Two Ribs, Hold The Sauce
Middle age tends to creep up on you like a mugger. You’re walking down thirty- something street and wham ! It starts when friends come over and point to your wedding picture and say, “ is that you ? “…No, it’s not me. This is my wife’s second marriage. She has a thing for forty-ish men who appear to be in their second trimester.
Physical transformation starts insidiously. You lose a loop in the old belt. The collar tightens. You suddenly appreciate elastic. It’s nature’s way of slowly introducing you to mortality. It’s starts the way wet, heavy snow first slides off a pine branch after a storm. The snow hits the ground, rolls innocently downhill and eventually ends up creating an avalanche.
My avalanche started with subtle warning signs. After years of daily running, pick up basketball and weight lifting, work, children and apathy began to take its toll. The tailor who kept letting out my slacks finally told me in broken English that there was “no more ( material ) to work with”. Don’t I know it. I was determined to hold off gravity and stubbornly insisted on wearing pants two sizes too small. I recall squeezing one morning into my pinstripe power suit for a very important meeting. I said goodbye to my family as if I was holding my breath the way the kids do when passing a cemetery. Upon arriving at the client presentation, the meeting had already begun. I quickly sat down – – a little too quickly. There was a sudden, loud ping as a flying object struck a water glass and the client put a hand to her cheek as if to check for blood. The person seated next to her bent over with a perplexed look on his face and smiled, holding up a button – – the button that had shot off my pants like an assassin’s bullet. “Anyone want to claim this? “
I was traveling to Atlanta on a one day trip to give a speech when I suffered another indignity. As I leaned down to pick up my brief case after hailing a taxi at Hartfield airport, I heard a pronounced “rip” and suddenly felt cool air swirling around my BVDs. Still in denial, I gingerly felt the top of the tear and turned to the cab driver and winced ,
“ is it bad ? “ He immediately started to laugh and through toothless heaving, drawled,“ man , you coul’ drahve a truck through that hole”. My hellish day was just beginning as it was 7:45 am and at 8:30 am, I was speaking to 300 people. I drove to the hotel in Buckhead looking for any kind of clothing store and finally spied an Old Navy outlet. I walked up to the door and saw they did not open until 9 am. Wait, there was movement inside! Young teenaged girls were folding merchandise and preparing the cash register. I pounded on the window and showed them my ripped pants. They looked shocked and yelled at the apparent flasher, “ please mister, jus’ go away”. Finally, a manager appeared and correctly assessed my situation and mercifully let me in. I arrived a half hour late and began my presentation with an apology. “There is a problem with healthcare in America and I am part of it”. I then held up the pants ripped from back to crotch. Laughter…
I am prone to excess. That is true. It is magnified by being married to someone that weighs within two pounds of when I married her. She leaves half her dessert on her plate. She stops eating when she is full. She eats slower than a septuagenarian with a mouth of loose dentures. Moderation is her mantra. She is an alien.
I feel that if I do not clean my plate I am disrespecting someone starving in another part of the world. “More is better” is my mantra. She shakes her head at my penchant for excess. In todays’ fast food society, the overweight are seen as somewhat psychologically, economically or socially impaired and the thin are viewed as prosperous and glamorous.
I continued to find ways of rationalizing my weight gain. I avoided mirrors before or after a shower. I would strike a certain pose as I dressed each morning. The light would catch me in that certain way that would trick my brain into not believing the apple fritter I had devoured the day before had no real impact. I was firmly now in the land of the “fat guy“ suits – – you know, those suits you have in your closet just in case you put on an extra 10 lbs. I prayed that my pleats would not go out of style. Thank god, for pleats. Pleats are a big man’s best friend. Pleats say to you “you know what, if God wanted you skinny, your best friend would be a gastric bypass surgeon.” They tease you and say “so what if your butt is so big it looks like you are being followed.” Or berate you “you’re so fat, you could have three wives and they probably would never meet”. I just shrug it off. I’m just big-boned and have blood sugar that is a little more spirited than the next guy.
It finally all came to a head after a vacation to the Bahamas and the pictures returned from CVS. I could not believe how large I had gotten. I was surprised no one tried to harpoon me or drag me back into the water. With a little eye black and white paint, I could have been cast as the orca’s younger brother in Free Willy. It was time to turn myself in to a gym. Just one last cinnamon roll…..
I walked into The Fitness Club of New Canaan and turned myself over to Mike and Dan, trainers who I tease that they are really escaped war criminals, the way they torture me during my workouts. Yet, their counsel, weights, cardio and fitness regimen did wonders for me and the nagging little irritations – sleeplessness, heartburn, midday munchies, all started to retreat and be replaced by a surge of energy and confidence. I was shocked one day, when I took off my shirt and saw what I thought was a pulled muscle. It was my rib. I now had a two pack!
The gym has now become my escape and salvation where I can sweat away the demons of excess in relative anonymity. That is not to say, that I no longer hear the siren’s call of M&Ms or cookie dough, “ Michael, where are you?. Come back to us…..“ However, the fitness routine has given me the balance I lacked for so many years and made it less likely that I would ever need to appear as a guest contestant on “The Biggest Loser”. The fat guy pants feel too big on me and I am making progress into the medium and skinny guy section of my closet.
When ever I get the temptation to slide back into fritters and fried foods, I reach down and feel around for that rib. Yup, it’s still there.