Monday, 28 April 2008

The Seaweed Is Always Greener/ In Somebody Else's Lake

When I kept diaries and then journals growing up, they usually stopped when life got really interesting. Read: Complicated and difficult. Often I found the pain of living through certain things once – and then picking them over endlessly in mind – to be more than enough.

Wednesday morning Bachelor No. 2 picked me up from Heathrow at 7 a.m. Two hours later, back at his flat, I spied a pair of silver earrings sitting on the bedside table – earrings that very definitely were not mine.

It is one thing to know that someone you’re dating might be sleeping with someone else. It is another thing to know it for sure. And it is still another to realize that in fact you have met this woman. In the pub. One one of your first dates. With BN2.

Even then, before this woman had any significance in my life (let alone any sinister significance), she reminded me of nothing so much as Ursula from A Little Mermaid – both in general size and that of her huge, garishly colored lips.

I find it somehow ironic that The Other Woman – or, judging from conversations BN2 and I have had over the past couple of days, One of The Other Women – is significantly larger than I ever was. One of the things I remember best about my brief meeting with her is that she behaved in a way I recognized as (Classic?) Fat Girl With a Successful Career – mostly because I behave (behaved? Used to behave?) this way myself. Which is to think that nobody will pay attention to you for your looks, and that instead you must be funnier or more intelligent than everyone else. I was exhausted by my brief conversation with her. (She actually is enormously successful.) I remember walking up Upper Street wondering if I still behaved that way, and wondering – insert collective ha ha in retrospect – if Bachelor No. 2 would be dating me if I looked (and behaved) the way I used to.

* * *

Things are not over with BN2 – not yet, but I think it’s inevitable. I just can’t seem to rip the plaster off quickly.

He says I am the most important woman in his life apart from his daughter. I don’t think it’s just a line, but I don’t think I can live this way. I want to be with someone with whom I am a better version of myself, and I don’t like how I’ve been this week. I don’t like how much time suddenly I spend wondering who he’s with and doing what, and where every sentence he utters seems to end in an ellipsis (denoting words he’s deleted because he can’t tell me them). Where every text at a strange hour is another woman, and every lapse in response time is because he’s with someone else. Where leaving him feels like my shift is ending.

I went to a party Friday night feeling defiant – and wearing an outfit I know BN2 likes. I got appallingly drunk on champagne and proceeded to kiss at least one man. I say at least one because the next day I found a business card in my purse for someone I don’t even remember meeting.

For the record, I don’t think I kissed the owner of the business card. But it was that kind of evening.

I didn’t feel better.

(Especially not since I was on weekend duty and had to wake up and deal with reading and analyzing nine newspapers.)

* * *

So… Passover? Passover in Miami actually was okay.

At the first seder I had a little of everything and a double helping of kugel, a Jewish casserole that in this case was a deliciously sweet version.

At the second seder – cooked by the same person, and with the same food except brisket instead of chicken – I skipped the gefilte fish and the matzo ball soup. Although this gefilte fish was relatively low in calories (I saw the jar it was from – 65 calories a serving), it still wasn’t worth even that. The matzo ball soup – usually a favorite of mine – wasn’t worth much either.

Both nights, I managed to keep in mind that Passover baked goods usually look a whole lot better than they taste – they’re somewhat akin to lowfat versions in that there are a lot of substituted ingredients. So I had a couple of (small) pieces of chocolate and some fruit.

I then proceeded to break Passover (not that I’ve observed the “no bread for eight days” rule for years) Monday by treating myself to a dessert I love. I don’t remember particularly fearing that it would lead to a binge and in fact, it didn’t.

As for my grandmother, she was in significantly worse shape than the last time I’d seen her. I spent a lot of the four days I spent with her thinking about how much her life these days is a study in motion efficiency – she doesn’t (can’t?) move even a tiny bit extra – and how much mine has become the opposite.

One morning – feeling a bit like a caged animal – I walked the 17 flights of stairs up to her apartment, grateful that I could.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods

Plus some security checks at Heathrow.

I found out about an hour ago that I’m in for not one but two Passover seders with 14 old ladies, one of whom is my grandmother. Yes, I’m off to Miami for a flying visit for Passover, and as it’s been years since I’ve been to two seders (a couple of times in England I haven’t been to any), I forgot that that’s what most Jews do.

Two seders means two big, long, (sort of) boring meals where I have no choice about what’s served to me and most of it I don’t even like very much. (Gefilte fish? Unless it’s homemade – which this one won’t be because these old ladies are just a little too old for that – not so much. Chopped liver? Not unless it’s my grandma’s homemade version, and, um, see previous sentence.) So you pick at the food a bit and what’s the problem, you ask?

If you’re asking, clearly you don’t have a Jewish grandmother.

I will be nagged about what I don’t eat and nagged about what I do eat. Every morsel I do or don’t put in my mouth will be commented upon, probably multiple times. It’s enough to make a person eat. Or if you’re me, binge.

On food I don’t even particularly like.

I’m honestly not sure what the solution is. I think I could have just about handled one night of it, but two somehow seems impossible. Much, much worse than when some gym instructor says “another 30 seconds” when you’re already in agony – and then after that announces a whole other minute.

Why did I choose to go this weekend? Well, I haven’t seen my grandmother since October – the longest I’ve gone in years without seeing her. It’s not an ideal time to go (and last-minute ticket prices aren’t ideal), but I looked at my diary and realized if I didn’t go this weekend I might not make it until July. Weekend duty. My birthday. Cannes. A friend’s 40th. Glastonbury. Isle of Wight. And my grandmother is 89. Her body has been slowly, painfully giving out in the past couple of years. I usually manage not to cry when I say goodbye to her, but the tears always fall somewhere between the walk down the hallway of her floor and my pulling out of the parking lot. I’m never sure I’m going to see her again.

I’d like to enjoy her company – at times my grandmother can be wickedly funny and wildly entertaining – and not just think of getting through the weekend like a trial. The question is: How?

* * *

Diet Quote of the Day

“I thought the G in GI stood for Greek.”
--BN2, on the glycemic index diet his parents are following. (He honestly thought it looked like they were eating a lot of Mediterranean type food, which they probably are.)

* * *

Tonight I was supposed to have a date with a very cute guy I met at a champagne tasting last week. Yes, the same champagne tasting I attended with BN2.

No, I didn’t swap numbers with him in front of BN2 or anything – I’m not that tacky. But if BN2 is going to carouse – well, I decided I’d exercise my own carousing (or at least, non-exclusivity) option from time to time. It’s gotten a bit flabby from disuse over the past few months.

This guy – if I suggested we call him asshat would that be too much of a spoiler? – was cute, tall, Cambridge-educated, and funny. Clearly it would have been way too much to ask for him also not to have been a complete flake or, erm, asshat.

We were supposed to meet at 7 p.m., a time he confirmed with me in the early afternoon today. (I actually was thinking he was going to flake when I got the email.) At 6:30 p.m. – the point at which many people would have been on the Tube (and thus without mobile phone service) – he sent a text saying he was stuck at work and could we make it another night? No warning earlier in the day about a big deadline or any such thing, and he’s not a lawyer or journalist, the sort of people who routinely do have to work way late way beyond their control.

Asshat. It’s a Friday night. Not that I cared much – I have to pack and be up at 4:30 a.m. to catch my flight.

* * *

The night of the champagne tasting – which alert readers (Bueller? Bueller?) may recall is also the night I binged (I know I should hyperlink but for some reason I have to code it myself on this computer, and I’m lazy) – BN2 mentioned my “trim midriff.” Yes, those are the words he used: “Trim midriff.”

BN2 is not the most objective source, so I took it as something nice to hear, but nothing more. But Thursday a totally random woman I've never seen before at Pilates – and an English woman (so not prone to chatting to strangers) at that – asked me how long I’d been coming to the studio. Why was she asking? “You’re so tiny around here,” she said, pointing to my, erm, midriff.

I left Pilates and went to a cocktail party to celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite London boutiques. Where, apparently giddy and disoriented from the headiness of anyone referring to my middle section as tiny -- I promptly allowed myself to be convinced to purchase a pair of white jeans. Yes, white jeans. A garment that highlights – no, spotlights – every single flaw, both of body and finance (they’re not meant for public transport, among other things). Just call me Elizabeth Hurley. Or call me crazy. How on earth did I let myself get talked into a pair of white jeans?

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Caution: Bumps for Next ??? Miles

Whenever I was upset about being single, one of my many married (or might as well be) friends would say: “Relationships are work.”

I would roll my eyes and think: Easy for you to say.

But they are work. And currently, I’m slightly exhausted by Bachelor No. 2. Maybe even weary. On both Saturday and Sunday nights we had these long, difficult conversations that are, frankly, just draining. (The last time I felt that drained was after 24 solid hours of, erm, stomach problems in East Timor and needed Sprite just to rehydrate, but we won’t go there right now.)

I spent a little time yesterday wondering if the fact that we’re having this much to sort out so early (less than four months in) means I should just end it. (Cue Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up.”) And then I decided I was being ridiculous – it doesn’t matter if other people have these kinds of problems. It matters only if I think being with him is worth all of this trouble.

And I’m not sure. Among other things: I’m not sure I can deal with I’m 32 and I don’t have a child and I’m not sure I want large chunks of my life dictated/limited/seriously affected by someone else’s, let alone someone else’s seriously inconsiderate ex-wife (who does not ever drop off child in the same hour she says she will.)

But the real issue – for me – is that BN2 wants to have it both ways. In some ways he treats me (and expects me to behave) like his girlfriend, and in others – some of them very significant – I am not. Because BN2 – citing 10-year marriage – wants to be free to do exactly as he likes. Which for a while I honestly was OK with (mostly). I didn’t necessarily like the idea of him shagging other women, but nor was I willing to close off my own options. But if this is all meant to be sort of casual – as current arrangement implies -- then how did everything get so heavy?

I’m writing this at least as much to work out my own feelings, which are – after an exhausting weekend – seriously mixed up. I felt better after one of the conversations (liken it to a really hard workout, actually – but the tiredness is a good tired), but then yesterday wondered what I’d been smoking and just felt crummy. It’s not that I necessarily want him to be my boyfriend. I just don’t know. At the moment I’ve got an email sitting in my inbox that he sent yesterday, about tickets he bought for something a month from now and how glad he was that we had the conversations we had, mostly due to my efforts. And I don’t want to answer it because I don’t know that I feel the same way.

It’s particularly ironic that one of things I really liked about BN2 from the start was the lack of drama. Now it seems there is more than enough to make up for before.

* * *

At Waitrose Sunday afternoon BN2 made a comment – sarcastic – about the joys of eating as a couple.

This was after I’d first been unable to announce off the top of my head what I wanted for dinner (“What’s the first food that comes into your mind?” he asked, sounding irritated. “Seriously?” I asked. “Porridge. Really.” “You can’t have porridge for dinner,” he said, although I’ve told him I do sometimes. And so forth.) And then I’d been refusing starter suggestions of his because I didn’t like the spiciness/mayonnaise factor/ingredients (sorry, but I mostly try not to buy foods with ingredients I can’t pronounce).

I begged him to just buy whatever he’d buy if I weren’t there, partly because I’d had heavy influence on the main course, and partly because if I were eating dinner at home on my own I wouldn’t have a starter (unless it was eating various ingredients as or before I cooked them!) I apologized for being a pain, but reminded him that the last time we’d done this I’d asked if we could go to the grocery store with a list, because I don’t do well wandering up and down aisles looking at things – particularly not when I’m hungry, which I was.

We ended up with pate (something I’d never have bought on my own), some kind of chicken dish (which I also wouldn’t have bought on my own, but not as bad as some of his other suggestions), and Greek yogurt with berries for dessert. For the record, thanks partly to child and to difficult conversations (which were unrelated to child, but anyway) we never had the chicken dish. The berries and yogurt we had somewhere north of midnight, like war-weary generals shaking hands across the kitchen table.

* * *

I’d been meaning to post the following earlier, but I’ve been (pre)occupied with other things.

On Thursday, after at least four days of feeling like I constantly was fighting the urge to binge, I gave in.

I so almost didn’t. I’d drunk quite a lot of champagne and I sat there at this private members’ club in London thinking: Don’t do it. Don’t do it. You’ll feel awful if you do. I grabbed my handbag, stood up, then sat down again. Then I got increasingly bored and frustrated as BN2 was making polite conversation with someone we’d just met at a champagne tasting, and it seemed like we were never ever going to leave.

And so I picked up my bag, said I was going to the bathroom, and dashed upstairs and down the block to the Leon, where I bought a brownie and some other little cake-type thing. (Note to self: Don’t waste calories on Leon brownies. They’ve got some nasty orange flavor in them.) Then I bought some small Cadbury bar – I think it was Dairy Milk, but really, I’m not even sure. Whatever I could grab, since I didn’t have enough cash for the Ritter one I really wanted.

That was the whole binge – probably more of what my therapist would have called a subjective binge than anything else. (It helped that I had almost no cash on me, and was wearing ridiculously high heeled boots so the cash point was just too far.) The amount of food I consumed wasn’t appalling – it was just the idea that I had to sneak out to buy food and then cram it in my mouth. And of course, the desperation.

I’m not feeling as bad about it as I’d thought. In the days beforehand, I did my best to mitigate the urge to binge, eating a cheeseburger one day (careful to add the cheese, since just a burger on its own – when my friend was having a cheeseburger – felt like deprivation) and some good dark chocolate the next. I ate more than usual those days, although I wouldn’t say I overate.

In the past I’d have eaten dinner before going to an event like that and then not allowed myself any of the canapés. But the event started at 6:30 – a little too early for me to eat and arrive there in time – and I guess I got a little too complacent about my ability to block out canapés (particularly when it’s a huge platter of cheese sitting in front of me). Lesson learned.

* * *

Weight this morning: 11 stone 2 (156 lbs). No idea how that happened -- given the amount I ate and drank this week (not outrageous, but certainly more than usual), think it must be artifically low from something yesterday, although I'm not sure what.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Mind Over Stomach

Halfway through lunch – perhaps the most uninspiring tuna nicoise salad ever – with BN2, I was looking at the Tesco Express across the street and thinking about a binge.

I’ve never seen BN2 order a pudding, his lunch was much more filling than mine (he was having the Sunday roast), and anyway, he was going to pick up his daughter and then come back and meet me. I’d be left on my own for about an hour, and I was already thinking about the binge.

What was it he was talking about? I only had half an ear, because it’s hard for me to concentrate when there’s people eating yummy winter puddings around me, and I’m thinking about all the things I want to eat and might soon be able to as soon as – hurry up and stop lingering, BN2, dammit, don’t you understand that I need to eat – I’m left on my own.

And then, like in yoga, where you’re supposed to bring your mind back to your breath, I brought my attention back to what he was saying. Mostly. I can’t remember who brought up the pudding, but we decided to split one. Luckily, it was a good one. (Am I the only one who’s more likely to binge after having had a bad/unsatisfying pudding than none at all?)

When BN2 got up to leave, I decided I’d write an email to a sympathetic friend who probably wouldn’t receive it for hours (she’s 10 hours ahead), trying to work out why I wanted to binge. As I pulled out my blackberry, a couple sat down on the sofa and pulled out from their Tesco carrier bag exactly the sort of thing I’d been thinking about bingeing on. I could practically taste it. Sigh. I wrote my email. Deep breath. I thought about how crummy I would feel for the rest of the evening – how irritated and agitated and cranky bingeing would make me. Deep breath. I bought a diet Coke and walked down the high street.

* * *

Scale this morning: 11 stone 4.5. I feel a bit like I did in school, when I was convinced I’d done poorly on a test but somehow squeaked out an A.

Among other things, there was the risotto Saturday night (where I finished my entire dish, while BN2 ate half of his, saying how filling it was), the Sunday lunch plus pudding, the Sunday dinner where I went back for seconds, what feels like a trough of nuts I’ve consumed this week for snacks, and the lychee martinis Thursday and the wine on Saturday. But then, I thought, there has been yoga and Pilates and running and boxing and lots of walking. So is this what’s called maintenance? This I feel like I can handle.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Size Matters

Clothes I have bought in the past two weeks:
1. A Dili, East Timor t-shirt in a child’s size medium
2. A 40s style belted white jacket, UK size 10/US size 6
3. Yoga pants from Sweaty Betty, size small (15 minutes before a yoga class I wanted to try, but didn’t have gear with me)
4. Radcliffe skinny jeans, size 29 (chosen for me and approved by the designer herself)

I can’t help feeling tedious even writing the above, especially with the current fuss over Sweet Valley High sizing. (What I found perhaps more irritating than the twins’ perfect size six figures was the fact that they were always going to the Dairi Burger and eating more food for a snack than I would have eaten in public for dinner.) But at least as much as I struggle with food, I struggle with my image of myself.

I still think of myself as wearing size 20s, worrying that a one-size-fits-all won’t fit me. I walk sideways through narrow spaces, often sucking in my stomach. (A friend even pointed this out to me – though not the stomach-sucking-in part – at a shop in Sumatra). My stomach and throat tighten in fear when someone’s about to show me photos that include me, and I automatically scan for the largest body, sure that that’s how I’ll locate myself.

Yesterday I had a random conversation with a slim acquaintance about how when she thinks of herself as fat, she overeats and eats poorly and puts on weight. When she thinks of herself as thin – or really, reminds herself that she’s thin – she says she stops eating when she’s full and stops thinking of various foods as off limits (and thus doesn’t overeat them). Unfortunately, she couldn’t describe how she flips the switch from one to the other – only that, ironically, the switch always flips from fat back to think when she gains about 10 pounds.

* * *

Today I spent £45 on a yoga class I loathed.

Technically the class was £13 – but I spent £20 on yoga pants and £12 on a t-shirt (both on sale at Sweaty Betty – even I have limits) because I didn’t have any kit with me when I happened to end up near Triyoga Soho just before a class was starting. (For several reasons, my schedule is in huge flux -- and will continue to be so for several weeks -- so I wanted to grab the opportunity to try the class when I could.)

I think I’m spoiled from so much great yoga in Bali (which is what’s prompted the current yoga class hunt), but this class was particularly appalling, especially for a studio frequently named one of the best in Europe. I have a tendency to chafe at the unfamiliar (I usually have to try classes a few times – I never like them instantly), but I think in this case it really was the class/teacher and not me. It was overcrowded. The pace was frantic, with nothing explained. (It was billed as suitable for beginners.) At one point, the teacher said to me: “I have no idea what you’re doing there.” (This said as she was standing half on my mat, half on another student’s demonstrating something because there was so little space – and I was trying to shrink out of her way.) And at the end of the 75 minutes, she pimped her book, CD, and yoga retreats. Ugh.