Does this dress make me look fat? Don’t answer that if you value your life!
The women in my family are not skinny. Some are fit, but none are thin. I remember, as a child, thinking my grandma looked like a barrel with legs. She mostly wore house-dresses, but on special occasions she would dress up, usually in a black dress with a large white collar.
I learned the art of re-direction from Grandma Gussie; between her dazzling blue-green-gold eyes and the giant white collar, nobody looked at her middle. I, being only 3 feet tall at the time, was at eye level with her belly. This is where she carried the bulk of her weight; the rest was in her arms. We have, what I think of, as the “Jewish Arms”. The kind whose “wings” can knock you out if you get in the way. Some Italian grandmas have this, too.
It wasn’t until I started ballet lessons at the age of six that I realized there was such a thing as posture and body alignment. I can still hear Lea and Gia, my childhood ballet teachers, saying: “Tuck in your tummy! Make believe there is a string pulling your head up to the ceiling. Tuck your bottom under!” That took a major effort. My normal relaxed stance was butt out, tummy relaxed with a profile that resembled the letter “S”. I was warned this could cause back problems.
It wasn’t much later in life that I learned the significance of that warning. Having been on the yo-yo weight program most of my life, I can attest to the dangers of carrying extra weight and holding oneself in misalignment. Oy vey! I work hard to keep my weight down and be mindful of my posture, but I also like to eat, drink and make merry. I don’t let anything stand in my way when I’m in party mode; and, of course, there’s always a party somewhere!
This cycle tends to run in the twenty pound range (not that I need a scale to tell me when I’m reaching the upper limit). I refuse to buy larger clothing. When I get to the point where everything is tight – well except the African-style one-size-fits-all caftan I wear as often as possible – I go back on the “program” which is basically starvation and running until I fit back into the clothes.
We are all programmed and shaped by childhood role models, genetics, and conscious choices we make in our lifestyle. I will never forget when I was in my early twenties living in San Francisco, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I took an interim job at Harvey Wallbanger’s, a bar/restaurant at the new Embarcadero Center. Some of you may remember when the drink of the same name was all the rage: vodka, orange juice and Galiano. Hmmmm, sounds good!
Our uniform was a tight, stretchy top, hot pants and white go-go boots. After six months of working there, I went on vacation to Europe for two weeks. I ate every pastry in France, and drank every stein of beer in Germany I could get my hands on. I enjoyed each and every moment and came back bursting at the seams. I wouldn’t think it possible, but I managed to gain eighteen pounds in two weeks! At my height (not very tall) that is huge!
It was time to go on the “program”; I was all too aware of my weight gain. Fortunately, my red uniform pants were made of stretch fabric, and I squeezed into them. It was my first day back to work, and I was standing at the bar getting my cocktail tray set up for the day when I heard my boss’s booming voice from behind me: “What is THAT at the bar? The back end of a sow? Who let a sow in here? Oh, C.J. It’s you! What the hell happened to you? I can see you ate your way through Europe.”
Those words still reverberate in my head some forty years later. I lost the weight as quickly as I gained it (went on a 10 day fast), and my hot pants once again looked HOT. I don’t remember my boss’s name, I don’t remember his face, but I do remember how he made me feel with his cruel words.
I saw a picture of me the other day in one of my tight, stretchy outfits. Oh no! How did I get so fat? It’s time to go on the program! I took a look in the mirror the other day; I’m turning into Humpty Dumpty. My back is bothering me because I let myself get out of alignment. The “S’ curve is back. It’s time to do core work – sit-ups and crunches. It’s time to eat salads and burn the blubber. I know – I’ll go to Zumba!
I go to Atenas’s community center, Su Espacio’s Dance-Fit with Tina on Tuesdays and Thursdays; Zumba with Danna Mondays and Wednesdays. I walk Toby, my chocolate lab, around the hills of Roca Verde. I walk around “sucking it in” – trying to get my belly-button to touch my spine to correct my alignment. It’s helping.
I was complaining to one of my sister-friends, Colette, the other day. Her kind words carry me through the day: “You are not FAT! Take that word out of your vocabulary. You, my dear, are a beautiful woman, and I don’t see your body when I look at you, because your light is shining so brightly!”
Today I will hold myself together by tilting my pelvis forward, doing a hundred crunches, and remembering the kind words of my friend.
Let your light shine!