Friday, 29 January 2010

Shiny, Happy People

Text message last night from Friend Bearing Chocolate, who now lives abroad: "How are you?"

I was standing with one of my best friends, and our hilarious English dance class was about to begin. I was hung over from a crazy night of wine-tasting (er, gulping), and looking forward to a busy weekend after two quiet ones. The day before I'd received an invitation to a dinner party and realized – with a great rush of joy – that I didn't have to consider anyone or anything other than: Do I want to go and am I free? (Yes, and yes.) No scheming, no negotiating, no angsting, no recrimination.

"I fear I will jinx myself just by saying this, but I am SO HAPPY!" I finally wrote back, almost as if I couldn't believe it myself. Not every minute, of course, but in general, happy.

I felt particularly, well, happy to be able to say so to FBC, who has seen and heard some of the worst of BN2. It was FBC who happened to be in town when we split in May, and FBC to whom I fled a couple of weeks later, just to get out of town. Like all of the friends who had any glimpse of what my life was really like this past year (and frankly, that wasn't all that many of them because I am nothing if not a good editor) she would listen and express concern and tell me I deserved so much better. She would tell me she'd do whatever she could to help. Then I'd go home to BN2, feeling exhausted and defeated and frustrated – and somewhat pathetic. Why couldn't I just leave? I felt like I was at the bottom of a pit in some sort of Roman amphitheatre – like something out of Gladiator -- all of my friends above watching and shaking their heads as I slowly disappeared.

And now, suddenly, I've escaped. There are times when I feel almost unbearably sad and lonely – and strange moments where I think almost incredulously: I dumped him, as though someone else did it – but for the most part, I am moving on. And revelling in it.

Exchanging emails with O, who also asked in an aside how I was, I wrote something similar to what I'd told FBC.

O and I are not happy by nature – get us together and we can be a bunch of tortured cynics. We envy O's happy-go-lucky girlfriend, who – as O puts it – sleeps the deep, contented sleep where you can see the zzzz's above her head. We, however, lose sleep over things she would never consider.

O writes back:

"How completely wonderful! I am genuinely delighted to hear that. You deserve some happiness - you have been shamelessly kicked around and I am not surprised that you feel bruised. BE HAPPY."


Lest you think it's all sunflowers and Estee Lauder ad puppies over here, I do have an angstier post I started the other day but... must rush to get ready to go out, so will have to finish it later!

Monday, 25 January 2010

New Year's Resolute

According to the oh-so-reliable British press (motto: "never wrong for long" – or is that just Sky TV I'm talking about?), four out of five Britons will have abandoned their new year's resolutions by today.

Well, I haven't got the cash to pay the Home Office approximately a thousand pounds for a passport (really all that's standing between me and swearing allegiance to the Queen, or whatever it is you do), so I'm not sure I can count myself as the one in five British who hasn't drowned in the tide of good intentions. But... today marks two weeks off the diet Coke (and every other artificially sweetened carbonated beverage). I think I once hit 60 days several years ago, but for the moment, my goal is six weeks. According to my trusty Evian 2-liter bottle – I have been drinking at least one of these a day – the water in the body completely renews every six weeks. Does this mean if I carry on I'll have the skin of a supermodel in another four weeks? One can dream.

Gratitude list (really struggling with this): 1. Dark chocolate with dried cherries and almonds from my American stash. 2. Aimee Mann (yay for time to clean and for the time to rediscover my old CDs) 3. That I am no longer BN2's girlfriend and though an email from him today irritated me no end, at least I didn't have to spend the day and night apologizing for my so-called misdeeds. (I'd written a friendly note, dealing with logistics but also sending him a link to an article that might be useful. He wrote back: "Do whatever you think is far. Your detailed replies about finances and logistics, and your reluctance to share or acknowledge anything of an emotional nature make me feel pretty low and inconsequential." I mean, WTF? I deliberately used a friendly tone so as to avoid this sort of crap.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A Few Good Men

It's probably wildly inappropriate, but I'm amused at the idea that my little diet blog apparently could become a threat to national security if I were to write about my experience with the military Thursday and Friday. I'm trying to imagine the Taliban poring through some of my entries about food, shaking their heads and trying to figure out what a graham cracker is – and if the west might be won through, say, Cadbury crème eggs. details from Thursday and Friday except to say: Men are vile. I'd say 90 percent of those men had wives or girlfriends, and nearly all of them made it clear they'd be more than willing to cheat.

Case in point: I was kneeling down in the mud at one point, and a soldier walked up to me. Behind him, I could see a few others looking in our direction

"I've got 160 men here who want to know if you're single," he said.

Let's just say despite being absolutely freezing, I ended up having to decline all offers of extra sleeping bags, because I had no idea what sort of, erm, strings were attached. And lest you think I'm overreacting – I wasn't. One of the worst offenders I later found out has a wife and two kids – and apparently tries it on with any woman he can. I had to be rescued from him by a (extremely adorable, but already taken) military lawyer. As we joked, this may well have been the first time anyone has said: "Thank God for the lawyer!"

And men are vile, part 2: Remember the guy who cancelled on me at the 11th hour a week ago Friday? I was unimpressed when I got a couple of texts from him during the week, asking me for coffee at the last minute. When the third one arrived, I said I could meet Sunday or not until next week. He texted back: "At this rate it will be Independence Day before we sleep together." UGH.

I happened to speak to my friend O. yesterday, whose insight into the male brain really can't be trusted because... well... because. He emails me: "I'm not defending him, but if he is anything like me he probably spent an afternoon thinking: 'She expects me to be forward and show a bit of male cockiness, girls expect that, it says so in FHM.' Then he sent the message and thought 'Shit I've gone too far, oh God, I've ballsed it up etc etc. He just likes you and is trying to impress you."

Still my gut screamed to ignore the texts, so that's exactly what I did.


In the interest of full disclosure, I binged Friday. I went to dinner at friends of friends, beyond exhausted after both the military maneuvers and before that, three days of very, very early mornings while I try to write daily articles (plus spin) on topics I know very little about. So, in short, a whole week of extreme anxiety combined with feelings of fraudulence and fear – that my lack of knowledge is going to be discovered, and that I'll be fired. I'm not sure what scares me more: The idea of being caught at being crap, or the idea that I am crap at this profession I've been trying to do since I was 15 years old.

Anyway, on about 24 hours of sleep for the whole week, I then tried to go and be a normal, functioning social human being. I should have made my polite excuses, but I didn't want to. I knew I didn't have plans for Saturday night, and I thought I'd better go out while I could.

The hosts were Jewish and the hostess had baked a loaf of challah bread. I wanted to crawl inside it and eat my way through it – it was that kind of evening.

I ate too much bread and then too much of the tiramisu panettone for dessert and then too many of the mint chocolates served later. When I got up to get another cup of tea I even had a couple of handfuls of nuts. Between all of that and a few glasses of wine, I was – I think – primed for a binge when I was dropped off near a bus that turned out not to be going anywhere near what I needed. And so binge I did: four muffins, a packet of m&ms, a doughnut (I bought 2, but one was too stale even for me to eat), and some chocolate buttons. There might have been something else in there. Then I came home and – for no apparent reason – ate a Baxters Healthy Choice soup (don't ask, it was on special) and a small packet of crisps (left over from my military rations). I think the only reason I didn't dig into the tons of shortbread and chocolate I have around my flat is (a) I was full, and (b) I had promised myself that if I started bingeing on it I would have to throw it all out.

I'm not sure how I managed to get up and get to Pilates the next morning, let alone not be ill during it. And today I had plans to meet a friend to go to Bikram yoga, something I haven't done for at least 3 years. So I feel detoxed and slightly better. And so the fight – and the count – begins anew. Two days binge-free.

Gratitude list for today: 1. Long chat with friend. 2. Bikram not nearly as bad as I was expecting – actually felt quite good and satisfying, though I am very stiff and out of practice. 3. Commission from health and fitness magazine on a topic that actually interests me.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Of Toast and Eggs

Like a bad dream, like the world's most toxic piece of toast, BN2 has popped up again.

Ding! There he is, sending me a message on Skype.

Ding! There he is, sending me a (cranky) e-mail. "I could write a tome on my own life this last month, but you haven't asked me how I'm doing, so I'll just fast forward to logistics." His closing included: "...drop me a line sometimes as you would for any regular friend."

Ding! There he is on Skype again.

Ding! There he is, managing to irritate me more with just the subject line of an e-mail than anyone in the world, ever.

Ding! There he is, inviting me to join him and his daughter on a walk Sunday. (On the fourth of never, at six o'clock, thank you very much. I also can't help marvelling how little he seems to understand me. She is cute, but does he really think I'm going to be sucked back in by photos of her at Christmas – which he sent – and time spent with a three-and-a-half-year-old I never felt quite at peace with, while no doubt her father tells me how to behave? Her presence and routine -- or lack thereof, quite irritatingly -- dictated a lot of my life, half of my weekends, and most of my vacations for the past two years. Not anymore.)

Thus far I've managed to respond only when required (logistics of disentangling our lives) and not to say anything nasty. I fear, however, that the "Go f—k yourself" O. recommended last night is going to be required. Sigh. What I most want is for him to just leave me alone. Even if I don't respond to an email, or respond minimally, I still have to deal with it, and him. I read some of his questions and I can hear myself justifying my behaviour, and him picking it apart (or picking my language apart) just like nearly all the arguments we had. It's exhausting. Forget about giving me money back and my black t-shirt – I want my head space back.


As I think I've mentioned, I've been so unbelievably hungry lately. (I'm not going to say starving because, um, that's for Haiti.) The usual meals and snacks just don't fill me up. My "hunger" – and the quotation marks are deliberate, because I don't trust it one bit – has gotten me into trouble for most of my life, so I am very wary of listening to what it has to say. Trying, but wary.

If I'm hungry after breakfast I'm generally hungry all day long. So I've been experimenting with my porridge, which these days usually contains either raisins or a little blob of almond butter (don't find the almond butter helps with satiety, but I do like the taste). Generally I am not a fan of things that add calories but can't be tasted, but I've made an exception for egg whites, because whoever gained weight eating egg whites? (Unless they're the sort in the middle of a Cabury's crème egg, of course.)

I have to say, it's helping. I gave in and bought a carton of egg whites (not thrilled at the addition of guar gum, but seemed better than wasting egg yolks – and having to separate eggs every morning), and I've been dumping a couple of tablespoons in my porridge. You can't taste the egg, but the porridge definitely is more satisfying.


And from our "What's Up Doc" files: I was walking through the supermarket Tuesday craving raw carrots. No joke. After a failed diet several years ago that involved bags and bags of baby carrots, carrots and I are not exactly close mates. Have I got some sort of deficiency? Or is my detox from diet Coke (9 days and counting) sending my body haywire? You make the call.


Gratitude list for Tuesday: 1. Fun dinner-turned-therapy-session (for which one of us, it's not really clear) with my friend O. 2. Woke up with a story suggestion waiting for me so I didn't have to spend hours hunting to fill my daily quota. 3. Having a trainer at the gym tell me I could do squats and lunges because I'm "so slim." (She says she doesn't recommend those for women trying to lose weight because they can make you look bigger.) 4. "Taster" free massage – bliss. (Yes, an extra one because some days I really am scraping at the bottom of the barrel.)

Gratitude list for today: 1. No ugliness from BN2 when I turned down his invitation for this weekend. 2. Possible commission coming from a health and fitness magazine. 3. It's not snowing, raining or otherwise precipitating as I'm about to make the trek to a top secret military exercise. Where, I should add, I'll be for the next couple of days – very likely without any Internet access. I binged my way through assignments involving the military in years past so I'm slightly anxious. (Yes, I can binge even on crappy food.) Fingers crossed...

Monday, 18 January 2010

The First Weekend

I thought this weekend would be hard. It was my first weekend in London post-BN2, and between Christmas and New Year and the fact that our split was several weeks ago, I knew I couldn't expect the sort of friend-on-standby-to-do-anything-at-any-hour support I've been lucky enough to receive in the past.

I feared the strangeness of routines that used to include BN2 but now have to be re-established on my own – feared feeling like an outsider in my own life. And I feared the emptiness. I had plans for Friday night (which got cancelled), and then plans materialized for Saturday night that morning, only to get cancelled later in the afternoon. But though BN2 often found fault with it, I found my own company to be, quite frankly, not that bad.

My Saturday morning routine: I would run the four-plus miles from BN2's to Pilates (where I've been going since before I knew him – though the Saturday run there was a 2009 addition). I'd do my favourite Pilates class, then walk over to a meeting I attend weekly. And every single Saturday for at least the past year when the time came to answer the question "How are you feeling today?" I would write "anxious." Often it was "anxious and sad" or "anxious and frustrated," but it was always "anxious." This past Saturday, though, I wrote "hopeful," and felt a flash of joy tinged with sadness. Call it mourning for all those hours and weeks and months I lost – and for how much pain I withstood, and for the girl (me) who allowed this to happen.

This Saturday, instead of running back to BN2's (well, I'd usually run about halfway or 2/3 of the way), I decided – rain be damned -- to satisfy my craving for Waitrose chicken and dumplings for lunch. By the time I got home at 2 pm I was soaking wet (I'd forgotten an umbrella when I'd left for Pilates), freezing and very hungry. All I wanted to do was eat (grr, I do miss BN2's microwave!) and be warm.

But my upstairs neighbour, who in five years I've spoken to about four times, had died while I was in the US. (This I guessed between a letter that was addressed to his estate, and then a conversation I'd overheard on the stairs, about a funeral.) I could hear his family upstairs, clearing his flat, and I thought about the two very steep, narrow flights to reach it (mine is just one flight up; his is two) and how miserable it is to go through the belongings of someone who's died. I looked at my lunch with regret, put on a fleece, and went upstairs to express my sympathy and offer to help carry a few boxes.

He had books by the dozen to be packed and taken to the charity shop. I also carried downstairs CDs by the bagful, and his sister said: "If you want any, you should take them." I assumed they'd all be classical – I'd always guessed he was in his 50s (his very-young-looking mother told me he'd been ill for 30 years, but "deformed" for the last bit of it) and his name alone sounded very academic. I stole a quick peek and saw Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan – and Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band I listened to in high school.

"Are you sure you don't want any?" his sister asked, returning from a trip to the charity shop down the street.

"I wouldn't feel right taking his CDs," I said.

"We'd rather know you had them and were enjoying them than just giving them to the charity shop," she said.

Later that afternoon, when I went out to run an errand, I saw my neighbour's computer and either a shredder or a printer (I didn't want to look too closely) sitting on top of bags of rubbish waiting to be collected. I wondered what secrets and stories the bags contained – what random things he'd saved because they had special meaning to him, but had been thrown away because his family couldn't decode them. Then I went upstairs and put on my new Toad the Wet Sprocket CD.


Two victories: 1. Finished 10-mile race on Sunday morning – for which, I might add, I was ridiculously unprepared thanks to not having run for nearly a month because of the ice and snow. And though it was hilly, my time was only 1:32 – under 9:30-minute miles, and rather close to 9 minute ones. 2. Have, as of noon today, been completely off diet Coke and other artificially sweetened carbonated beverages for an entire week. I expect this will be the subject of another post, but let's just say I used to drink diet Coke like it was my job. Truly disgusting amounts of the stuff.

Friday's gratitude list: 1. Got four-month contract (now let's see if I can keep it). 2. Random run-in and glass of champagne with charming and adorable brother of A-list celebrity who is probably a C-lister in his own right. 3. Date cancelled before I got on the train, as opposed to when I was already on it or had arrived. (Hey, it's the small things.)

Saturday: 1. My new CDs. 2. Possibility – a day to do whatever I want with. 3. Blogs (I'm not talking about my own) – lots of food for thought.

Sunday: 1. Lovely clear day and not too cold for run. 2. Fun tea and catch-up with a friend at Wagamama (it was 3 pm – she needed to eat. But wasn't at all bothered by sitting with food.) 3. Long (and long overdue) chat with best friend in Chicago.

And – I know you've all been waiting for this (ha) – what makes me happy. I've tried not to overthink it otherwise I'd never post it! So...
1. Singing. Not in any professional or even organized sense – I just like to do it, particularly if I can hide my voice behind other people's!
2. Road trips – especially if they're spur of the moment. Also travel in general.
3. The sense of possibility – that anything could happen and just might.
4. Anything that makes me laugh (because I know I'll laugh about it for days. When I find something funny I find it endlessly funny, and people probably think I'm crazy because I'll literally walk down the street laughing about something someone said four days ago.)
5. Books from my childhood, particularly the Little House on the Prairie series.
6. Finding a great bargain (so great I can afford it) on something I have coveted for ages.
7. Being asked for advice or recommendations -- and in the last case, actually knowing off the top of my head what to suggest.
8. When things are tidy and organized (which is, like, never – note to self: put on new CDs and get cleaning)
9. Reading, especially a really fantastic sentence that so particularly nails a feeling that I have to reread it eleventeen times.
10. Non-work events that serve champagne.

Lori and JessiferSeabs... tag, you're it!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Elizabeth, Let Us Take a Turn About the Room

So last night a friend and I went English country dancing. I admit when I suggested a dance class I was thinking ballet (I could use a little grace – still thinking of the physio who told me I "shambled around like an Orangutan") or maybe even modern dance or tap (the last of which another friend adores). But this friend chose country dancing, and I'll try just about anything once. (Dare I write this on an Internet dating profile or will that make me sound like some kind of call girl? Hmmm. I think I must be going native. I see smuttiness everywhere...)

I should add that I had zero idea what country dancing even was (I know, I know – I'm online all the time already and I should have just clicked over and looked it up, but what fun is that?) She dangled visions of Mr. Darcy in my head. I was skeptical – men are not known for their fondness of group exercise classes of any kind, especially dancing. But a girl can dream.

Good thing I am a (day)dreamer, as there was not a single man – single or otherwise, I might add -- in this class. Plus the friend and I brought the average age down by about 30 years, quite a few pounds, and several cup sizes (and neither of us is exactly Kate Moss in the lack-of-breast department). Still, geeky though it is, I loved it, especially the names of the moves ("hay-stacking"), the titles of the dances (pea-pod something-or-other), and the years they were invented (one was in the time of Charles I, and the other either in James II's reign or that of William and Mary – can't remember the exact date). I enjoyed imagining myself in some sort of fantastic period dress, perhaps at a wedding, and – as someone who is teetering on the edge of returning to dating in the 21st century – I enjoyed the modesty and chasteness of it all. You hold hands (briefly) and you graze shoulders. That's it. (Take that, Mr. Drunk-in-the-Kensington-Piano-Bar.)

I could go on about my little period fantasy, except it wasn't that extensive because frankly, I had to concentrate quite hard. I fear if I'd lived in another century my dance card would have been frightfully empty, thanks to my complete inability to remember my right from my left. (I'm not kidding – I sometimes have to hold my thumb and forefinger out to check which one forms an 'L.')

After dancing, we went to dinner, where friend proceeded to tease me about picking up the guy sitting next to us (who, for the record, was there with a woman who seemed to be his girlfriend) when she (friend) went to the bathroom.

"She was looking daggers at you," my friend said of the Other Woman. "Take it as a compliment – she's jealous."

I confess the idea that I could make anybody jealous both baffles and almost frightens me. It baffles me because, I don't know, it just does. I'm American and a journalist and I work at home a lot of the day – I could pretty much talk to a door knob if it's required (or if I'm desperate), and in fact the original conversation starter (about the rather spectacular-looking dish that had been set down) was directed at the woman. Plus, what guy picks up another woman in front of the woman he's with? (Wait, don't answer that. BN2 does.)

It's frightening because it's just so random and (I think) beyond my control. When I first met my friend O., I walked home from St. Katherine's Docks to Clerkenwell with he and his then-girlfriend (this was by invitation – they were on the verge of splitting up. Which they did off and on for another couple of years). O. and I talked the entire 45-minute walk while she glowered, despite my attempts to include her in the conversation. Weeks later, walking around Victoria Park, O. said bluntly: "If my girlfriend knew I was spending the afternoon with you she'd break up with me. She's jealous of you." It was a hot day and I felt huge and sweaty and more than my then-230-ish pounds – I remembered consciously trying not to breathe too loudly while I kept up with O's rapid pace. I couldn't have felt a threat to anybody even if I tried. Frankly, I still don't.

Home tonight, by the way, because Random Texter No. 2 cancelled on me, like, a half hour before we were supposed to meet up tonight. I was literally about to get on the train. He said he was ill and asked if we could reschedule. I told him he owed me one, and that I hoped he felt better. He responded: "Oh, Beth, we'll laugh about this with our grandchildren." He closed with a kiss, absent from any previous communication. Hmmm.


1. 35 pushups, 70 crunches (to make up for none on Wednesday). No Diet Coke!

2. Gratitude list: 1. English country dancing class – hooray for new things, good friends, and fun where you least expect it. 2. Gift of magazines and books from friend. 3. Black Banana Republic cashmere hoodie bought for a mere $35 on one freezing day in Washington DC about 10 days ago – it has been a lifesaver just about every day.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

What Fresh Hell Is This?

Random text messages in January (or any time of year, frankly) from men you haven't heard from in months or in some cases years mean only one thing: He has split up with his girlfriend and is casting about for something to do and someone to do it with. This year I figured: Oh, hell, I'm in the same position, so I might as well answer.

Which is how I came to find myself sitting in a piano bar in South Kensington at 9 pm last night, listening to G. – who I met at a party in the pre-BN2 era – tell of dumping his girlfriend on Boxing Day. Note to the male species: This is not good first-date talk. Nor is saying that the relationship is "not irretrievable, but I'm not sure I want to retrieve it." Hello dude, are you going to wait until I go to the bathroom to drunken text her, or are you going to do it right now? G. also proceeded to talk about his hatred of "east London," an area which to him includes my neighbourhood, and his accent snobbery. (He isn't remotely posh and his own accent actually grated on me.) He also oh-so-graciously pointed out how fast I drink. (I'd like to claim it was my desperation to get out of there, but I do drink fast, whether it's water or wine.)

On the plus side, he paid for the drinks.

And, um... he thinks I look a little like Katie Holmes. (I actually don't think he said this to flatter me, since he said it after I told him he looked a bit like a much thinner version of Seth Rogen – a description he found enormously insulting and kept picking at. Honestly, if I'd liked him more and cared more I'd have pointed out that actually, I find funny dead sexy.)


1. Did 5 Sun Salutations, leg exercises, 35 pushups (but not the crunches – will have to double up on those tomorrow.)

2. Gratitude list: 1. Looks like I may be getting a four-month contract with a magazine to do daily items for their web site. Yay for being able to pay the rent. 2. By some miracle did not go into dangerous overdraft despite unplanned extra days in the US. 3. Undergarment I forgot to pack in my gym bag was not as essential as I thought. (Yes, I'm being deliberately mysterious and grasping at straws here.)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Home Alone

I'm feeling grateful for the cold weather, if only because being I think being bundled up (four layers on top; two pairs of trousers – maybe I will finally get round to trying that dress-over-jeans-look!) was why BN2's best friend didn't notice me in the post office yesterday. (He's way too polite to ignore someone.) I wouldn't have minded chatting with S, but I don't want BN2 to know I'm back yet. After repeated texts and emails, I told him I was very busy with my family and that I'd contact him when I got back to London (being suitably vague about when I was getting back, and thinking "when I get back to London" does not mean the minute I get back). He agreed to leave me alone until I did, and so far he has. But I'm pretty sure there will come a point that I'll have to deal with him again, even if it's just to ignore him.

In the meantime, London seems... strange. I feel like something out of Home Alone – I've suddenly discovered I've got the freedom to do whatever I want, yet I'm a wee bit frightened of these acres of time and only myself to think of when filling it. I can take calls from friends in the middle of the day! (No more crappy mobile reception at BN2's house.) I can go to the gym in the evening! (Don't really like doing that, though.) I can contemplate spending a month in the US in the late spring (two weddings of two of my best friends, a month apart, plus presumably the arrival of my nieces/nephews)! I can buy Uggs! (BN2 absolutely hated them – not sure why I didn't just buy them anyway. Actually, I know why: Because they're ugly.) Even grocery shopping seems almost a grand adventure/treasure hunt. What's with this quarter-aisle of Jamaican goods in my Tesco Express (not even a Tesco Metro)?! I can't wait for it to warm up slightly so I can go exploring around my neighbourhood – I haven't spent much time here in more than a year.

It's not all fun and games – I do think of him often. At least half of my clothes have some memory attached to them, as do things I eat and drink. I bought a huge package of decaf tea yesterday (I'm running low – never drank it before I met him) along with my organic crunchy peanut butter (something I introduced him to that he loves. I can picture him wheeling the cart through the Waitrose buying it, though I guess these days he's bypassing the grapefruits and the diet Coke...). I debated buying some biscuits on sale yesterday and realized if I bought them they'd still be there until I ate them – he would eat his way through any kind of snack food in less than 24 hours, to the point where I'd resorted to hiding at least a serving's worth for myself. I hated telling him to save me some -- seemed to smack of my mother nagging me about food – so I hid food. A slightly dangerous behaviour for a binger, I know, and yet I'd do it anyway. (For the record, I didn't buy the biscuits. I've outlawed purchases of any snacks – no matter how great a bargain -- until I finish my American stash.)

I've got tentative plans for a blind date on Friday, and the nice Cambridge Jew I cannot fancy any less (remember him?) is saying we should meet up to spend our hard-earned cash on food and booze. (I accompanied him to an event he had to cover and got, if I do say so myself, better quotes from celebrities than he'd have gotten on his own. So he has offered to share the take, meagre though it is.) And I'm excited and terrified at the same time – and not just because of the company. BN2 was a binge trigger in so many ways, but for the most part, my routine with him was very safe. I ate regular meals and snacks, very often the same ones repeatedly, and he knew all about my diet and my eating disorder, much as I hate to use that word. In the last year, thanks partially to lack of money, we didn't go out very often, so I could control, control, control for the most part. Now I can't. There's places to go and things to do and, um, wine bingo to be played. (Maybe. Haven't decided whether to go or not.) I guess it's time to learn to live a little.



1. Yesterday did 5 Sun Salutations (per New Year's Challenge), 35 pushups, and 35 crunches. (Also did 35 and 35 on Monday.) Did not make the bed. Ooops. Failed that part of the challenge already. This isn't necessarily part of the challenge, but also have so far gone nearly 48 hours with no diet Coke.

2. Three things I'm grateful for: 1. Downstairs neighbours who usually steal my mail instead accepted a package for me and left it in the hall – yay for not having to spend hours on the phone tracking it down at whatever warehouse it would have been sent back to. 2. Random giggly midday phone call from friend in Paris who always manages to make me feel like her most absurdly talented, clever, and fabulous friend. 3. Pipes in flat not frozen or burst while away; flat not burgled.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Holy Snackman, Batman!

Help! I have enough snack food in my flat for at least the next 2 months of appropriate snacks – or, more worryingly, one or two major binges.

Mini Reese's peanut butter cups. Mini Almond Joys. Shortbread left over from my British Airways upgrade to business class on Christmas Eve (can't believe I still haven't eaten it). Trader Joe's maple cream cookies and chocolate covered pretzels and peanut butter-filled pretzels.

This is more snack food than I have ever had in my house _ever_. Seriously. In my binge days I'd go from shop to shop eating, but I didn't usually buy boxes of snacks and consume the whole thing. (And if I did buy a box it was one box of something that I'd promptly finish in less than 24 hours – not multiple boxes).

I'm not quite sure why I felt like I had to buy all these things (or, in the case of the shortbread, take them from the executive lounge and bring them into my house!) They are delicious, of course, but part of me thinks I should have treated them as local cuisine – in other words, I can have them in the US, but when I'm back in London, they're not part of my routine. Maybe that's it – in general I feel safe in my house. When I come home from travelling, it's literally like touching home base – no surprise buttercream cake or macaroni and cheese or cornbread can hit me. I don't feel unsafe at the moment, but I do know that if I'm feeling at all vulnerable to a binge (and I expect over the coming weeks that will happen), I have all the ingredients here. I've decided that if I do binge on this stuff I'll have to throw all the rest of it out, except frankly, I expect post-binge there won't be much left.

I'm also slightly worried that having small, easily grabbable food around means I'm going to continue what has been a mini-trend lately of just a little bit extra. I have been absolutely starving lately – please tell me perhaps I'm burning extra calories trying to keep warm in this deep freeze. And so I've been having an extra little bit here – nothing huge (a small piece of chocolate, a few bites of a pear and custard tart my sister made), but nothing I did before. And something I want to keep an eye on and be honest about. (Remind me of this if the scale starts creeping up and I claim I have no idea how or why!)

I was amused packing my suitcase – it was like my mother used to do for summer camp, stuffing things in every shoe and cranny. I had the maple leaf cookies (in plastic bags) inside my sneakers (hmmm, maybe I should think of that image if I'm tempted to overeat them) and clothes layered with bags of chocolate covered pretzels (so as to keep the pretzels from breaking – sort of worked). I wondered what sort of closet eater/huge overeater airport security would think I was if they opened my suitcase, and then I realized that I really didn't care that much. I'd be a little embarrassed, sure, but not nearly as embarrassed as I would have been 90 pounds ago. Three plus years ago I'd have been the woman who had all that food in her suitcase and was probably in mid-binge (I always binged in airports) when dealing with security – this time I'd just be an American girl who wanted some home comforts in London. (Little do they know that the binger lurks just beneath).


Now on to some New Year's type stuff. Despite turning on my heat at full blast when I got home about 1:30 pm yesterday, I was still a bit too cold this morning to weigh myself in the buff. But with PJs and socks on I was 10 stone 1 ¾ (141 ¾), which I'm more than fine with. I ate out a lot last week, but was careful (and exercised every day) – and it seems it's paid off in most of the binge weight having disappeared.

I've joined Social Workout, and while I'm not sure I'll be posting there (I already have enough ways to procrastinate, thankyouverymuch!) I am going to try their New Year's Challenge. Among the ones I've chosen for myself: 1,000 pushups and crunches over the next 31 days, making my bed every day (yes, that's actually one of them, and for this slob it probably will be a challenge), doing 5 Sun salutations every morning (a challenge because of the size and clutter of my flat), and a DIY one that is going to be doing my knee exercises the physio gave me last year every day, lest one of these days I wake up and be unable to run (which I keep fearing will happen if I don't do the damn exercises). Also, I think, going to take a leaf from Peridot's book (was going to say a squirt of cream from the can, except that that sounds quite rude, doesn't it?)and say three things I'm grateful for per day.

More New Year's-type stuff coming, but attempt at New Year's discipline suggests I stop puttering around and go try to convince people to pay me for my words. Ha!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Could Be Me

(I started writing this at the airport yesterday, then had to deal with a bunch of admin and non-writing-friendly delays...)

When I told a couple of friends I was in town unexpectedly, they invited me to their daughter's first birthday party – and (sweetly) tried to sweeten the offer by telling me who of our mutual friends also would be there.

The one person they didn't think to mention is perhaps the one about which I was most curious. C was the only person besides me in our circle of friends who was overweight – not a little overweight, but very overweight. I'm terrible at judging size relative to myself, but she was almost certainly heavier than I was, even at my heaviest – I have vague memories of a couple of the guys in our circle once making snide comments about her outfit at a party, and I forced a laugh but felt a jolt of pain in sympathy for her. C was the roommate of a not-very-close friend of mine so I didn't see her often, and we never struck up an independent friendship. Which is funny, actually, because I admired her for a lot of reasons – namely that she never apologized for herself or her weight (either directly or indirectly) and never put herself down, behaviours common to almost every other overweight woman I know (myself included).

When I returned from London for the wedding of friends in the summer of 2003, C was thin. I was at one of my heavier weights (and writing a book about weight loss, which made me feel like a big fat fraud). I was happy for her, but honestly? I was jealous – and nor was I happy about being the heaviest person in the room. It was sweltering in DC, and I felt huge and oily.

I had the only conversation about weight I've ever had with C that day – she told me she'd gone to a treatment center (I can't remember if it was Duke University or somewhere else) for a month and then had gone on to lose the rest. She didn't say how much, and I didn't ask. I congratulated her, (somewhat darkly) watched her flirt with a few guys at the wedding, and slinked off to go find a drink.

The next time I saw her, she'd put on some weight. And by the time I saw her a couple of years later, she'd put it all back on. Meanwhile I'd started losing weight again. She congratulated me but didn't – the way most overweight women I know would have done (frankly, even most not overweight women would have done, in my experience) -- ask any questions. Today she was at the party, heavier than I'd ever seen her, but still happy, sweet, and utterly unapologetic. In a conversation about her apartment she told me about driving to work, saying she missed the traffic because she went to the gym every morning and got ready there. I couldn't help thinking – well, remembering – that when I was her size, if I'd talked about the gym I would have needed to make some joke about how much I needed it, or some other acknowledgement of my extra pounds.

She asked, as every American friend of mine who actually lives in the US does, if and when I'm coming back to DC. I told her the truth: That if I did move – and I don't have any plans to just yet -- I always thought I'd move to New York, at least partly because every single one of my friends in DC is married.

"I'd have to make all new friends if I came back here," I said.

"You can start with me," she said, laughing. "I'm always looking for people to go out with. This" – she gestured toward the birthday girl – "is what it's like most of the time."

We laughed. She handed me her card and gave me a ride to the Metro so I could catch my flight.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Memories (I Dare You Not to Sing "Like the Corners of My Mind")

Because it takes so long to get everywhere in London (partly because of its sprawl and partly because of its appalling public transport system), I'm in the habit of vastly overestimating how long it will take to get anywhere. Today I left 45 minutes to travel via public transport from Capitol Hill (where my sister lives) to the eastern edge of Georgetown – a distance I probably could have nearly walked in that amount of time. So I got off the Metro midway and walked half of it. After years of visiting palaces and stately homes in England and Europe, the White House looks so tiny! Quaint, dare I say – though I hesitate to use that word since an old editor of mine cringed when I used it to describe DC itself.

Certain parts of DC hold memories for me in every step, from the White House itself (special tours with friends who worked for various administrations) to the walk across Lafayette Park, where I caught sight of the Hay-Adams Hotel (where my sister and I stayed the night before we left DC to drive cross country in 2000 – and also the night we in the wedding party stayed the night of her wedding. The hotel is also home to the Off the Record champagne bar, one of my first "friend dates" with one of my now-best friends – we went there because I was reviewing it.)

I passed places where I used to binge, coffee places I frequented, and bars where I behaved badly. On I walked, past Taberna del Alaberdero, where I went for lunch once years ago with an august journalist who died recently.

After lunch – with a (now wildly successful) old friend who always manages to make me feel like I have made his week by letting him know I'm in town (and who comes up with a ludicrously inappropriate imaginary job title for me so that he can justify expensing the lunch) – I walked up New Hampshire Avenue, passing the apartment building where I crashed on my sister's sofa for the first month after I graduated from college... Ah, I could go on.

About a year ago the counsellor I saw said my childhood and my mother's long illness had given me little faith in the world, and that I needed to trust a bit more. He suggested that if I did, I would see that I wouldn't always get what I wanted, but that I would get what I needed. Despite the fear of an empty weekend this weekend and of BN2 (not fear of physical harm – just fear in general), on Tuesday I was wanting to get back to London; wanting to start the almost-certain-to-be-messy business of getting used to life on my own again. (I have always liked to get unpleasant things over with as quickly as possible.) But instead I've gotten extra time with my sister, who will almost certainly on bedrest the next time I see her – if not already the mother of three. The chance to reconnect with some friends I missed when I was here last summer, and to feel a bit more a part of my old friends' new lives (Sunday before the airport I'm attending friends' daughter's first birthday party).

It feels like a gift, and I am ridiculously, hug-a-stranger and smile-at-the-world grateful for it.


Thanks to the snow in London, I am grounded in DC at least until Sunday – the earliest flight on which I could be rebooked.

I guess there are worse places to be grounded. I love my grandmother, but I think I might have gone crazy at the prospect of another four days in Miami. (I was en route from Miami to London, but via DC.) She's unhappy and in pain, and I understand that, but I still had a low tolerance for what felt like constant picking: on my (lack of) job (or what my grandmother considers to be one), my (lack of) relationship – even how long I cooked blintzes for dinner (blintzes she wasn't even eating, I might add – she was having something else.)


I don't feel grounded at the moment so much as suspended in midair. After two spectacular binges (one on Christmas and one on New Year's Eve – the one on New Year's Eve being the absolute worst in at least 3.5 years) and quite a lot of travel, by last night I was itching to get back to my routine. But it's not to be – not yet.

I'm still sifting through the pieces of the New Year's binge, trying to figure out where it came from. I'm not sure I can blame it on BN2, although he did text multiple times. (I should fish them out so you can see what I'm dealing with, but I honestly don't want to read them again right now.) But the binge was so bad that I was physically sick on New Year's Day. Just hearing my pregnant-and-suffering-from-morning-sickness sister offer to drag herself out of bed and get me some Coke so I could feel better made me feel pathetic – and made me want to hand my life over for a trade with the nearest passerby.

"Are you bulimic?" asked my sister, looking worried as I came out of the bathroom.

Well, technically that was my diagnosis 18 months ago, but that's because of my tendency to make myself want to "pay" for overeating with undereating. I have never made myself throw up – despite at times being so full I wished I could.

"I thought you were getting better," she said mournfully, looking at me in horror as I lay crumpled and shaking on the bed on New Year's Day.

"It's not usually like this," I told her – and in fact it isn't. I am better, although she happens to have witnessed a string of binges in the past month. As I tried desperately to convince my sister I was OK, I said: "I think my body just isn't quite used to this sort of thing any more, and it's wondering what I'm doing."

"Yeah," said my sister. "You were constantly eating but it didn't seem like quite as much as you used to do. Unless maybe I didn't see all of it." (She didn't.) Then she got up and went to the bathroom. "Hey, there's candy wrappers in the bathroom garbage."

Um, no points for guessing who put those there. Thanks, sis.

I made a face.

"I thought you gave me all the food you had to hide," she said. (I had bought some snack food that I'd told her to hide because I sensed earlier in the evening I was vulnerable to a binge. But I had forgotten – truly forgotten – to give her all of it, and found some in my suitcase in a desperate hunt.)

I resumed trying to convince her – and probably myself – that I was better, despite all evidence to the contrary. "And unlike years ago, when I do binge I don't worry any more that I'm never going to be able to stop."

Progress, I guess. I'll take it where I can get it.