By Mark McNease
It’s always One Thing or Another … a lighthearted look at aging, life, and the absurdities of it all.
Whether or not you think 57 still counts as midlife (who doesn’t anticipate celebrating their 114th birthday wheezing out a single candle on a ShopRite cake, flanked by an anxious home health aide and an impatient funeral director), the fact remains that age and width are proportionate for most of us. Not all of us, of course. There are those among us who insist they’re only as old as they feel, despite sharp disagreement from titanium hips and birth certificates. You know who you are: you swear by kale smoothies, you’ve never met an elliptical you didn’t want to mount, and you start each day by posting life-affirming platitudes on Facebook.
For the rest of us, attaining anything close to our dream weight (or dream finances or dream retirement) requires steady, soul crushing effort and a predisposition toward delusion. I will get back to my pre-relationship weight, just 30 pounds and a decade ago. I will keep my calorie intake below my Weight Watchers maximum for the day. I will get through breakfast, lunch and dinner resolutely refusing bread and sugar … tomorrow. It’s always tomorrow, for with every morning that sees renewed commitment comes an evening enjoyed in honor of something to excuse that molten lava cake. It’s our anniversary (one of several, just in case). It’s Labor Day weekend. It’s the quadricentennial of the printing press, of course this calls for toasted coconut gelato! So ends a day begun with such promise, but fear not—there will be a next time, another chance to claim victory over our impulses, at least until that funeral director stops being impatient and cashes the check.
Companies are aware of all this and have gone to great lengths to help us make them rich. There is now an app for every affirmation and a form-fitting device for every goal. I’ve got one on my wrist. My husband has one. If you look around sometime, you’ll see nearly every biped you meet wearing some version of the ubiquitous tracker keeping scrupulous count of our leg-scissoring, heart pumping and sleep deprivation from all those nightly trips to the bathroom.
We can instantly see how many steps we’ve taken from the couch to the refrigerator. We can divide it by calories, multiply by stairs climbed, and come to a scientifically reliable estimate of our daily success or failure, all using a thick rubber band with digital display on our arm. We can surpass our own expectations or fail miserably to meet them. We can even challenge each other in The Great Step Throw Down, seeing who took the most steps in a day and lived to crow about it. Bad knees at the 5,000 mark? Keep going! Upper thighs crying for relief at 7,000? Keep going! Tendinitis flaring up just about the time the Little Wristband That Could explodes with a bold, flashing 10,000 and confetti falls from the ceiling of our minds? Congratulations, you’ve just taken two years off your life expectancy, but you did it. You won. You can collapse now.
I’ll admit the biggest incentive I currently have for slimming down is the success my friends are having. Nothing says “failure” like eating out on Friday night with a husband who really has reached his pre-relationship weight, thanks almost entirely to that wristband I’ve just mocked, and a friend who’s lost 30 pounds through sometimes fatal means. I look at them. I look at me. I cross my arms over my belly to pretend it’s not there. And I check my steps. Just another hundred or so before the tyrant on my wrist starts vibrating and I know I’ve done it again. I’m a winner in the Step Wars, or at least an infantryman. I’ll get there, somehow, someday, one step at a time. Meanwhile, I see a couple at the next table celebrating a birthday and I ask for the dessert menu. It’s only right.
Mark McNease is the Editor of lgbtSr, a website “where age is embraced and life is celebrated.” He has had six plays produced, with the last, Till Morning Comes, premiered at New Jersey Repertory Co. He’s the author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, co-editor and publisher of the anthology Outer Voices Inner Lives (Lambda Literary Award finalist), and the co-creator of the Emmy and Telly winning children’s program Into the Outdoors.