Heading Out To The Past, Watching The Future

It’s been the coldest winter since 1985 up here, meaning the winter my daughter was born. If you’re under 32, and you live in Western Washington, this is the coldest. Period.

It just wasn’t that cold. Just a tick or two down. I seem to remember a couple of days dropping into the 20s early in the morning, but otherwise there were some days in the 30s that never quite made it out, and then the rest was just a tad cooler and wetter than normal. Perspective, once again, was everything. No damaging windstorms, although we had some (and some power outages, although not in this house, or at least not for more than a few moments).

So these temperatures flirting with the 50s lately are easy to miss, what with the relentless rain and gray. A local meteorologist blogged the other day that we’ve had three sunny days since October. That seems hard to believe, but then the criteria might be different for him than us. Any sun is a sunny day. I’m locking the definition right now.

Also, it’s 51 degrees at the moment, and it’s early. Know hope.


My wife has a couple of remarkably talented students at the university where she teaches, a young man and woman, both of whom were performing sets at a venue on Capitol Hill in Seattle on Sunday night. So of course we went.

And of course they were great, amazing even. So young, but they wrote their own songs, one a singer and the other more versatile, switching between guitar and keyboard, switching between sweet harmony (he had backup singers!) to some serious rock ‘n’ roll with metal overtones, at least to an ear that has leaned more classical in the past few decades. I can still appreciate it, though, particularly in a live setting.

Particularly on Capitol Hill, too, where from time to time we’d be in dives like this (it wasn’t a dive; it just could have played one in a movie) back in the early 1980s before we had a baby and clubbing slid out of the picture. A movie once in a while was pretty cool after that.

As was going out on Sunday, walking the streets late at night, soaking up the ambience of what felt very much like the old neighborhood, when of course it’s not. Seattle is jammed full of brogrammers and the like, jacking up rent and gentrifying what was once a lively (if weird and occasionally dangerous) part of town. I can’t mourn this, not being there much and also aware that over 30-plus years it’s possible that things will change, you think?

And aside from a vague feeling that we were chaperones (there were a couple of older couples, obviously coming to see a young person they know perform, but we were it by the closing set). The remaining oldsters, quietly slipping out, smiles all around. We heard some new music, and we felt as though it was in good hands.


I also saw a selection of one-acts at the university last Thursday night. The theme was supposedly Irish, although it wasn’t exactly Beckett or Yeats or O’Casey or even George Bernard Shaw. The accents wandered a little, as did the acting, although there were a couple of actors who had tons of potential as far as I could tell from these little moments on stage.

And nostalgia, definitely, and more than heading out for a night of club music (my wife packed a whole bag of earplugs, just in case it was too loud, although not needed. Still. Old people). The one-acts were performed in the studio/workshop theater, which looked almost exactly like the one we had in college and where I did my share of one-acts, including a couple I wrote. Nostalgia was not unexpected.

It’s still here, too. It makes me want to write plays, although that ship might have passed. Nothing is too late, it’s never too late, but sensibilities change from every angle. Mine, theirs. I resist the urge to bore audiences; a little narcissism helps in certain situations, not so much in others.


I asked my wife about the women, afterwards. I’ve noticed it before, and not just at school, but since I mostly see performers that’s what I tried to hang this particular hat on.

That is, a majority of the actresses were awfully big. Not huge, but heavy. Much heavier than most college actresses I remember (there were always a couple, and usually stood out because they were so talented). Julie says this is pretty prevalent on campus, so I wonder. Men too, but not as much.

And it could be the men, now that I think of it. I’ve seen countless pictures of lean grooms and hefty brides in the past few years. Could be that young men are seeing inner beauty, I dunno. You worry about that much weight so young, but at the same time we can celebrate a bit. I saw lots of inner beauty myself.

My wife has spent the past couple of years changing her diet, after gaining weight for the first time in her life starting in her late 40s. Some of it has come back, a little. It’s enough to mildly annoy her, particularly since the fall quarter was incredibly busy for her, but she still is in the normal range. Maybe a couple of tenths past a normal Body Mass Index, but that’s a tricky stat and best used to just give a general idea of where patients lie on the healthy weight continuum. A healthy weight according to that would be no more than a 24.9 BMI, while at her highest my wife tips the BMI scale at 25.2. And that’s the highest. So it’s all about comfort, some clothes that fit better at certain weights. We all know about this.

Mine lies this morning at 23.2, which is about perfect, although I say perfect knowing that really doesn’t exist. It’s healthy; 24.2 would be healthy too. It’s not something I think about this side of peeking over my doctor’s shoulder when she looks at the computer and checks out my vital signs.

Age is the big justification here. I was getting in the shower and made the mistake of turning around to check my backside. Not the gluteals; gravity is always going to take your fine butt and turn it into Greek yogurt. I was checking that section of my back where the love handles creep; not so evident from the front, plenty clear from the back. Big ol’ wads of back fat.

I’m 58. I can survive.

And here’s a funny thing I do. Not ha-ha funny. More strange funny.

I try to weigh every day. I try to accurately calculate how much food (i.e., calories) I’ve consumed. Even if it’s a day of nothing but pie eating, I give it a shot.

The strange part is I have two weights. What my scale says, and what I think it should. This isn’t fantasy; it’s math. Let’s say I get sick, and don’t eat much. Or what the hell; let’s say I eat nothing, for whatever reason. A couple of days. Might feel a little lightheaded on the second day.

And, using math again, I should lose maybe half a pound a day. Fasting. So two days, and I’ve lost four pounds. This is mostly less water (less food=less water), but since the scale measures what you weigh at any given moment, I assume this is a dry weight. It won’t keep dropping at that level. It’s just reached a dry weight. There’s not a lot of stuff in my stomach to register.

And so I write down what the scale says, and then I use math again to determine what that dry weight would be. It’s usually slightly less than the scale. If it’s 5 pounds heavier, and I eat a normal diet and it doesn’t drop significantly, over a period of weeks, and I adjust.

I’ve been eating a pretty regular diet lately, though, and I’ve been busy in the afternoons and evenings so I usually eat during the day, needing the energy and not wanting to run out of time.

So I’m within a pound today of the dry weight. This means nothing except I may be doing something right.

And once again I’m tempted to spell this whole thing out, because after nine years of this it appears I know what I’m talking about. But just for me. At most, just for men. Women have their own challenges, and they’re much more complicated than for most men. Unfair, but the way it is.

Still, after all the scary stuff, the lack of appetite and the weird lab values and the fact that now I have to take a vitamin D3 supplement every day, that mostly vanity-driven goal has been reached. My weight hasn’t fluctuated more than 3 pounds since late August.

I look at the pictures all the time. The fat ones. Back when I dreamed that I could fix this, that I wouldn’t be embarrassed by the stray photo or my reflection in the store window as I enter. In the big picture, this is a silly goal. Stay healthy, try to ward of obesity, and stop worrying so much.

I don’t worry. I have no fear of gaining 100 pounds, any more than I fear drinking again. Everything is possible. I just think this is who I am now, and that’s fine. Stay here, and that’s fine. Gain 20 pounds, and it would still be OK. This is what I wanted, this is what I fantasized about, and this is where I am.

It changes nothing, except for everything, but that’s probably not going to go over well. Let’s just say that I eliminated one problem, assuming health is not an issue: I can wear my clothes.

Not wearing clothes is not option. So I think I’m good. I’m just going to stay here, and aside from occasionally posting something on the topic (you think it’s not occasional. I say it is) I’ll stay away from trying to project my experience on anyone else.

Find the inner beauty, though. That’s my advice. Eat healthy foods, indulge but keep that to a minimum (you can pig out on cookies or ice cream or pie or maybe a plate full of all three, and maybe gain 0.3 of a pound); one day of bad eating makes absolutely no difference, all things being equal (e.g., you don’t have diabetes or something else that makes this problematic). Just don’t do it tomorrow.

And for God’s sake, don’t beat yourself up. There’s a million things I can’t do that I wish I could. Weight can sometimes feel impossible. It’s up to you to either change, or know that you are special, unique and quirky and smart and funny. Nobody will care how your pants fit. Nobody cares how mine do, and they fit fine.

Every time I see a painfully overweight person, I’m reminded of the saying that gets passed around these days: Everybody you meet has a secret struggle. Just being aware of that changes everything. And if you give in to that experience, inner beauty transforms into just beauty. We can all get behind that.

Also, shivering burns calories. So this winter hasn’t been a total bust. Just looking on the bright side here.

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