Saturday, February 18, 2012

Not "fat" just friendly.

I used to live in the nicest, most integrated neighborhood in the area. Every kind of person who could afford 50% more rent than the rest of the city lived there in old rental units that were beautifully kept up and reasonably spacious. 

Everyone got along well, and there were great little restaurants with cheap but excellent lunch specials. The scenery and the people-watching were unparalleled. Everyone seemed to own a dog, and there were all kinds, even unto a number of Great Danes.

In the summer, art galleries would mount outdoor sculptures by various artists along the beach walks to surprise and delight the locals. There was Tai-Chi and yoga in the parks and green-spaces and outdoor and indoor chess  almost everywhere there was a table. People flew beautiful kites along the short stretch of beach, and we were a short walk from the bustling downtown, with its theaters, cinemas, malls and and pretentious restaurants and nightclubs.

Every year there was a world-class fireworks festival in August and the streets would be jammed with tens of thousands of people from all around.

Gay men ruled that part of the land and it was good. It was pretty clean and every stranger wanted to talk. There were more independent coffee shops than parking spots, and the one local McDonald's failed, and had to shut down in disgrace and go move to a mall somewhere else, because there were none around. Smoking was forbidden indoors, and frowned upon everywhere else. Most people were reasonably fit and friendly, and it made you want to look after yourself, too. In short, it was my Heaven.

Ironically our family and acquaintances from the suburbs seemed convinced that gay men were heroin users who ate babies and would rape and kill you for your shoes, and that they were 99% of the local population. They visited rarely, nervously, and kept their teenage children close until they could flee early enough to avoid "the traffic".

Currently I live in a struggling municipality about an hour away by car, which I need to use to get to anything  around here. Although there are numerous playgrounds for the local children, there is real crime; there have been three incidents serious enough to cordon off our whole block since we moved in five years ago.

There is no beach, and the train-yard bars us from walking the waterline. The trains blow their horns for hours at night. During the day no one lingers outdoors unless they have a child to mind, or a need to smoke, which they put out on the ground. No one meets anyone else's eyes, and far too many of the few dog owners don't clean up like they are supposed to. There are ethnic divides, and everyone seems as straight as an arrow, unimaginative and as dull as dirt. Nothing colorful happens here; nothing daring; nothing new; nothing provocative.

This is the cost of owning your home when you aren't demonstrably rich. I miss our last neighborhood, but I try not to think of it. It's awkward to go there and not be able to stay. To be exiled by choice. I'm reconciled to this place now, I think. I hope.

But while we lived in our last rental, in Heaven, I used to walk the streets with pleasure, just to get out under the many trees and see whatever I might see; everything in my life seemed to be going well and I was finally living where I wanted to. In my element, as it turned out. Perhaps for the last time.

There were a few odd things that happened, and some really interesting people to meet. Once I saw a 450lb woman walking the world's smallest pot-bellied pig on a leash about six years ago, shortly before we left.

She was six feet tall and wore a purple mu-mu that brushed the ground. The pig was ten inches long and about 6-8 lbs. It was dragging its belly, as they do, and wheezing audibly as it came. It had the cutest, tiniest little nose, considering its huge jowls and watery, baggy little pig-eyes. Its belly was as distended outward as a pregnant goat's; it had internal saddlebags, and a bowed back. Cute, though, for a pig.

Keeping the park safe from truffles.
"Oh, I haven't seen one of those in years! How cute! That must be as miniature as they get. How old is it?"
"Four. She's four."
"Is she difficult to keep? I understand that they can be cat-box trained."
"Noooo, not difficult ..." Frowning slightly. Perhaps she was tired, or a bit slow.
"Is this the smallest breed? The Korean ones are about three feet long, but this is ideal for a small apartment. Did you have any trouble getting permission?"
"This ... this is my chihuahua." Uncomfortable silence.
"Oh. Well have a nice day." 
I used to be 75lbs heavier than I am. My gall-bladder gave me an unforgiving lesson that I hope to never forget about fat intake when it failed. I chose to combine that with giving up white flour and sugar and refined anything. I get a lot of fiber and some veg every day and very little meat. The weight really came off on its own within a few months when I stopped over-supplying myself. I went from an XXL to a medium-small and had to throw out every piece of clothing I owned.

I think of that woman, too, when people I know complain that they aren't responsible for their obesity; on the one hand it was good that this couple was walking, but on the other, it was brutally clear to me that nature didn't take an already distorted dog and inflate it with fat until it looked like another animal entirely, rheumy-eyed and morbid.

That woman did that to both of them. And we do it to each other, as well as ourselves. We eat what our friends and family eat so as to not divide ourselves. The first non-smokers were seen as tight-assed worriers making trouble for most people, who either smoked or didn't mind if they lived in a cloud of other people's smoke. They crusaded for the right to breathe just air, and the resentment by the status quo was loud and intemperate.

I don't think it's fanatical or divisive to do the math and be responsible for your well-being, even if it means waiting for your friends or family to come around. But it's not convivial or comfortable or easy.

I do it anyway, and end up eating alone, or off the suggested menu.

Exception-seeker. Attention-hound. Trouble-maker.

Or maybe it's not for me to judge what these relationships are worth. In my life I eat one way, and everyone I know eats another. When I eat without restraint I feel like I am being social, and when I don't, I feel rude and judgmental. It's awkward for my family and friends, even as they are trying to be kind. Some treat me like I'm diabetic or allergic or just mental.

I'm definitely crazy. This is sane. 
These are the same people who go on maple-syrup and lemon juice fasts for a week at a time to lose five pounds. They gain it all back within the month and have to do it again. They go to so much trouble like it's a repair, or tune-up that should be done seasonally. What is the point of that extreme?

It is that they do it with friends, and they do it as an event. There is no reckoning involved -- no calorie counting. It's wacky, it's fun. It stresses-out your pancreas, but don't think about that. It's not important.

When do they give up fighting the math? Why do I care what they do?

Calories eaten - calories burned = How much of you there is.

What do you do, eat to live or live to eat?
Do you live with someone whose lifestyle is so different that it divides you? 
How do you cope with different personal outlooks like this?  


  1. Holy shitballs Dave. So many things at once. First - awesome people are reading your blog - hurray! Second, omg that pig would freak me the hell out. But third, WOW congratulations? That doesn't seem the right word or sentiment. Let's try this. I am IMPRESSED at the changes you've made. Flabbergasted.

    This was a beautiful description of a neighborhood you treat almost like a lost love. And perhaps that is what it was.

    I used to live in Noe Valley, in San Francisco, which adjoins the Castro. Some people say it is the lesbian mecca that compliments the gay male mecca that is the Castro. I loved the shops, the people with all the dogs, the safeness and community feel of it. I loved that in the Castro nobody ever leered at me. Hell, no one even looked at me. It was awesome. And there was great art, great historical theatre, great music and crazy bars. In a word, it was just lovely.

    Now I am living in what (I hope) will probably stand to be the worst place and the worst experience I will ever have, literally smack dab in the middle of the country, and everything about it is different. It is racist, homophobic, monocultural, bible-banging, gun-toting, sexist, raging conservative, and all this is called family values and *I* am made to feel like the weird one. And it is flat as all hell.

    Anyway I didn't mean to make this about  me. I'm just saying I can relate!!

    But you know sometimes we romanticize the places we have lived. You probably wanted to own a home while you were there. And it's not gone. I know it's not the same visiting, but you can visit and always say "we'll always have Paris" or wherever the awesome hell it was.

  2. Also... I love that you have an orangutan as your profile pic and I have a bonobo as mine - you're Mr. Monkeyhead, and if you've noticed my official email is Monkey Girl.

    That shit is bananas.

  3.  OMG Juice that's awful!! :( Poor Juice this last year has sucked huh.

    I keep telling people I look like I'm 4 months pregnant and they are trying to be nice but really that is how I feel. I'm soft other places, but I'm a small person 5'2" and all the chub is in my gut and it seems swollen rather than fat. Maybe I should ask about GI whatever that is.

    I haven't been able to exercise much because of agoraphobia that derives from bullying and some bad choices on my part. I'm trying to force myself to go but I failed today.

    OneDay - why do you HAVE to go into sales? It is so stressful to feel you have to do something that goes against your nature. Sometimes teaching is like that for me because I am very shy and I hate that part of it. You'll have to come live in my commune where no one has to live where they don't want to live and do jobs they are overqualified. Everyone will write and go for walks and build a beautiful neighborhood with culture galore.

  4.  My off again on again is a voracious junk food meat candy sugar eater. I am the opposite. So I understand :)

  5.  Oh I totally think I gained weight from feeding someone. I was so much more inclined to sit down more, eat more, skip the gym to hang out more.

    Can you workout together and get her on the kick too?

  6. We all have theories and practices. We're all practicing simians; venturing out of our comfort zones only when we're ready.

  7.  Dancing is a risk to me, unfortunately. Doesn't usually stop me, since my son was born with goofy moves, too.

    No one else gets us.

  8.  Hindsight has not yet taught me my path ahead between shit-disturbing and eating it.

    So I try not to sweat the mistakes before I make them. I just make them for a reason and see how that goes. That's the newest theory, anyway.

  9.  Well I'm doing a hula hoop in my living room because I'm afraid to go outside, so it is what it is indeed.

    We're all trapped in the fishbowl. You can always dance around the living room in your underwear like I do. Of course, that's just called Saturday at my house.

  10.  I LOVE Glengarry Glen Ross. I try to show it to as many people as possible. GOD I hope it's better for you than that. You don't want a set of stake knives.

    Don't sacrifice too much okay? I didn't like to see my dad doing a job he hated and eventually he found one that was so much better for him, close to him, and fit his personality.

    Good luck!!

    I will make the commune as soon as possible, promise.

  11. Gentle Monkey, adaptation is not a fault. It's a helpful survival skill to "go with the flow".

    But before you put those regrets behind you, be sure to learn from them. From here on out will you fight for your stakes? What if you don't?

    And maybe that's more important to you right now - to keep the peace instead of fighting for what you want. It's your decision, and it's okay whatever you decide.

    Keep the nightlight on inside the birdhouse in your soul.

  12. I do romanticize it. It can't be as nice, it's just me being all hung up. 

    Except I went back there to do a little bit of tech work for a friend of a friend and had time for a three-block walk. 

    I passed maybe 70 people outdoors and saw not one cigarette. There were shops and restaurants I knew still doing well, and new ones that were interesting and inviting. The people looked nice, clear-eyed and awake. Clean.

    So if anything, I usually try not to dwell on these differences. I just brought it out of the back of my mind for this post. I will adapt to whatever I have to, it's one of my faults. 

    I don't fight for my stake like I should. I should have fought to live closer in, I should have pushed for the larger place. Vetoed.

    All sorts of regrets need to be put back in the box, shoved under the bed and forgotten. 
    They are in the way of going forward.

  13. There are a lot of Simians out there who seem to be meeting nowadays.

    Perhaps our renaissance is due.

  14. Don't HAVE to do anything. Except make something work. I will try anything, and I have to learn this anyway. I'd rather be doing it for myself, but it's further strain on my family. It's a lot like reinventing my personality.

    So, no problem there. I'll just watch Glengarry Glen Ross until I'm inspired. And The Boiler Room. 
    And The Grifters.

    Found that commune soon, OK?

  15. Not a chance. There's a strict limit on how much togetherness she will take.
    It is what it is.

  16. That is harsh. What a brutal come-down for you. GI troubles are awful, and I think they are becoming very widespread.
    What is happening to us?

    Not being able to exercise makes everything so much harder and that kind of peer judgement is a reflex. When you can't burn it off portion control gets so tight, and bloating is just unfair.

    I have a cervical degeneration issue that seems to have settled on "don't bounce or lift anything and I'll let you have 5 hours of sleep most nights. Forever." Neck surgery with a slight risk of death will be appropriate when it gets screamingly worse again and my left arm loses coordination.

    The best outcome will present problems and risks that are not a good trade off right now. I don't mind a little chronic pain any more and just I avoid pushing its. A lot of bitterness under the bridge and I am better at remembering the decent things I still have and only worrying about things I might be able to change.

    So I can't run or lift weights anymore like I used to. Tone is completely gone.
    But I look more or less the same, and the work I was doing was mostly physical. People there work with sprains and strains and just suck it up. Doing that is partly how I triggered the issue. So I'm too embarrassed to visit them. Nice people, mostly.

    Looks like I have to go into sales now, which is my utter Hell. Physically locks me up to approach people solely for that purpose. But I'll try to change my personality and add that skill set. It's probably about time.

    And thanks so much for liking this.
    I was talking about living downtown and then having to move out to suburbia. Didn't make that clear, but you got it. I haven't adapted willingly or well, and my life has become harder all around, partly coincidentally, but it all feels related.

    Grew up in the suburbs and rented in a few places like this, but never really felt at home until downtown. The West End, in particular, had several overlapping communities and they did things, celebrated things, and it was real; not pretentious or over-hyped.

  17. Holy faulkknockers- how have I not known that you write a  fantastic blog all this time??  I know I have previously clicked on your discus profile before...did you just link this blog to it? Probably not, but its the lie I will tell myself.

    I'd love to applaud and praise this story on a million levels, starting with pot belly pig = chihuahua and ending with a fist shake at suburbia (which I loathe more than can be explained in a single sentence) but instead I will tell you my fat/shame story.

    I spent the better part of my teens, 20s and 30s as a personal trainer and psycho gym rat. 2 years ago I was a kettlebell throwing half marathon running machine. (see picture above). Then I developed still undiagnosed GI tract issues. The kind that keeps you from jogging anywhere that isn't three steps from a toilet.  Fatigue, pain, and a slew of "oscopies" and rounds of medications followed. Exercise became the last thing I even wanted to think about. By last August I had lost most of my muscle tone and gained 15 pounds of fat.

    But the bloat from the GI problem was so bad, that people naturally assumed I was about 5 months pregnant - for 2 years. Including my co-workers who thought I was faking the GI thing, to hide the pregnancy.

    My bosses driver finally told me everyone thought I was pregnant, and I asked him how long they had thought that. he said "Oh for a long time now." and I said "I've been sick and bloated for a year, and you never worried that I hadn't had "the baby"? Did you think I was giving birth to an elephant or blue whale?"

    He just stared at me. I am convinced he still thinks I was hiding a pregnancy.

  18. Yes. You shouldn't have to make excuses. 
    I look forward to the day that it's not an "alternative lifestyle" to look after yourself. 

  19. Oh yes, eating healthy can be a massive pain when you are around others.
    I'm a vegetarian, and on top of that hypoglycemic, so I have a lot of dietary restrictions. I can't have sugar, or anything that turns into sugar i.e. carbs and processed foods. If I veer from this I become ill, my blood sugar goes crazy, and it takes me a couple days to recover. I am fortunate in that my husband would rather see me healthy than eat bad food (which tastes so good). But it is always an issue when we go out with other people. They seem to think I'm being difficult, or on some sort of fad diet. It's hard for me to understand folks who see a healthy life style as some sort of 'diet', rather than taking care of the only body you have.

  20. We don't fight, and hardly ever argue. It's better for my son than it was. He's the point now.

    I have other concerns to fix  before deciding what I might deserve from anyone else. I have a better idea of what others expect of me now. 

    But with luck and a lot of effort, One Day I'll be that Guy.

  21. If you love her and she loves you, then it's time to sit down (at a time and place where you two can be alone) and sort this out and reach a few compromises. You are obviously not happy with the current situation - and I bet she's not either.

    The arguing and fighting is not a good way to communicate, especially if there are young-uns around who will  emulate this behavior.

    If you sit down with her and it escalates into a fight - it's time to meet with a professional.

    Jesus up there speaks much wisdom, even if he does get annoying sometimes.

  22. It's difficult when one person changes and the other doesn't want to. 

    I'm no couples' counselor, but back in the day when Mary Magdalene and I kept having these awful disagreements on how to raise our stepchild, it got so awful that I wanted to leave!  But a few sessions with a couples' counselor helped us learn how to communicate better - with no hard feelings. We were able to reach compromises and everyone was so much happier!

    If this issue with healthy foods vs crap doesn't get better -- a few sessions with someone might help tremendously.

    Think about it...

  23. Changing how you think of the food you eat, what is food, and what is absolutely NOT food, is what causes the rift. 

    When I eat with my wife I feel obliged to relax, so I gain. Too many days mean I have to skip meals or really tighten up. A standoff means I can eat what I want and lose weight for a few days. 

    That's only my problem; I'm not blaming anyone. Clearly I'm trying to be different than the majority on this. 

    On my own I wouldn't have "food" I want to avoid around the house, and eat differently. 
    I would cut loose only once in a while. But I would miss cooking for two, and company.

    And I knew you had an uncle. He put you through Hell when you were younger, as I recall.

  24. So nutritional and relationship counselling? There's a new market with potential.

    And despite my ranting I don't know what is right, or what my truths are worth. Or how to compromise some things safely.

     "But you see, the light-bulb has to want to change!"

  25. It's tough when you get close, because you're lighter; everything is easier and you burn less. 

    I'm not an expert, and I'm content to stay within 10lbs of my goal. But I have to watch it almost all the time. 

    I don't miss things like white bread, sugar, and cheese, after I have avoided them a while. Everything works better for me, and I sleep better, too. 

  26. LaDonna Adrian GainesJuly 10, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    You've inspired me to stop oversupplying myself. I kept wondering why these extra 15 pounds haven't left my body yet. Facepalm!

  27. That would be difficult.  To have to live with someone whose lifestyle is so different that it divides you.

    I would hope that if they like you or love you they would accept you as you are and you would accept them as they are.

    Of course if abuse or alcoholism is the "lifestyle" then I would get out of there asap, but food...?  Maybe, maybe if they were killing themselves slowly with morbid obesity and refused to get help for themselves... maybe I'd have to leave.

    There is such a thing called overeaters anonymous... modeled after AA. My Uncle attended those meetings and got better. I bet you didn't know that God had a brother.