Dog Days, Hot Days, Sick Days, Pissed Days

 The thin and happy couple, 35 years ago

The thin and happy couple, 35 years ago

I knew a woman once, years ago, who threatened to annul her marriage because her wedding didn’t go off without a hitch. They were just comments, made in the heat of the moment, although I wondered what her new husband thought about the whole thing. The marriage didn’t last very long as it was.

It struck me at the time as bizarre, and probably telling, although I had no idea of what. I wasn’t at the wedding, but it looked to be ostensibly informal, outside, very Western. I don’t remember what the problem was. Clouds, maybe.

That was unusual, I think we’d all agree. But it’s also familiar, character traits that ring a bell. Some people dig down into the details with a big event; others leave it loose and improvisational, or at least treat it that way. I can’t see a clear advantage. People are different.

Fortunately, my wife and I are more of the latter kind. A 60th birthday? Let’s do something. A wedding anniversary? Sure, let’s celebrate. The details usually work out.

They didn’t this year, as far as my birthday, and absolutely no big deal. I was a little disappointed to miss a big dinner on the waterfront and whatever silliness we could have engaged in for the rest of the evening, my family and I just goofing on the big day, but it wasn’t depressing or cause for whatever the equivalent of annulment is in this case (maybe I should return my new driver’s license).

And yesterday, our 35th wedding anniversary, it looked as though my wife was going through her version of the same or a similar illness. Who knows? It was minor, but nobody wants to wander far when they’re feeling poorly, so we hung around the house. She was feeling better by the late afternoon, so I rifled through my mental Rolodex of restaurants and we decided on one just down the street a mile or so.

It was cool, air conditioned (thanks), and pretty empty, given the hour (around 4pm). We got happy hour prices and good food, wings, sandwiches, fries, a beer for my bride. We could have spent >$100 and had a nice, memorable meal for our anniversary, but I could accept one for $30, too.

Because now we can do it all over again today, it that’s the plan. As I said, we’re pretty improvisational.

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Oh! And we decided to do a random movie, just scroll through Netflix until we found something to watch in my screening room on the wall, and ended up with The King’s Speech, something we’d missed back in the day. Boy, that was a fine film. We thoroughly enjoyed it, from the first moments.

And we both thoroughly enjoyed the projector, and talk about a decision for less than $100 that makes a special night. Those films we always said we wished we’d seen in a theater? Pretty close. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty close.

The following might be a rant. How would I know? I just started. Fair warning.

It would have been a rant a few days ago, for sure. I was starting to regain some higher brain functions, and I got irritated, and that’s maybe not a good combination. I bitched a bit to my wife, who on this occasion agreed with me, and then to a friend who popped up on my feed and thus into my mind. Who also agreed.

WHICH IS ALL WE WANT. Seriously, it’s not that hard, although I’ve spent a few decades figuring it out. Just nod and say “that sucks” a lot. Takes the rant right out of a guy, just the nodding.

Anyway, I’ve written about this a million times, so I’ll try to be brief and see if I can leech out some general good advice.

And I’ll note that my consciousness has been raised about things like this, and it should be. The #metoo movement alone should give us pause, particularly before we make a joke, or tease or flirt. I’ve been working alone and at home since I was 30, with no power over anyone, and I still cringe at comments I remember. I’m a decent guy, too. I made comments.

So I could be a tad more sensitive these days, and I’m sensitive when it comes to me anyway.

I’m reluctant to post photos that have me in them. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. I’m probably as vain as anyone else, and I won’t toss up a picture of me looking particularly old or ugly or odd if I can help it, and I assume you wouldn’t either. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I posted a couple of photos after the birthday barbecue thing last week. Julie followed me around and snapped pictures with me posing with all of my guests, just so I’d remember. They’re fun pictures and I’m glad to have them. I just put a couple up so people could see how fun it was.

I got three Facebook messages from old friends, all wishing me a happy birthday and all commenting that I looked thinner than they remember from whenever (not decades ago, just the last photo or the last time we saw each other). A couple were indirect, not wanting to make waves, just checking to be sure I was fine. One guy was more straightforward, telling me how he lost a bunch of weight recently and how his friends started to suspect he had a disease. He just wanted to make sure I was OK and not slimming down involuntarily.

I appreciated all of these. I don’t like people worrying, and I’m relieved to be able to get the record straight. No, I’m not losing weight on purpose. Yes, I’ve lost a few in the past six months or so, not because I’m eating less (well, in a sense) but because I’m eating better and I haven’t worked out the kinks. That is, I’m more active than I had been, and even though I’m eating what should be plenty of food for a man my size and age, it’s slightly less than it needs to be to maintain my weight. This is me. I know what I eat and how much.

I worry about it all the time. I get depressed if I turn a certain way and catch my reflection, and I look scrawny. I’d rather not. I’m aware. I talk about it to my wife all the time, update her on eating and what the scale says. It’s a thing in this household, although not a big thing.

It’s not, either. I watch this like a hawk. I push myself to make high-calorie choices when my inner scold wags a finger at all that sugar. I celebrate when the scale goes up and not down. I’m on this.

And I assume most of you know the whole story by heart. A few years ago, I went through a long bout of pretty serious depression. I feel better now; it’s not inactive, but less so. I have a lot of really nice moments, a few less bright but not devastating at all. Thoughts and prayers are not, in fact, unwelcome, or at least I don’t mind. It’s kind of a struggle—a bizarre struggle, given my history and just given that I live in the time and place I do. I didn’t expect my biggest health concern when I reached 60 to be trying not to lose weight.

So I post a picture of a happy evening with friends. This is what I hear in response.

Eat a sandwich, for God’s sake!
I need to buy you a cheeseburger.
You look like you could really use a piece of that cake.

You get it. I started deleting some of these, eventually, in true passive-aggressive form, hoping maybe somebody would get the message. There are still a few scattered around.

These are people who know, or really should know, that I’ve had issues with this for a while now. I get that it feels strange in our world of obesity and a diet industry that keeps getting bigger. I try to eat more. You try eating more when you can’t. Get back to me on that. Tell me how you manage.

See? Already the bile is rising. I’ll stop. Point made. I get tired of people publicly taunting me, that’s all. Eat your own goddamn cheeseburger.

As I said, my wife agrees. She actually really likes the way I look these days, although she knows I worry and she worries because of that. She asks me what I weigh. We talk. She monitors, in her way. This is how partners support each other. This is how friends behave.

And that’s the point, one we’ve made to each other now. If your friends are more interested in making a joke at your expense, about a sensitive issue you’re struggling with…then maybe it’s time to dig a bit deeper into your definition of “friend,” and act accordingly.

I’m a lucky guy. I’ve got lots of friends, really. Friends who care about me, who love me, who help me. You know. Friends. Some are just readers, too. Still friends. I’m really, really lucky.

I don’t mind losing some, in other words. Weight, I mind. Friends who make jokes at my expense and hurt my feelings about a health issue? I can fix that.

The King’s Speech really is an excellent movie, if you haven’t seen it.

And it was a rant.

Chuck Sigars5 Comments