What you’re about to read is an extremely moving story.
I should know, because I am an exceptionally moving person.
In fact, I have moved at least fourteen times in my adult life, and probably more than ten in my childhood (including to and from other countries, because, before I was a plain old Brat, I used to be a Navy one).
I know what you’re thinking (because I’ve hired a burly, off-duty Thought Policeman named Klaus to patrol my computer, and so far he’s been able to pick up the thoughts of all those Meanopause readers who aren’t me and/or whose heads aren’t covered in tin foil). You’re thinking: But Heather, that’s not what we mean when we say that something is “moving.”
To which I say: oh yeah? Then riddle me this, Smarty-Thoughts: which of the following phrases most logically completes a sentence that begins, “We just bought a house on Kentucky Street”?
a) and now we’re completely broke!
b) so la-di-fucking-da!
c) and now the balalaika is completely green!
d) and now we’re moving!
e) and now we’re getting a divorce!
If you chose a), “and now we’re completely broke,” you’re wrong, but you get five extra credit points, because while we aren’t completely broke, we haven’t actually paid anything except hand money yet.
If you chose b), “so la-di-fucking-da,” then while you didn’t choose the most correct answer, you still get ten extra credit points, because that is the phrase that logically follows the sentence that (spoiler alert!) answer d) completes, especially if we’ve gone out drinking together.
If you chose c), “and now the balalaika is completely green,” then we should probably stop drinking, and head on home.
If you bubbled in d), “and now we’re moving,” then you are correct! Still, we should definitely stop drinking, because you have completely ruined your computer screen. And there aren’t even any bubbles.
If you chose answer e), “and now we’re getting a divorce,” then ha ha! I am so sorry that we don’t get to go out drinking together anymore, you crazy kidder making with the uproarious jokes!
Unless, of course, that wasn’t a joke.
Wait: is there something that you’re not telling me?
There is, isn’t there?
WHAT IS IT?
Okay, I’m going to wait a couple of minutes while Klaus works the perimeter of your brain, trying to find out the thing.
(So, yes, Klaus, good point: it was probably a bad idea to tell the readers about the foil.)
(But you’re still only going to get paid by the thought, so: chop chop!)
(Fine! Go! It’s not like I really even need you. If you remember from the last post, I can read thoughts myself. Because I’m a WITCH.)
(No, with a “W,” silly Klaus.)
(Same to you, BLOUSE.)
(See what I did there? I can make jokes by changing letters to “B,” too.)
Oh come on you guys, this isn’t fair. Take off the foil helmets!
Fine, I’m going to guess.
Is it: There you go, screwing up nearly half a year of a great marriage by foolishly moving in together?
If it is, then I just have one thing to say to you, which is: No, it will have been more than half a year of a great marriage that we’ll screw up, because the sellers have to get the tenants out before we can move in.
So there, Smarty Thoughts.
But if that’s what you’re thinking, then I won’t lie and say that I haven’t also thought this thought.
(Though if it isn’t what you’re thinking, then I’m totally going to lie, and probably act all outraged and stuff, if it comes up again.)
Here’s the deal: we’ve got a pretty great thing going right now, my husband and I. He has a nice, roomy apartment in which to nap in the afternoon and watch shouty financial guys on tv and do his own laundry and store his thousands of Pez dispensers and Converse shoes, and because the kids don’t spend much time over there, they hardly ever complain about the terrifying mannequin heads in his coffee table, or the elephant footstool that’s made of, well, an elephant’s foot.
And the kids and I have a nice, medium-sized house that’s not quite big enough for him to move those things into it.
Plus, because we haven’t yet co-mingled our things, we haven’t had to argue about where they should go (like, for example, the basement, or maybe straight to the dumpster behind the apartment building, or to a mannequin hospital or something).
We never fight about the bills, because we don’t see each other’s bills. We never fight about tidiness, because it’s none of our business. We never fight about shopping, because we do our own shopping. We never fight about house maintenance, because he can just call his apartment manager, and I can mostly ignore the fact that the oven door has fallen off roughly four times a year since I bought this house after the ex and I split up in 2005.
In fact, if it weren’t for Words With Friends, we’d have had nothing to fight about our entire marriage so far.
Thus, I can safely conclude, as a Board-Certified Crackpot who has sifted through her personal experience to support her theories while actively ignoring other plausible explanations, that living separately is the very key to a happy marriage.
And we’re about to change the locks.
So yeah, I totally get where you’re coming from, if this is where you were coming from (which I can’t possibly know, since you won’t take off your stupid foil hat).
Hang on: I’m getting something here.
Someone just took off her hat.
Oh, wait, that’s not what you were thinking?
You were thinking: But mom, you promised us when you bought this house that we would never move again. You said our rooms would be waiting for us when we came home from college, and we haven’t even gone to college yet. You said we could bring our children home to play with the Barbies and the Legos that you’d keep in the basement for us, and that we could add their marks to our penciled heights that never made it that far up the wall you swore you’d never paint over, ever.
To which I say: um, hey, you’re going to catch a cold if you don’t put your hat back on, Sweetie.
Okay, yes, fine, I did promise you that.
But I also promised that I’d never remarry, and look how well I kept that one!
What’s that you’re thinking? That doesn’t help my case?
Fine, I’m a terrible promise-keeper. But that’s not always a bad thing.
Because once upon a very long time ago, I promised myself that I would never marry or have kids in the first place.
So make a choice here, guys: do you want me to keep my promises or not? Because I brought you into this world, and I can sure as hell invent a machine that brings me back to a point in time where I didn’t (if I can work out the bugs in the flux capacitator).
(Not that I’d ever want to. Ever.)
Ultimately, there are some promises that I’m very glad I never kept.
And if it’s any consolation, your stepfather and I are giving you a WAY cooler house to come home to on spring break, and the oven door is WAY less likely to fall off when I burn treats for the grandchildren whose heights we’ll mark on a brand new wall, while they play with the Barbies and Legos in a basement that will probably hold no more than one mannequin head. Or, okay fine, maybe two.
With my mid-life wedding looming at the end of September, I woke one day in early August knowing that the cute little blue lace dress I’d bought for the ceremony was no longer going to fit. In the way of my people, however, I let at least a few weeks go by before I allowed myself to acknowledge this.
I know what you’re thinking (because I am a practicing, not to mention Board-Certified, Witch). You’re thinking: but Heather, didn’t you say you met your husband on JDate? How is Denial the way of the Jewish people?
Congratulations! They say there are no stupid questions, yet still you have managed to ask one!
De Nile is in Egypt.
Where de Jews were slaves.
But anyway, I wasn’t talking about my father’s people. I was talking about my mother’s, the Christian Scientists.
As I understand it, the way Christian Scientists handle that whole not-taking medication thing is to deny that they’re sick. And the reason this works for them, to the extent that it does work, is that if you wait long enough, you tend to get over stuff (except hemorrhages, maybe, or, like, cancer). This is why doctors tell you to take antibiotics for however many days they tell you to take them: because you’d probably get better by then, anyway. Same with physical therapy for things like pinched nerves and pulled muscles. You have to do it for a certain number of weeks. But if you don’t do it for that number of weeks? Odds are, your back’s going to stop hurting by the end of that time because that’s how long it took for the inflammation to go down. (Or your back will keep hurting, but you’ll have stopped noticing, because other stuff, like hemorrhages, maybe, will seem more pressing.)
How do I know this? The same way most crackpots (a field in which I am also Board-Certified) know things: because I have sifted through my personal experience to conclusively support my theories. Also, because I am married to a doctor who’s always saying things like “No, you don’t need antibiotics! Quit calling me while I’m on call!”
Thus, though I am a product of a mixed marriage, I have inherited Denial from both sides of my family. It’s not just important to me; it’s my goddamn heritage. Even its anagrams have been central to my life (for example, I spent my first honeymoon in Denali National Park, in Alaska [yeah, like you couldn’t see that divorce coming]; I named one of my children [though I won’t tell you which one, because of privacy issues] “Daniel”; another of my children’s names is also an anagram of Denial, plus “me”). Denial and I, we’re like this.
So when I tell you I woke up knowing that my dress no longer fit, I mean to say that I shuddered, briefly, recoiling as though from dreams of an old and terrifying talk-show host, considered trying on the dress to confirm my fears, rejected the idea, because I hadn’t yet showered, and got up and went about my day.
That night, as I was about to get ready for bed, I thought: oh, yeah. The dress. Try on the dress.
Then I thought: No, YOU try on the dress.
And then I thought: I said it FIRST!
And then—actually, you don’t need me to spell this all out for you. It’s that same conversation we all have with ourselves when we disassociate into a bunch of different people, some of whom are shouting. The upshot was that all of me went to bed without any of us trying on the dress.
The next morning, I woke up panicked about the dress again. Then I ate a nice little denial cake for breakfast and went about my day. Then blah blah blah, bedtime argument, midnight denial cake snack, Joan Rivers dream, panic, and repeat for at least two weeks more, during which time I lost yet another couple of pounds (because I was also using denial to treat my Collagenous Colitis [see: Sidebar: Medical Science]. And because denial cakes are not only surprisingly low in calories, but they are extremely high in fiber).
And then one day I got up and pulled on a pair of jeans without unzipping them, and thought: uh oh.
Then I thought: What’s wrong, Honey?
And then I thought: Since when did we start calling each other ‘Honey’?
And then—anyway, long, crackpot story short: I tried on the dress, and it didn’t fit.
Which is not to say that it was unwearable; I wasn’t going to walk down the aisle and have it fall off, or anything. But I also wasn’t going to walk down the aisle and have people go, Ooh, she looks so beautiful! (or whatever it is we hope people will say when we walk down an aisle) so much as they would say, maybe, Now that’s a nice color on her, that blue.
The dress, cut and darted for an hourglass figure, now just sort of reminded me of where my curves had been by standing out stiffly and emptily from those spaces, down at least two vas from its va va va voom. I looked a bit like a teenager wearing her mother’s dress. And also, tragically, her face.
Now, as a Board-Certified Witch, I not only know what you’re thinking, but what you’re about to think (which is, roughly: Oh big fucking deal, just swap it out for a smaller size!), so let me stop you right here, and not just because I’m the only one who’s allowed to swear on my blog.
I had bought the dress at the Neiman Marcus store at the King of Prussia Mall in Philadelphia—a five-hour drive from Pittsburgh, which has no local Neiman Marcus. The wedding was now only five weeks away, and there was no room in the schedule for that kind of a trip. And if you’re about to think, as I just suddenly sensed you were, that I could have just called the store or gone online and ordered the smaller size, I’d like to simply ask: OH MY GOD, why didn’t you think this to me in August??
WHY DIDN’T ANYONE THINK THIS TO ME IN AUGUST??
Okay, I’m just going to rub the keyboard imprints from my forehead now, take a small nibble of denial cake, and soldier on through the rest of this now incredibly stupid story.
So, given an ill-fitting dress and a pressing deadline, as well as a problem-solving skill set that hadn’t advanced past the technology available in the late 1980s, I did the SECOND-most logical thing, and took the dress to a tailor to have it taken in.
We had a merry little exchange, the tailor and I, which mostly involved my speaking in English and his replying in Spanish, and the whole thing went so swimmingly, with him folding up the lacy shoulders of the dress and pinning them haphazardly, and scrunching up the back of the dress and pinning it haphazardly, and even more happiness and hazardliness happening at the hips, that you’d have had no idea that what it turned out he was saying was: I’m just gonna stitch it right here, just like this, and it’s okay with you that the lace gets all smooshed up and bundled up and stupid-looking like that, yes? To which I was replying, Exactly, and with many thanks, yes!
So here’s the thing about denial: when something is bad—like, really, really fucked-up-edly bad—it only works for a couple of minutes. It helps if you squint, and turn sideways, and run your fingers over your lumpy, miss-matched material for just the briefest of moments before you let them skitter away, while your brain goes: It’s okay. No, really, it’s probably okay. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as you think it is, right, Honey?
And then your thoughts start to hemorrhage. No, you think. We do NOT call each other ‘Honey.’
And this, this is—what this is here, is,
is something that is–
Oh holy shit, this is
Next Week: It’s really more of a taupe than a beige, I’d say.
Once upon a midnight, Dearie (an hour I squandered, sleepless, bleary,
Over many a fake or spurious volley of “Words” I do deplore —
Like “qi” or “za” or “jota”; “xiing”!?), suddenly there came a dinging:
A faint, but steady, singing, pinging, from my cell phone on the floor.
“Oy,” my fiancé muttered, sleeping. “Turn off my iPhone, por favor.
I ain’t on stinkin’ call no more.”
Nah, succinctly I responded, sweating (for this was August,
Hot, unending, and I, in menopause, was shvitzing mightily, therefore.
Dreamlessly by night I wallowed, in Facebook apps or the tweets I followed
In search of rest; such crap I swallowed!–the Buzzfeed quizzes; the memes galore–
In an attempt to escape, or better yet, ignore
Wedding terror: eight weeks more!).
But so the sudden buzzing, thrumming–the phone’s vibration, softly humming–
Chilled me – killed me! T’was it the rabbi, calling off his hateful chore?
Go to voicemail, I cried, entreating—who? Myself? The phone, repeating
(Shrill and strident, now, its ringing), singing upon the bedroom floor?
“Huh?” said my fiancé, softly breathing, releasing a sweet and gentle snore.
Hush. It’s nothing, mon amour.
But soon I could no longer take it. Stupid phone—would I have to break it?
What? I cried into its numbers (face it! Phones have no receivers anymore).
What do you WANT? I shouted, stabbing button upon button, but not one grabbing
A voice from the ether, nor did I either stem its awful, ringing roar.
Who are you? I screeched; the Caller ID I beseeched: Input; Volume; Channel 4.
(Alas, t’was the remote, alors.)
Then deep there dropped a silence searing; the phone had stopped, or else my hearing.
(Which: why not? My skin and vision: already going or gone before.)
Yet then I heard it, a distant token, its ringing sound now strangely broken.
Replaced by song–a ring tone, spoken, breaking like a wave on my mental shore.
In the midnight hour, she cried: More. More. More.
(T’was Billy Idol, raging boor!)
And so, like me, you’re now supposin’: who hath this wretched ring tone chosen?
Someone phoney! Someone posin’; someone I’d ne’er met before.
Hello? said I, my cell phone finding (thrilled to stop the Rebel Yell’s unwinding),
Who calls without the hour minding? It’s after midnight, Satan’s Spoor!
“Not here, it isn’t,” came the answer (the voice a rasp from ancient lore).
“I’m in L.A., you silly whore!”
Then oh the trembling! Oh, the shivers! I knew that voice: it was Joan Rivers!
Plastic-surgery maimed and self-proclaimed Maven of fashion and décor.
Wake up! I cried to my sleeping fiancé, but rouse did he not, nor did he respond, nay.
I was alone in this dream, like a thing from Beyonce, like all the single ladies of yore.
My cell phone crackled, its speakerphone cackled (a sound I confess I do abhor):
“Knock-knock.” Who’s there? “Anita Fore.”
Anita Fore who? said I, with a quaver, fearing an answer I would not savor,
For I’d been driven to great and greater anger by this here Maven e’er before.
From my cell phone: only silence. In truth, I contemplated violence! Hello, Joan?
I should be sleeping! And now you’ve brought me close to weeping. Anita Fore,
Who is that bitch, and why must she keep on knocking at my door?
Quoth the Maven: “Go to the store.”
I dropped the phone, Dear Reader, dropped it. Put a cloth to my head
And mopped it. Grabbed my hair and would have chopped it (3 inches, maybe 4).
Anything to stop the dreading! Better just to think of the wedding! Or even
Of the sickly pounds I was shedding, than to hear the Maven’s voice once more.
Yet hear it I did, rising, derisive, from my cell phone on the floor:
Quoth the Maven: “Anita Fore.”
I hate you, Joan Rivers! I cried to the timbers of my room in the attic that night.
Let me go back to bed, play Words with Friends instead, or even just read, I implore!
Again from the phone came the ghastly cackle, along with a horrid, rustling crackle,
Like a candy wrapper raising hackles in movie theaters in times of yore.
The Maven, clearing her ancient throat, to quoth from the cell phone evermore:
“At the store, say ‘Anita Fore.’”
Then, methought, the air grew denser, with my curses (can we get a censor?):
F*cks! and D*mns! and Sh*ts! on end, sir, until my fiancé rose up with a roar!
“The phone!” he cried, and with a moan, I complied, putting it into his hand, sir.
“Hello, Joan Rivers?” he said. “What givers?” Then he listened, and listened more.
Then he clicked the phone off, and said, with a cough, “The Maven says to go to the store.
It’s a bit of a mess, but your size six blue lace dress? It just doesn’t fit anymore.
Tell them you need a size four.”
Look, as much as I’ve dreaded this discussion, there’s really no way to keep talking about buying a dress for your midlife wedding if we aren’t eventually going to acknowledge the big fat elephant spinning around in the middle of this blog.
The elephant which, if you’re anything like me, is you.
Or rather, your image of you, forged some thirty or forty years ago when your mother went on the Grapefruit Diet for the seventh time, or your babysitter fed you and your siblings Mac ‘n’ Cheese while she dined on a single chocolate “appetite suppressant” called, unfortunately, “Ayds,” or you practiced for a pool party by making sure that your thighs made no contact with anything (a lawn chair, for example) that might cause them to expand, so you developed this weird cowboy posture where you sucked in your tummy and bent your knees to raise your thighs, even when you were standing, as though perpetually reaching into your holsters to draw your guns.
I know what you’re thinking (because yours isn’t so much a Poker Face as it is a face for, say, Go Fish). You’re thinking: I hope nobody just saw me try that cowboy thing.
You’re maybe also thinking: But Heather, you’re kind of little. Surely you don’t think of yourself as an elephant?
To which I say: Yes. Yes I do, and don’t call me Shirley.
No, that wasn’t what you were thinking? Okay, wait. Was it: Do you have any 8s?
No? Hang on a minute: you’re squinting, and the corners of your mouth are drawn down in disgust. I think I’ve got it! Was it: Fuck you, Size 2?
If so, then that is pretty much what I would say to me if I could somehow crawl up the ladder out of my own fucked-upedness, pulling myself hand over hand past Charlie’s Angels and Jane Fonda “workouts” and Monica and Rachel and skinny jeans with cropped tops and one-piece bathing suits with cutouts and my friend Valerie in her size-two jeans and a belt one week after giving birth and the Spanx that you wear under your Spanx to smooth them out and my mother on her deathbed, happy that, bronchiolitis obliterans aside, at least she was finally losing weight.
But I can’t. I’ll be 52 years old next week, and I can safely say that the last time I put a piece of food in my mouth without thinking of the effect it would have on my body was back in the 8th — or maybe even the 7th — grade. With the exception of my pregnancies, I have spent the majority of my adult life gaining or losing the same ten damn pounds, but the times when I’ve been the most comfortable in my skin have been when things that were trying to kill it (cigarettes; poverty; collagenous colitis) had managed to do what self-control alone could not, and shrink it down around my bones.
Needless to say, I did not take it well when menopause struck, and my metabolism, like a man in a truck in a country song, done up and left me for a younger gal.
Particularly since that abandonment happened to coincide with the advent of the first occasion in years when people would be taking pictures of me for reasons other than family portraits at b’nai mitzvot or for making themselves look better in their Facebook selfie photo albums*.
I didn’t actually clock it, but I’m willing to bet that about five minutes after the shock of getting engaged had worn off, some electrical current in my brain flipped the Uh Oh, Now We Really Have to Lose Weight! switch, sending my inner elephant spinning like a chubby ballerina in a great big honkin’ jewelry box.
And oh, for the week or two that followed, how my elephant and I spun.
Along with a bazillion other brides and their bazillion inner elephants (Bridezillaphants: so much more terrifying than your little candy-ass Bridezillas).
In fact, losing weight for your wedding is an actual thing, with an actual, google-able name: enter “Wedding Weight,” and you pull up not ten, not twenty, but more than thirty pages of links to magical advice for losing the necessary amount of weight to fit into that too-small dress you bought because you wouldn’t want to look like you in a dress that fits.
Among the many articles to scroll quickly past are “Losing Weight in Time for the Wedding” (from the NYTimes.com); “Wedding Diet Tips: Brides Reveal Their Best Weight-Loss Secrets” (Shape.com); Fitness Magazine’s “The Buff Bride’s Handbook”; and, from a site called “SparkPeople,” “20 Tips to Lose Weight for your Wedding” (elegantly subtitled “How to Lose the Bulge Before your Big Day,” and including that evergreen piece of advice, “Don’t let yourself get to hungry.” Because, you know, once you get to hungry, you have to stay there. There are no cabs in hungry that will take you back).
But here was the problem (okay, the ostensible problem; see “ladder out of my own fucked-upedness” for the baseline psychosis): none of that stuff was going to work for me.
Because I was already doing pretty much everything that could be done just to not gain weight (let alone lose it). I seldom ate two full meals a day, let alone three, and I ran at least three miles a day for at least six days a week. Oh, I could probably have cut out my midday candy and my evening vodka and thrown in an extra mile or two here or there, but it wouldn’t have made more than a pound or two’s worth of difference now that my metabolism was living with that thirty-year old slut in her trailer park (except that I would be definitely be crankier, if a person could even imagine going with me to that dark a place. And if you can, I beg of you: do not linger. Get a cab, and come quickly back).
And with my luck, upping the exercise would just wind up blowing out my knees, and then how would I be able to do the cowboy stance?
Nope, I told myself, I was in good enough shape as it was. Sure, I wasn’t the thinnest I’d ever been, but I wasn’t the fattest. At 5 feet and almost 1 inch, I go up or down a size for every three to five pounds I gain or lose, unless I wear clothes made entirely of Lycra, and back then I was sort of holding steady at around a size 6, a size plenty of middle-aged women would be happy to shoot for at the end of their weight-loss plans. Why put myself through this nonsense? I asked (ignoring my inner Pete Townshend, who was asking the musical question, Who the fuck are you?).
And so, breaking with nearly forty years of programming, I did a manual override, and turned my spinning elephant off.
After a bumpy start (see most of the previous blog entries), I bought myself a lovely blue lace dress, in a size 6 Petite (see photo at “Meanopause, the Musical”), put it in my closet, and crossed off “Find a dress” from my vast and growing Wedding To-Do list.
In terms of body image, I had never been healthier in my entire life.
And then I got really sick, and accidentally lost the same ten stupid pounds.
Pardon me while I use this ladder to climb up on my elephant, who is also me (and so, by extension, you), so that we might spin while we’re on top of this thing that is also inside us, spin so damn hard and so damn fast that we all throw up (but wheeee! At least we’re losing weight!).
Next Week: Yes, I have a 6. Do you have a 2? No YOU Go Fish. I have to go buy another damn dress.
*Yep, I’m looking at you, my photogenic and Brainy friend.