heard the aphorism "if you fail to plan you plan to fail" numerous times in
my life, most often followed by the words, "so fill out this goal sheet, already"
or "that's why you should buy this Franklin Planner." While I hate to count
out any possibility, up to this point in my life I've never bought a planner-especially
not a hideously expensive Franklin one-and as I recall, my goal sheets were
filled out by advisors with quotas to meet who scraped the barrel of my meager
accomplishments. And yes, I'm a failure. Yet in between episodes of failing
to plan, I do occasionally make note of life-paths I do not want to follow and
have had some success dodging them. Like not shacking up in the back of a pick-up
with a filthy man and three or four even filthier dogs (check!). A more recent
fate I've chosen to avoid, one which I was hurtling toward, is standing with
knees together but feet splayed at least twelve inches apart and profuse sweating
merely due to eating tacos. And I want a marked reduction in involuntary sighs.
I go on I want to be perfectly clear: this will not be one of those nasty "Americans
are so fat" diatribes that seem to be everywhere these days. Especially not
one that includes the words "we as a nation" before it goes on to insult the
national physique. As far as I'm concerned, the words "we as a nation" should
always be followed by something complimentary, at least if the nation referred
to is the United States. Nor will I rail against "the beauty myth," at least
not right now. Yes, there are cultural prejudices, but the last assault on them
I saw was so boneheaded I'm still reeling from it. It was a dirge about fashion
victims on the Discovery Health channel that showed crowds of anonymous city
people going about their business, unmindful that the show's producers were
filming them for the purpose of exposing them as typically homely to all the
world. Then they hired Peri Gilpin--who has played always-gets-her-man sexpot
Roz on Frasier
for the past eight years--as narrator to solemnly decry beauty standards that
demean and stereotype women. What, was Kathy Bates busy? For me, that went over
about as well as a Clinton claim that he "feels my pain." On top of that, I
was watching this program with Partick,
who possesses certain credentials as a beautiful person. He could not stop snickering.
To be fair, he said it was mostly because of the producers' ambush of innocent
citizens, and how they might feel if they saw themselves tarred as the unfortunate
ugly mass on cable television, and I believe him. (Less excusable was his exclamation
during a dieting infomercial, "I've got one thing to say-I just finished eating
two cake donuts and now I'm sitting on my ass drinking a beer!") Anyway, the
whole program struck me as a surreal and pandering effort supposedly on the
behalf of women.
no, this article won't be anything like that. Nor will it end with some sort
of "and you should, too!" exhortation because I'll tell you right now that this
whole "working out" business stinks, and is confusing besides. Sure, many of
the devices are intuitive, at least on the surface (they often have a deeper,
near-baffling logic all their own), others require a formal introduction which
Partick was willing to make on my behalf. Unfortunately, and like most introductions
made on my behalf, the names of all those menacing, black and silver, S&M looking
devises blurred in my memory. There are the ones that make my arms hurt, the
ones that make my legs hurt, the ones that make my, ahem, bottom hurt, and the
ones that make by abdomen hurt. Partick tried different weights on each of them
before finally muttering, "This is the weight Sophia uses." Sophia is my seven
year old niece.
may well ask why I was consorting with these engines of the devil, and I'd have
to admit that while my idle hands weren't exactly doing the devil's work, I
couldn't keep them off his stuff. Months and months ago, My Boss told me the
4th of July fell on a Wednesday. As with most of what she tells me, I responded
by pursing my lips, widening my eyes, and nodding my head. As we were on the
phone at the time, she said, "Hello?"
"A Wednesday," I replied. That
should break up the week."
"If you took either Monday and Tuesday, or Thursday and Friday off, you'd
have five days off in a row."
days is a long time, and I had plenty of time to think of something to do with
them, so I asked which days more people were taking off (Thursday and Friday),
and chose Monday and Tuesday, figuring I'd minimize the amount of actual Cosmodemonic
work I'd have to do that way. Doing almost nothing at work isn't as good as
doing absolutely nothing at home, but it's still good.
a month later, there was a crisis in my department over the week of July 4th.
One of my co-serfs had scheduled an out-of-state family trip to last the entire
week, and two had major out of town parties penciled in for the fourth, and
one just thought it would be cool to take advantage of the five days off thing.
We gathered in the Presentation Room.
hadn't come up with any plans and four days of doing almost nothing was still
pretty tempting, so I offered to give up my days off, but My Boss kept insisting
they were sacrosanct. I think that's because she's too polite to just say I'm
so superfluous to the day to day business of Cosmodemonic that my gesture was
meaningless. We all wheeled and dealed and finally by my agreeing, nay, insisting,
that I would do a little more than almost nothing, everybody got their days
off, and I still had about a month to decide what to do with mine.
June struck, hard. It was pretty bloody hot for one thing. Also, unexpected
trips to New Mexico and Utah were cropped up, which while they had their moments
Upside of Down") were also exhausting. I've never been much of
an adventuress, which is why economical excursions to the likes of Fresno
and , oh my! Toronto
are such a big deal to me. A single vacation is refreshing and sustenance for
The Cobra's Nose. Two-especially
family intensive ones-leave me exhausted and cranky. So by the time July rolled
around I had failed to plan, and…you know.
first two days of doing nothing were great. I went to bed early and napped on
the couch. I wore pajamas the majority of the day and watched cable for hours
on end. Partick cruised around the house dusting, vacuuming, watering plants,
and frowning at me with Momish disapproval. I'm proud to say I withstood it
pretty well. By Monday, however, I thought a little activity might be in order,
especially since it would be hours before Partick finally went to work and let
me lounge in peace. So when he announced he was off to our apartment's workout
facilities I calculated the number of inches apart my feet were when I stood
with my knees together, and asked if I could tag along. Partick, apparently
making the same calculation, said sure.
workout room is far enough away from our apartment to count as exercise in my
book, as I learned from several aerobic jaunts to the Jacuzzi which sits just
outside of it. The Jacuzzi is an swell place from which to placidly observe
the goings on in the workout room, ideally with a big glass of something cold
in hand. From the other side of the glass, the Jacuzzi seems populated with
drunken, lazy swine, most of whom should be forbidden to wear those swim togs
miss being a swine. Whatever lashing myself to the engines of the devil might
have done for my thighs, it's been murder on my disposition. Upon reaching the
awful workout chamber (and it's got to be a block away if it's an inch) I'm
already pretty hot and tired, and if other people are there already, watch out.
They are invariably younger, thinner, prettier, and more fit than I am, but
have the worst taste in television viewing. Baseball. Judging Amy. Sheesh.
And if you don't get there before nine a.m. on Saturday, you can forget about
Often, the only entertainment is watching young, thin, pretty, fit people try
to figure out how to operate this stretch thing (not the contraption pictured
above, but a direct descendant I bet). I'm also disappointed in my torture of
choice. Having met all the cardio-vascular devices (did you know that a treadmill
can be instructed to simulate an incline but not a decline? or that people choose
to pretend they are walking up stairs?), I selected one that because it compelled
rather than resisted motion, seemed most like a ride-a stand up bicycle sort
of thing. For one thing, it asks a lot of questions--age, weight (I put down
what I told the DMV and snicker), that sort of thing. For another thing, I'm
having a hard time believing burning off an Almond Joy could be that much work.
could be the worst part of my voluntary ordeal-the calorie counting, a practice
that had never interested me in the past, except to discourage it. Like on this
trip I took with my mother where she insisted on comparing the relative merits
of our cranberry juice, mine being the less nutritious but more delicious. I
feigned (badly) polite disinterest but in my head I was quoting Apu--"I cannot
believe you do not shut up!" Now I never thought of an Almond Joy as health
food, per se, though they are loaded with fiber. Used to be, they were a snack,
a little indulgence. Now they are the enemy; but I crave them more fiercely
than ever. They're the Mata Hari of food.
also been setting little goals, like keeping my pace above such and such per
minute, or getting to a certain pretend distance by a certain time. It's horrible.
Don't let it happen to you.
Written by Sharon C. McGovern