Friday, July 27, 2007

Earning the Right To Bare Arms

Long before I had a kid, when I still had a waistline, I visited a
private trainer who fancied himself a health guy. He told me he hated,
hated, hated working with clients who said they just wanted to "look
good in a bathing suit." He was interested in helping people improve
their health. So what, he asked me, would I like to work on?

blinked a few times. I was 22 and healthy. I couldn't think of a
reasonable lie, so I told him the truth: "I want arms like TLC."

body was fine – sure, I would have liked bigger boobs, but whatever. My
only aspiration was to have appendages as cut and strong-looking as
then-living singer Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and the rest of her all-girl
pop band.

The trainer gave me a look. I didn't hire him, and I never did work on those arms.

out, though, I didn't have to. All I had to do was add 10 pounds of
belly flab and a C-section scar to my bod, and – voila – arms so cut
they could scratch glass.

I had no idea that one day a toddler
would become my one and only piece of fitness equipment. But there he
is, all smiles and 25 pounds of him, refusing his stroller, demanding
my arms and – constantly – handing me things.

Whenever Zev finds
a rock or a twig or a scrap of paper that tickles his fancy, he thrusts
it into my hands. I'm asked to carry pebbles, toys, even imaginary
balls. He'll sometimes inexplicably demand, with the utmost
earnestness, that I stop making dinner that very moment, accept one of
his toy trains and "hold it tight."

I think he'd store things in my nose if he could reach that high.

weekend that the Disneyland submarine ride made its triumphant return,
I stood in a two-hour line. In the heat. Without water. Carrying a
couple of rocks in my pocket and my son in my arms.

There was
plenty of time for people-watching, so I took note of the fact that
every parent I saw was holding stuff. Sticky stuff, messy stuff,
ridiculous stuff (the sunburned linebacker-looking-dude holding the
miniature pink Cinderella backpack was my favorite). One common theme
to the stuff: None of it seemed to belong to the parents themselves.
They were all just schlepping their kids' junk.

So when Hubby swung by completely unencumbered, I was furious.

"Where's the backpack?" I hissed at him.

"It's in the stroller," he said, motioning to some far-off corner of the theme park where he'd abandoned it. "It's heavy."

demanded that he go get it. Not only did the backpack contain my
wallet, but it is a backpack – it's supposed to be on our backs. My
first 45 minutes standing in that line confirmed that carrying a bunch
of junk is the whole point of parenthood. So get with the program,
buddy, and start schlepping.

Besides, carrying stuff may be the only thing keeping most parents from expanding at the same rate as the universe.

was in a dressing room at Bloomingdale's recently, trying on swimsuits
and thinking about that personal trainer I never hired. Zev had snagged
a number of bikinis off the low racks and carried them into the
dressing room. As I tried on one of my selections, he kept handing me
his. Without even thinking about it, I took one. Then another. Then a

Before long, I was standing before a full-length mirror,
assessing the horror show that is my body, while holding fistfuls of

"Zev!" I finally said, realizing what I was doing. "Please don't give me any more. I can't hold them."

I wouldn't hold them, Zev reasoned, then he should be allowed to hang
them on the dressing room hooks. So I hoisted him up, and while he
carefully and patience-testingly placed one swimsuit on a hook at a
time, I caught another glimpse of myself in the mirror.

My thighs touched. My belly pooched. But … look at those arms! Unmistakably well-defined triceps. Undeniably strong biceps.

may have a few more pounds – and many more pebbles, twigs and toys – on
me than I'd like. But at least being Zev's living fanny pack has paid
off in one area: I finally have those arms I always wanted. They're cut
like TLC.

Sigh. I have to think that somewhere in the world, a health-conscious fitness trainer is laughing his rock-hard glutes off.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Still Playing Dress-Up

I recently sat at a table, in a gaggle of women, sipping Cristal as
a limo waited for us outside a hot L.A. nightclub. It was Keren's
birthday. We were celebrating in style. But all I could think about was
“The Love Boat.”

It wasn't just the
Julie-the-cruise-director short-shorts that all the women at the club
were sporting. (Apparently, camp counselor gear passes for evening wear
these days. Who knew?) I had “The Love Boat” sailing around my brain
because I wasn't entirely comfortable in my outfit

I was 6, Sarah's mom set up a “dress-up box” for her – and by
transitive property, me. Boas, hats, high heels, anything that Sarah's
mom didn't want anymore, she'd toss in the box for us to play with. I
never understood exactly how she chose which clothes to toss in the box
for us, but they almost always seemed to be evening wear.

dress-up box was a powerful thing, capable of transforming and
transporting us. Donning our mysterious, grown-up garb, we'd go from
being giggly 6-year-olds to embodying our ideal of sophistication,
glamour and sexiness. Which, at the time, meant that we'd pretend we
were guests on the “Love Boat.”

Ah, Capt. Stubing and his
lucky crew! To young Sarah and me, there was not a more enchanting,
romantic, sartorially significant existence than that of the women who
graced the Pacific Princess.

The way they'd sweep into the
ship's dining room in floor-length evening gowns, dripping in diamonds,
poised to fall madly in love – I still swoon just thinking about it.
Sarah and I wanted nothing more than to turn “older,” and take to the
open seas with our consorts and our fabulous clothing.

In the meantime, we'd have to make do with the dress-up box.

loved playing make-believe, but I was always acutely aware that it was
a game. I was swimming in those clothes, after all. Half the time, we
probably looked like participants in a very strange potato sack race.
Eventually, though, we just knew we'd grow into those clothes – and
into the mature women we saw at the Captain's table.

I'm finally “older,” but those clothes aren't any more natural on me
now. At the club the other night, I fretted that my skirt was too
dated. For one thing, it covered my butt, which meant it was by far one
of the longest skirts in the bar. I also doubted my choice of earrings.
And my Spanx struggled to suck in that enormous dinner we all wolfed
down earlier.

Too self-conscious to get up from the table,
I watched some of the other women walk by – the ones who looked dressed
to kill, and the ones who looked as though they had killed their own
dress. It struck me that many of us – maybe most of us – still feel
like we're playing dress-up when we wiggle into formal gowns and
nightclub wear.

No matter how good they looked, women
tugged at their hems and applied coat after coat of lip gloss. They
shifted their weight in a silent complaint about their high heels.

this really all there is to adulthood? I think the reptilian part of my
brain still believed that truly “grown-up” women dress in formal wear
at all times and always look perfectly put together. But reality caught
up with me that night: The women on “The Love Boat” probably slipped
into sweatpants at the end of the evening.

I got home after
2 a.m., peeled off my heels and snuck as quietly in the house as I
could so as not to wake up Hubby and Zev. When I woke up the next
morning, I found my clothes piled on the floor. They reeked of
cigarette smoke and sweat, and they looked more like they'd been thrown
away than removed.

Looking at them, I smiled. All these
years later I figured out how Sarah's mom chose which clothes to toss
in the dress-up box. It probably had nothing to do with fashion or how
worn out the clothes were. It was probably much more psychological than

At the end of a night on the town, she probably
tossed the outfits that made her feel as though she was wearing
somebody else's clothes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I've Got A Secret

My stomach hurts.

My stomach hurts, my palms are sweaty and I can’t sleep.

I’m as tweaked as a heroin addict, and every time my phone rings I jump, nervously checking caller ID before I dare pick up.

Years ago I decided to work on my ability to keep a secret. I hated being the girl who ruined everyone’s surprise party. I couldn’t see movies before anyone else without giving away the ending. I was a complete buzz kill at holidays, always blurting out what someone’s gift was  while they were opening it.

So, I worked on it. Practiced biting my tongue. Perfected my poker face. And now I can honestly say that I am able to keep a secret.

But it’s killing me.

By the time you read this, Keren’s birthday will have come and gone.
Her husband’s lavish celebration plans will have been executed, and
good times will be had by all.

But as of this writing, there are four days left until the party, and
I’m about to collapse from the weight of all this privileged

I get all twitchy around Keren. When we hung out recently, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror: I looked downright green.

It’s so bad, that I can’t make eye contact with her. In fact, I can
barely make eye contact with anyone. I feel like a criminal. Like prey.
It’s as though I can sense that at any given moment Truth-Seeking
Ninjas are going to crash through my front windows and fight me until I
finally blurt out: “We’re going to have a spa day. Then dinner. Then
clubbing. There, I’ve told you, now please, spare my life!”

It takes most of my energy to rein in my natural
reporter-must-tell-the-world instincts. But the thing that eats at me
the most about keeping someone’s secret is the fear that I’ll let the
news slip accidentally. I already almost ruined the surprise once.

“Why would your husband be calling me?” I asked Keren on the phone, as
my call-waiting caller ID announced Mark on the other line.

Idiot! I realized as soon as I said it. Maybe because he’s trying to tell you something about the
super-secret plans.

“Hang on,” I said to her, as I moved my thumb over to the “Flash” button.

But then I panicked. What if she asks what Mark said? What’s my alibi?

With my thumb still poised over the button, I thought it over: I could tell her that Mark wanted Hubby’s cell number… but
then, why would he need that? Maybe I could tell her he called me
accidentally. That’s it! That’ll work!

By the time I came up with my genius plan, Mark’s call had been sent to
voicemail, Keren moved on to a new thought, and disaster was averted.
But I got off the phone completely wiped out.

I think Keren can sense my weakness because for the last few weeks, she
keeps bringing up her birthday to me – telling me what she’s like to
get for her birthday, asking if I know what Mark is doing for her
birthday. I’ve begun to suspect that she sadistically drops the word
“birthday” into a conversation, like it’s a bomb, just to watch the
veins pop out on my forehead.

“When is your birthday, again?” Boom! “Did Zev have fun at his birthday
party?” Bam! “Did you know that this year my birthday will be on
7/7/07?” Ker-Pow!

I think I need to take out temporary restraining orders on all my friends around their birthdays.

Either that, or get their significant others to stop including me in
their secrets. It’ll make surprise parties harder, sure. And it might
make for a few awkward conversations: I can’t believe
you’d sit here with your wife right in front of you and say you don’t
want to do anything for her birthday! Doesn’t it fall on a Saturday
this year? Hey, why are you shoving that sock in my mouth?!

Difficult, sure. But I have to do something: I shed years off my life
every time someone plans a soiree.  Yes. Staying out of everyone else’s
plans is definitely the way to. I’m going to alert my friends – after
Keren’s birthday. Until then, I don’t have the energy to talk to anyone.

I’m going to lie down. My stomach hurts.