The word ‘paunch’ started ricocheting in my cranium like a lethal pinball. Unlike in a Stephen King novel however, it did not lead to my demise through radical dieting or going for a walk until my feet became stumps. Instead, I began a fierce shock-and-awe campaign of wearing looser shirts and sucking in my stomach. Oh, and some exercise.
I began a regime of crunches and core exercises that might have served as punishment in the Marine corps. For two weeks. Deep beneath the flabby surface, I knew there were abs straining to come out. I could literally feel them struggling to surface, like a hapless skier who has found that he is six feet under after triggering an avalanche.
I increased my running regime, which had been sagging of late. The usual reasons, too much content to catch up with on Netflix et al. And that most handy of excuses: birthday parties. Our family goes to a lot of them, many nephews and nieces with the audacity to celebrate their birthdays.
I then turned my discouraged eyes to my diet. (saved that for last, because being the least fun to deal with) I already have eradicated soft drinks from my diet. This gave me the notion that, with such a noble sacrifice, I might fill the gap with foods from the crunchy spectrum of the food triangle.
I am maintaining the running, which is my passion. Like an unwanted guest, the paunch is here to stay, despite my efforts to get it to leave. (putting on pyjamas is a great way to signify that the party is over, please leave)
Moral: Leave it to your mother, or little children, to give you the unalloyed truth. Accepting it? Another story.
Back in my twenties, I worked an office job for an art supply store, in the marketing department. I put together a lot of advertising, assembled a store catalog, and registered people into various fine arts classes taught by that rarest of birds, successful artists.
There was a lot of down time, especially when my boss went away for weeks on end for artist retreats or trips to Florence. I was given tasks, which I cleverly eked out to last the entire time he was away. I could have done these tasks in a few days but stretched them out, thanks to making elaborate caffeinated beverages with the genuine Italian cappuccino machine. Or miso soup. I made many trips into the warehouse, where grunge music blared, to obtain some products to scan for the catalog. I also, I am not proud to say, took a few items – never anything overly priced (like Winsor and Newton series 7 brushes) but usually more things that there was a surplus of, pens, pencils, paints, and cheaper brushes.
Then I would decorate my ‘office’ with cartoons from the Atlantic or New Yorker. Or some less graphic R. Crumb. My office was really a generous office supply room, but I was happy to have it, given the moods of my mercurial boss. (standing over my shoulder as I toiled away at a layout on my Mac, random yelling followed by abject sobbing when a father-themed song came over the stereo – he had recently lost his) When I ran out of stalling tactics such as these, I might even leave the office entirely and enjoy a nice mid-morning stroll followed by a chicken salad sandwich at the deli, that I could nurse over for an extraordinary amount of time.
As time wore on, I made less and less effort at maintaining this subterfuge. My boss’s boyfriend, Steve, was showing up after work less and less, leading to even less mood stability. They were in the midst of a long-drawn out break-up.
I remember being yelled at in the stairwell, on my shoddy workmanship, Then, to my surprise, being accused of being on some mood-altering drug! This was probably brought on by my lack of reaction upon being yelled at. (It was definitely not drugs since I had gravitated to the beer-drinking crowd, not the cluster-around-the doors-of the-high-school stoner crowd.) After all, I had been yelled at by the best, my parents, and a few high school teachers.
Possibly it was my ‘Japanese stoicism’ that I had inherited from my father that so enraged him. My mother had recently taken some assertiveness classes, the handouts of which I had perused through. This enabled me to test-run some techniques which were partially effective as it allowed me to stand up for myself, even though I was half-ready to bail on the job. I didn’t have the courage to leave the job cold.
Eventually, I was laid off, owing to ‘a lack of work’, which I was beside myself with joy over, as of a released prisoner. (Reminiscent of my leaving home at 18 to rent a basement suite.) I walked on air for a few days, until certain fiscal realities came to light. A need to pay for food, shelter, all that. I later found out that no one could work with my boss, and there was a long history of quittings and teary departures. I had the dubious distinction of sticking it out the longest with him, which says more about where my head was those days.
The funny thing is, outside of work, my boss was a great guy, lent me his (piece of crap) pickup truck and trusted me to housesit and keep his parrot fed, when he and Steve went on occasional cruises to LA. I learned how different people can become in a work environment. Interestingly, towards the end, he did have a revelatory moment when he said, ‘I get it. You’re stoic!’ This seemed to mollify him since the mood-altering drugs theory didn’t really hold water.
I never held the fact that he could be a dick at work against him, as unpleasant as that was. Then again, I’ve steered away from office jobs ever since!
Thanks for reading!
Sorry, bit of a poopy theme these days. What can I say? Pooping is the great leveller, as they say. Okay, no one says that but, other than the queen, everyone poops. Colonoscopys are not a picnic but they DO save lives. Get one done if you’re of a certain age, 45 or better.