/first/etc. prize. I don’t consider myself to be particularly lucky. I found out about a contest recently that would involve writing an insipid pile of dreck in exchange for some money for the wedding (“Write an essay in 500 words about the wedding of your dreams and how XYZ company’s wine will factor into your dream wedding” = vomit). Granted, it was a really big chunk of money, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything that remotely resembled last year’s winner, which was itself a pile of insipid dreck (and presumably what they wanted to see in an entry for the contest). And even if I did manage to make myself write what they wanted to see, there was no guarantees that I’d win, and then I would have gone and written something that made me feel all gross and whorish for nothing. So I didn’t.

Today Dan and I went to lunch because he didn’t have any classes and had to go by my work anyway to run some errands. The deli where we got our sammiches had a trivia contest – if you answered the question right, you got a free soda or cookie. I knew the answer to the question (“What is the unit of measurement used in determining the heat of peppers or hot sauce?”) so I scored us a free peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. If you know the answer without looking it up, you probably have a mind for useless trivia like I do. It wasn’t a big pile of money in exchange for my soul, but it was pretty tasty.

Gearing up for fall

I’m still in the same job, so fall (once again) is going to be extraordinarily busy. I’m going to be doing six trainings around the state (one I’ll fly to, two others are longish drives), plus going to Minneapolis for several days for my national conference and also will be going to California again for my cousin’s wedding and more wedding planning for us.

This month we’ve been gone every weekend so far, with a day or two on either side as well, and this weekend coming up will be the only one we have at home. Then we’re gone for the Labor Day weekend (our friends’ wedding in which I will wear a Ren Faire wench outfit and Dan will wear a generic tux), and then the second half of September is all about the traveling. Then October and probably part of November. I love the parts of my job when I get to travel, but at the same time it gets tiring after a few weeks. And the kitties always miss me. Dan’s going to be super busy with school this fall (five art classes!), so neither of us is going to have a lot of time for things like trip planning or wedding planning, which is one of the reasons we’ve tried to get things done so far in advance.

I just called to get my ticket to Minneapolis and I’m kind of excited to see it when it isn’t freezing outside and making my hands all cold and hurty. I’m also excited to do some things that I didn’t do when I was there in March. Anyone have any suggestions as to stuff to do in the Twin Cities? I won’t have a car, so my feet or public transportation will need to get me to wherever (I’ll be staying downtown). I’d stalk Neil Gaiman but I don’t think he’d like that very much. Good neighborhoods to traipse around in? Good places to see live music? Any and all suggestions appreciated.

Heads I win, Tails you lose

If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a gambler. I have so many issues wrapped up in money and how it works and whether or not I have any/enough and control over it that the idea of losing large (or even small) sums of money kind of makes me sick to my stomach. But even if money isn’t involved, I am just not a risk-taker. I’m not impulsive. I have to think about everything, mull it over in my head, before I make a decision. Most major decisions in my life have involved asking my mom, my friends, my partner about what THEY think before I actually make whatever the decision is. I think I’ve actually gotten better about that in my adult years, about learning to trust my own instincts and making decisions without second-guessing myself all the time or depending on other people to reassure me that I’m doing the right thing.

Anyhow, the point is that I’m just not a gambler. I went to Las Vegas one time when I was 18 (so not legal to gamble anyhow) and didn’t have any desire whatsoever to do anything in the casinos other than get through them as fast as possible. When Dan says “I bet you X that bla bla bla,” a little piece of me thinks I should just say “I don’t bet” even though usually I take him up on the offer, and X is a jillion dollars or 2 pennies or a tasty beverage, so even if I lose the stakes aren’t very high. I went to Monte Carlo when I was in Monaco back in 2000 and I bet the most money I’ve ever gambled in my life, one French franc, which I put into a slot machine and received nothing in return (except the story to tell later that I’d gambled at Monte Carlo). I love to play games, even competitive ones, but for me it’s just not fun if there’s money involved (pennies might be OK, but I’d be paralyzed if I was even in a $10 buy-in poker game because I would be terrified to lose money).

I’ve been wondering today after reading about casinos and games and probability how much of my refusal to gamble relates to being unfamiliar with the process, and how much of it relates to my general fear-of-losing-moneyness, and how unusual I am. Because it seems like a lot of people in general get huge amounts of entertainment out of gambling, whether it be a friendly weekly poker night, sticking coins in a one-armed bandit, or enjoying comped drinks and rooms for losing tons of money at large casinos. Lots of people have described it as an entertainment cost – that they have a certain amount of money they’re willing to lose (they view it as already spent) and if they win it back (or go over), it’s great, but if not, it’s what they were willing to spend to begin with. And I can see how for some people it’s entertaining in the same way that going to a show or movie, going out dancing, or playing minigolf could be entertaining, and those all have a set cost as well. There’s got to be some sort of rush involved when people actually win money, or else there wouldn’t be so many casinos raking in so much dough. I got all excited when the horse I was cheering for at Churchill Downs back in July won the race, even though I hadn’t bet on it, but it felt more like how excited I get when some athlete I like wins an Olympic event than anything else (and I guess sports betting is a little different than playing the slots or shooting dice).

There are so many other kinds of betting and gambling, though – there’s the stock market (which I have no desire to be a part of, due to the aforementioned “not willing to gamble with my own money” thing), there’s futures trading, there’s buying a house or a franchise or a company now gambling on there being a payoff later. One might call choosing a college major or a particular career bath to be a gamble, or being willing to open one’s life to a relationship with another person, heck – just about anything in life that isn’t predetermined is a gamble. Life is totally uncertain – bad things or good things might happen just around the corner, and you never know which those might be. But with so many things in life that ARE uncertain in that way, why is it that people have such a penchant for risking money, gambling, betting, trying to game the system or up the ante? What is it about betting with money that makes things so different from normal competition? And how do I let go of money issues enough to feel comfortable if I ever DO get invited to a $10 buy-in poker game? Because it’s going to sound really lame if I say “Um, I’m afraid of losing $10.” It’s just $10 for a night of entertainment, right?

Hospitality and gratitude

These guys are all over Santa Rosa, but only this one had a cute toddler on it

Our trip to California was relatively successful – we met with the vendors and made some choices, plus we were able to spend time with friends and family (well, my mom) and managed to eat Mexican, Indian, Thai, Ethiopian (Eritrean) and sushi (at midnight, homemade). The dancing was fun (Dan did better than I did at intermediate two-step); I bought my wedding dress; and the only bad part of the trip was all the damn traffic we ended up sitting in on Saturday and Sunday.
Hank
Dexter

The best part of the trip, for me, was getting to spend time with friends. On Friday evening we had dinner at Sara’s house. She and her husband made a fancy dinner with a cheese/nut/fruit plate, baked goat cheese salad, plank-grilled salmon and corn, and some sort of elaborate rice dish – and then finished up with more fruit and delicious chocolate. We only had a short time in which to see them since the dance lesson my mom wanted to take started so early, but we did get to see their house (so cute! such cool details!) and yard and pet their doggies, Hank and Dexter. Dan had an especially good time with the doggies. Most of all, I was so touched that they wanted to go all-out with this awesome dinner even though we only got to be at their place for a short time. Thanks again, Sara, for such a great dinner – please visit us in Denver, or perhaps next time we come out we can take you guys out someplace yummy.

Saturday, after our hours of traffic, meeting, Indian chaat (Vik’s!), traffic, waiting, meeting, traffic, wanting to commit homicide, traffic, we finally met up with Leah and Simon at Berkeley Bowl to procure supplies for dinner. The sushi-making process was a lot of fun (though time consuming) and we passed the wait time in the hot tub with champagne. Their house and garden (and hot tub!) are to die for, the guest room and amenities were all anyone could ask for, and we had such a good time that we kind of spaced out on leaving in time for our last thing on Sunday and ended up being an hour late. That’s just how much fun we were having. I might end up paying them to adopt me so I can hang out with the gnome in the backyard.


My only real regret about the weekend was that we didn’t have more time to spend with everyone – there are certainly times that I wish we lived in the Bay Area so we could see everyone all the time and not have to schedule visits for our trips. All y’all are, of course, more than welcome to visit us in Denver – we even have a spare room we can dig out for you, and there are always extra towels in the bathroom. We don’t have a hot tub or awesome doggies, but we’ve got eight coffee mugs and can make a mean mojito from the mint in the garden.