Food and the Holiday Weekend

There was a time when spending the whole day alone, as I am today, in my apartment scared the crap out of me. How would I, could I possibly resist the call of the refrigerator?

What pure joy that it’s not a problem at all anymore. In fact, I enjoy nothing more than being at home, tidying, reading, doing paperwork AND of course, best of all, hanging out with my dear little one, Rebecca the cat.

Happily, food never calls my name these days, no matter where I am. Yesterday, I went to a bbq where I didn’t know many people. In the past, I would have eaten and drank my way through the afternoon, to mask my discomfort and pass the time. I’d probably feel really sorry for myself that I didn’t know anyone and no one was seeking me out, or something along those silly lines.

Instead, yesterday, I knew I could deal with anything just fine. Initially, I helped the hostess (the person who was supposed to help her had the flu and had stayed home.) Then, I found someone else who didn’t really know anyone and befriended her. When our hosts ran out of hamburger buns, I grabbed my new friend and we ran to the supermarket. In the car, we found a song we loved and sang our hearts (Derek and the Dominoes, Layla.) We got lost getting to the market, got stuck in long long lines just to buy a few rolls, and by the time we made it back, our hosts had found they’d had enough hamburger buns after all. My new buddy and I laughed and laughed.

Initially, I’d planned to go to that party for an hour at most. I ended up being the last one to leave, as I stayed and helped the hostess clean up.

Not once did I think of food, not even when it was truly time to eat – I was too busy, too engaged and having too much fun. I eventually had a light and healthy plate of food because I got hungry. But that was it.

What a great day.

Too Fat/Too Thin/Can’t Win

While Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter were portraying the universal trials of growing up as characters on Modern Family, they were tackling their own once the cameras turned off.

When the hit sitcom first debuted in September 2009, the on-screen sisters were 17 and 11 respectively. With Hyland right in the middle of her teenage years and Winter barely of double-digit age, the young women were slingshot into national stardom.

As the show evolved, naturally, so did they. However, having to progress from puberty into adult life with cameras in their faces added another confusing element to an already difficult process.

“I was bullied for being super flat and super skinny when I was 11 years old and then I turned 12 and I suddenly was curvy and had this bigger body that I wasn’t prepared to deal with yet,” Winter says. “Photos came out of me on the Internet after my body had kind of blossomed and people were really hating on me for it,” she recalled. “I got a lot of comments like ‘You’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re a slut…it was a lot coming from people I didn’t know at such a young age.”

That attention would have been challenging for anyone to juggle, let alone a 12-year-old star. “It was really difficult to grow up in the spotlight, but to grow up with that in the spotlight was quite possibly the worst thing for someone’s self esteem and confidence.”

As Winter put out the heat for showing what some considered too much, Hyland addressed fans’ accusations that she was too thin.

“I normally don’t comment on things like this because it draws attention to those trying to spread negativity but I’m here to explain a few things and spread love,” the actress wrote on social media, noting health issues. What people see is not an eating disorder, the petite 26-year-old said — it’s a down period in a lifelong health battle.

Here’s the thing: Hyland was born with a host of health issues, including kidney dysplasia; her dad donated one of his kidneys to her for a transplant in 2012.

She’s “basically been on bed rest for the past few months” and is trying to keep her weight up despite the fact that the medications she is taking have, in part, played havoc with her tastebuds (prednisone has a way of doing that). She’s been told she can’t work out, and she’s lost a lot of muscle mass.

So, now at 26 (Hyland) and 19 (Winter), it seems age has not freed them from the public scrutiny they were exposed to nearly a decade ago.

“It’s called being a woman in the industry,” Winter told Rogue magazine in September 2016 of the backlash she receives on social media. “It’s complete sexism. It’s really degrading, annoying and sad that this is what the media puts out, it’s disgusting to me.”

Yup.

My Mother/My Body

So, last summer’s clothes don’t fit – all the cute dresses nip and tuck in all the wrong places. And I won’t even attempt to zip the shorts – not gonna happen.

My breasts are matronly, my belly bulges, and my hips got wide – I’ve got my mother’s body. In the past, I’d cringe when I’d gain weight and more closely resemble my mom – the whole family hated her big pendulous breasts, belly and hips, particularly her.

But even though we shared a physique, we traveled such different paths. I made my body and my eating disorder my life. My mom lived life to the fullest. She was cool, interesting and much loved and respected.

Mom was super smart and graduated high school early. She supported herself through Julliard by teaching piano. As a 17 year old from little Clifton, NJ, my mom moved to New York City and shared an apartment on the upper Westside. In 1945.

Later, she supported the three of kids as a piano teacher. Seasoned pianists traveled from all over the country to study with her. There were always students, from far and wide, staying at our house and playing one of her many pianos.

Mom loved to travel and learn languages. She lived for the opera, ballet, theater and good literature.

Mom would do anything and wanted to try everything. When my mom got her devastating Parkinson’s diagnosis, she booked a flight to Thailand, so she could ride a camel before she died.

Cool lady. People flocked to her. Everyone was attracted to my mother. Men loved her.

And no one cared about her breasts, belly or hips.

I am proud to have my mother’s body. I am proud to be her daughter.

The Elusive 5 Pounds

Last night, a very ‘together’ friend of mine was talking about self-esteem and the way we see ourselves. She said, ‘sure, when I look in the mirror I think I need to brush my hair and I could lose five pounds…’

What is it with us and the last five pounds? I can’t tell you how many of my female friends want to lose them. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’ve gained 10 pounds this year and am making peace with it. Yet, it will still go through my head, ‘if I could only lose five, I’d be great and happy and satisfied and fine’. I laugh at myself, because I’m not doing one single thing to lose even an ounce, but still the thought comes to mind. And, OF COURSE, five pounds are ridiculous!

But what is that thinking? Five pounds take on such great ‘weight’ and meaning. If I lose them, I am fine? happy? great? That’s what it takes for me to gain peace of mind (and body)? And by the way, five pounds ago, I was hoping to lose the other five.

And so I re-set and remind myself I am just fine right now; that I am not the sum of a number on a scale; that my looks aren’t particularly important, but my heart is; and off I go to live my life, knowing all is well.

Still, I almost feel bad for the ‘last’ five pounds – no one wants them.

Anti Anti-Aging. Anti?

I am so anti anti-aging, mostly because it’s an impossibility. No amount of botox or eye cream is going to make me 35 again.

I’m very proud (a little righteous?) about my stance. When people tell me I don’t look my age (53 next month), I laugh and tell them I do. A few months back, I got a big haircut that apparently makes me look much younger – that’s what everyone says. But I have too many cowlicks and too much frizz to deal with short hair – I am growing it back, so it can be plopped on top of my head and forgotten. Who cares?

And of course, I am accepting the weight gain that, evidently, comes with age.

There are many fine examples of me confidently welcoming this decade; however, I have to admit – I realized there’s one area where I’m not so sure. Going gray.

Going gray hasn’t been an issue, because I didn’t really have any gray hairs until this year. Maybe there were a couple of grays at my hairline, but I’ve highlighted my hair since high school and that covered them easily. Now, they’re hair in force.

Kind of defensively, I tell myself that I have dyed my hair for the last 35 years because I love to play and think it’s pretty, so if I continue to dye it, it’s nothing to do with age. But covering gray feels different than highlighting mousy brown.

Kind of defensively, I tell myself that my particular gray isn’t a pretty color. I tell myself it really washes me out and makes me look tired. So, there are other reasons to dye it.

But, if I am truly honest with myself – I fear it will make me look really old. Hmmm

Perhaps it’s time for me to stop judging wrinkle cream…

Body Acceptance

How have I been able to accept my bigger, plainer middle-aged body and self? I think some of it comes from accepting the truth. Life wasn’t better when I was younger, thinner and blonder. Lets look at the facts.

I got thin for the first time in high school. Having been the miserable fat kid most of my life, I believed with all my heart that losing 60 pounds would right everything. For sure, I’d be popular, get a much-wanted boyfriend and find happiness.

Instead, I became a weight and food obsessed angry teenager. I got really, really thin; however, I didn’t get friends, a boyfriend or happiness of any kind.

Sophomore year of college, I gained back all the weight and more. Then lost it again a few years later. Misery.

I stayed thin for many years, but found bulimia, alcohol and drugs. And still, no popularity, no boyfriend and no happiness.

It wasn’t until I started to heal, to find peace and serenity that I was able to make friends, date and overall, know some happiness. None of the people in my life care what I weigh. But everyone likes me better than when I was starving, miserable and angry!

Mother’s New Little Helper

Yesterday, I saw a bottle of wine called Mom’s Time Out. Nice gift – ‘here Mom, go get smashed on Mother’s Day’. My own mother liked flowers.

I know there’s a whole culture of Mommy’s wine-time these days, and it strikes me as worrisome. Is it any different than the Mother’s little helper, Valium, that unhappy housewives popped in the 1950s and 60s?

Why do mother’s need to self-medicate? Is being a mom a miserable job? Are today’s mom’s so unhappy they need an escape? When I drank it was to forget – to become oblivious to my problems. Are mom’s hoping to forget they have kids? Are women so overwhelmed today that escape seems necessary?

I am not a mother, so I don’t know. AND, I am not judging anyone. I’m just wondering if there’s an underlying problem that should be addressed rather than medicated.

In the 1950s, many women found themselves miserable at home, cooking and cleaning and child-rearing exclusively, and so they revolted and the Women’s Movement came to be.

Married women got out of the house and into the workforce, earning (some) respect and rights along the way. Did it become too much – working, running the house, raising children…? Are mother’s completely overwhelmed and in need of escape?

Stay-at-home mom’s have the same pressures as mom’s years ago – there’s no bigger or more important job than being a mother. Is it still as frustrating? Does mothering not get the appreciation it deserves?

I don’t know the answer, but do we need to be addressing something we’re not? Again, I ask – why do mom’s feel the need to drink?

Taking up Space

Got on the scale this morning, and I’m still carrying the extra ten pounds. It’s probably time to stop calling them ‘extra’ and to start realizing this is the new normal.

First of all, what the heck was I doing on the scale? Do I still want to define myself by a number? Nothing good ever comes from weighing myself.

Because, whether I like it or not, those crazy old thoughts pop in. ‘Wouldn’t today be a great day to start losing weight?’, ‘Who will love you if you’re not thin?’, ‘If you’re not careful, you’ll be gigantic’.

STOP THE INSANITY!!!

I hopped right off the scale and decided to have a great and happy day, just exactly as I am right now. I am so blessed and lucky in my life and can not be bothered with a number on a scale. What a waste of time.

My new attitude delights me! Free, free, free.

I used to want to be so small and to take up such little space. When I was just 20 pounds heavier, I commuted from New Jersey to NYC on the bus every day. I worried that I took up too much space and no one would want to sit next to me. I’d try to cram myself into the window, so there’d be no chance of crossing the line between me and my seatmate. (If someone very heavy sat next me, I’d do the same thing, not wanting them to feel about badly about their size.)

My current weight seems really healthy and content. Even at 10 pound less, food looked more interesting than it does now. I was still restricting in a way, I guess. I denied myself real portions and some tasty things – like mayonnaise and butter and creamy salad dressings, spaghetti sauce and cheese. I wasn’t starving and did eat foods I like but in such austere moderation.

I just re-posted on a Facebook a picture from a few years ago at dinner with my sister and brother-in-law. My first thought – I look fabulously thin (ten pounds ago.) My second thought – I worried about my weight through the whole meal. The food was rich and I’d eaten a bigger-than-usual lunch. I ordered roast chicken and steamed veggies and tried to eat as little as possible. What a waste. (Can you believe I remember exactly what I ordered and ate over four years ago?!)

So, here I am with the new normal. I have a completely clean Visa card. Time to go get some pretty new clothes that fit!

Me in 1985

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is still my favorite book. I first encountered it as an excerpt in a magazine before the book was published in 1985. I was sitting in the Allwood Branch of the Clifton Library in Clifton, NJ when I read it. Scared the crap out of me.

At that moment in 1985, I was 21 and a three-time college dropout living at home with my mother. We weren’t getting along. At all. Her creepy boyfriend of many years had just moved out and the house stood in tatters from his lifestyle. But I was more broken than the house.

Having left honors programs at the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin and NYU, I started waitressing at a local restaurant, Charlie Brown’s. To say I was a terrible, terrible waitress would be impressively kind. I spent my days spilling on customers – strawberry dacquiris, french dressing, marinara sauce, gravy…

Before I came back home to New Jersey, during my final year of college, I only ate (gaining 80 pounds in six months) and had chronic insomnia. I never slept. Once I got back to my mother’s, other than work, I only slept. I’d wake up, go to work, come home and fall asleep. I’d fall asleep everywhere – at movies, in cars, waiting at doctor’s offices.

It felt like the end of my world. What was going to happen to me?

And yet my world didn’t end. My best friend, Frank, came home too (he’d actually graduated from college, of course) and we began to have fun again. I quit the restaurant (hallelujah) and got a fun job at a hair salon. I made new friends and moved out of my mom’s. Eventually, I went back to college and finished.

Life has had it’s ups and downs since then. Times are quite good these days. But although it’s been 32 years. The Handmaid’s Tale is still my favorite book.