Monday, June 7, 2010

WARNING! Misdirected Rage Ensuing

There are about twenty things I'd like to vehemently complain about today, but in the interest of ignoring and burying those, I'll complain about my new Wii Fit, instead.

Just so you know, I MIGHT swear in this blog post. I don't know yet. We'll just have to see where it goes.

I loathe the gym. I used to love it, back when I had a deep and abiding desire to replace emotional pain and anguish with physical pain and anguish, but I have no desire for that level of escapism anymore. I'm pretty happy now, so all I see when I go to the gym are sweaty dudes who like to watch themselves flex in the mirror and obsessive women who are seeking validation. Yeah, yeah, I know that's not the story for everyone who goes there. Some people are probably a lot like me: Simply attempting to maintain a level of fitness so that they're not out of breath by the time they get to the top of a two-story walkup. But unlike those well-meaning individuals, I deeply dislike being on display while I'm trying to achieve that goal. It makes me feel weird. Exercise is so personal for me now, because I make weird faces and sounds and sweat in awkward places. Nobody needs to see that. Kind of like giving birth. Only the people who truly love you should bare witness to that.

Given how my life is going to be for the next couple of months while Michael is touring a bunch, I can't really get up at 5:30am to go for a brisk walk. I'm not interested in dragging Madeline along on anymore death marches (see: my last post). And I really like to isolate myself while I'm working out (see: the above paragraph), so I decided to get a Wii Fit.

I have a Wii already, and I love it. Michael and I have laid waste to many an unsuspecting zombie and evil alien overlord on it late at night, and Madeline and Roan love it, too, for the Wii Resort games like bike racing, wind-surfing and making Mii characters out of themselves and every other person they've ever set eyes on their entire lives. And now that I have the 52-inch, flat-screen, HD monstrosity in my livingroom, the Wii is just that much more impressive. So I figured I should use it for something other than ridding the world of a scourge that turns normal humans into a race of undead that crave naught but the flesh of the living. Like getting my big butt in gear.

Madeline and I dashed into Best Buy on Sunday afternoon to plop down ninety-nine ninety nine for the Wii Fit Plus. It boasted more stuff than the original Wii Fit, which is essentially a pointless claim, because unless you're trolling eBay, you can't get the original Wii Fit anymore. So that pretty much renders the Wii Fit Plus THE Wii Fit, which is just another way they can get ya. "Oh goodie," I thought, naively. "I'm so glad I waited on getting the Wii Fit because LOOKY! Extra stuff! I win!"

Turns out, I DO NOT WIN. I lose, and not in the Biggest Loser-y way we all like to watch on the Tee Vee.

If you have a Wii Fit, and you're still in the recovery stages, please skip ahead. I know that this might be hard for you to read. It will no doubt bring up many bad and painful memories of the first time you stepped on the balance board, and far be it for me to set you back in your healing or therapy. Consider yourselves warned.

First of all, the Wii Fit balance board is really dumb. It's about 18 inches by six inches, which gives you no room to do anything but teeter precariously on its surface. And you're not allowed to wear shoes or socks, because you might slip off of it and injury yourself. Already, this seems like a good design, amirite?

Once you fire up the Wii Fit disc, you'll be put through a series of humiliating and pointless paces. First, it will evaluate your "Body Mass Index". This will be based on your weight and height alone. So if you've got giant, bulging muscles, or bones slightly greater in size than your average sparrow...well, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before that happens, you'll take a balance test, in which you will be timed on how easily you can shift from one foot to the other, and your success will be measured on how long you can manage to stay within the inch-thick pink zone for three seconds. If you waiver for moment, the Wii Fit Creepy Robot Voice will say, "Balance is clearly not your forte. Do you find that you stumble a lot when you walk?" But the Wii Fit Creepy Robot Voice (henceforth known as WFCRV) will not allow you to answer this incredibly condescending question. And that's because it's got other plans for you: Judging your weight and your arbitrary "Wii Fit Age".

I am not thin by anyone's stretch of the imagination. In fact, I haven't been thin since I decided to stop starving myself about a decade ago and started indulging in food more than twice a week. Oh, and I also had a baby. That tends to change someone's body just a bit. And I'm certainly heavier than I was two years ago (remember when I was talking about how much I used to enjoy the gym? Replacing emotional pain with physical pain and whatnot? Turns out, if you stop exercising two hours a day, seven days a week, and continue to eat food, you'll probably gain weight). But I'm also not fat. I'm zaftig. Art fags might even call me Reubenesque. Healthy, straight, appreciative males think I'm soundly attractive. Maybe my meters are damaged, but when I think of a fat person, I think of someone who struggles to get around readily, who runs out of breath while turning pages in a phone book. Someone who needs to ride in an electric mobility scooter in order to buy a few groceries. Someone who pours sweat when they eat. I'm still flexible, and I walk at a brisk clip, so much so, that only Michael, who's 6' 4", can outwalk me. I don't think I've ever poured sweat while I've been eating, and I love to hike, swim and bike. I can still shop at Old Navy, and I've never once set foot in a Lane Bryant (NOT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH LANE BRYANT! I actually find their mannequins to a be a refreshing, healthy, proportionate change from the weird, 10-year-old boy statuettes that I usually see at H&M).

But the Wii Fit told me I was "obese". Obese, WFCRV, really? Really. And not only did it call me obese, it proceeded to plump up the Mii Kandy to the point where SHE ACTUALLY HUNG HER HEAD IN SHAME AT HER OWN SIZE. And then, based on the results of the esoteric and incredibly unintuitive Wii Fit Balance test, it determined that my "Wii Fit" age was 43. 43!!!!

I managed to take a little heart when it told my eight year old daughter that her "Wii Fit age" was 28, simply because she had less balancing agility than me, someone who has done yoga avidly for quite a few years. Okay, clearly the WFCRV is just batshit. And it proceeded to give me an "ideal" weight that made my blood run cold. I don't even want to type the number, because I've weighed The Number, and The Number means I've gone to an ugly place I have no interest in revisiting ever, EVER again.

"Okay, Wii Fit," I said outloud, while Madeline sat aghast on the couch, muttering under her breath that the Wii is nuts, because, "Mommy! You're not obese!"
I continued, as I stared into my 52-inch shame inducer, "I don't like you, and you clearly don't like me. So let's get one thing straight: I'm going to ignore your jacked-up advice on what size you think I should be, and I'm going to avail myself of your Super Hula Hoop and your Step Aerobics program."

Super Hula Hoop was pretty fun, and I definitely felt it in my core. Step Aerobics, however, was a joke. Wii Fit wouldn't let me increase the time past three minutes per session, for reasons I can only guess had something to do with my level of supposed obesity, and the Wii makers didn't want to get slapped with a lawsuit because someone so clearly as obese as me attempted 20 minutes of actual exercise and proceeded to collapse and die in the process.

Oh, and also? If you like to keep time to the music during Step Aerobics, the Wii Fit won't like you. It will tell you you're behind the beat, and that if you want to score the maximum amount of points during your Step Aerobics session, you should follow the picture guides, even though they are at least a half-beat behind the 1 and 3. Sorry, but if you're going to provide music for my workout, I have no choice but the follow the big, obvious drum beats. If you make it so you're ever-so-helpful visual aids possess the rhythm of the Whitest Suburbanites in All of The Land, then you best be forgiving when I know where the beats actually fall and decide to step to the rhythm, step STEP to the rhythm.

Ugh, what a horrible waste of money was the Wii Fit. Please, Wii Game Makers, just create a game in which I actually have to physically RUN from the zombies, and I have a feeling I'll burn more calories. And don't call me fat. That will just make me more of a delicious, sumptuous target for the undead. Especially since those electric mobility scooters only get up to about 2 miles an hour. Although, I guess if I'm an ancient, nearly venerable 43 years old in Wii Fit years, I deserve what's coming to me. Survival of the Wii Fittest and whatnot.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Long Walk

Sometimes I feel like every other person in Madeline's life gets better time with her than I do. Note that I said "better" time, not more time. If she's not at school, she's almost always with me, unless it's a Brooklyn weekend.

Unfortunately, by the time I get home from work at night, there's not much quality left in either me or the time spent with her. There's homework for a half-hour, then there's dinner-making, then there's eating of said dinner, then there's washing of dinner dishes, then there's shower, and then there's bed. Then we get up in the morning and start the whole vicious cycle all over again.

It kind of sucks. It's not exactly the ideal life I had planned for myself and Madeline, but what IS ideal is that if she gets sick, we can take her to the doctor. We have a nice roof over our heads. We've always got food, and she rarely, if ever, goes to school naked. We can drive places in a reliable car, as opposed to the Crapmobiles I've spent most of my adult life driving around while steering with my fingers crossed, hoping and praying that today is not the day we find out what it's like to experience an engine fire.

So sometimes, just for a minute, I forget how much fun it is to hang out with my kid, and that I really actually like her. Because so much of our lives is spent on the hamster wheel. When we can manage to claw and scratch and fight our way off of it, I'm usually a happier, more complete, more balanced and sane individual. And I feel pretty certain that Madeline is, too.

Yesterday, Saturday, I came up with this brilliant plan to drive to the New Paltz side of the Walkway over the Hudson, walk across the river to Poughkeepsie and keep walking to Soul Dog, an amazing hot dog joint complete with Tofu Pups, gluten-free chickpea buns (that are way tastier than regular buns, but they have those, too), and EVERY CONCEIVABLE TOPPING YOU CAN IMAGINE. And the best Thai green curry stew I've ever had. And the best fries in all of Dutchess County, I'm convinced. It's always a treat to go there, because I don't get there very often. And after our Soul Dog feast, we were going to walk a few blocks to the nearby Children's Museum, and then schlep it back over to the Walkway, cross the river again, and then head home, content in our action-packed Saturday adventure.

It started out so promising. The sky looked threatening for a while, but we ended up with a sunny and intensely hot day for our little excursion. Armed with our water bottle and comfy shoes (or so I thought), we ventured onto the walkway, took some pictures, lingered awhile at the railing to watch one of the Clearwater boats launch from the waterfront park and leisurely made our way to the end of the Poughkeepsie side of the bridge.

Before we left, I had studied a map of the area. Soul Dog seems so close to the walkway. Guess what? It's NOT. Soul Dog is just a couple of blocks from the train station, and the train station is right at the waterfront...and it turns out, the Walkway extends nearly a mile past the shores of the Hudson River. This meant that if we wanted to get to the waterfront, we have to backtrack a mile after exiting the Walkway. A long, windy, sometimes uphill mile, especially if you are a directional retard, like myself, and just have a tendency to just wander in the general, sort of vague direction of where you want to go.

Meanwhile, the sun was beating down relentlessly on our pasty white WASP-y skin. Madeline was dumping the water from our bottle over her head to stay cool. My trusty flip-flops suddenly seemed like a really bad choice. Everything about my plan after, "let's go to the Walkway!" suddenly seemed like a really bad choice. In fact, every choice I had ever made seems like a bad one, given that it seemed as if so many twists and turns in my life lead up to this Bataan death march, and I began to question everything: My existence, reality as we know it, the structure of time and space, and the validity of cable television.

Madeline, however, remained fairly energetic and level-headed about the whole affair. We finally made it to Soul Dog, where we ate everything that was put in front of us and I finally had a chance to bandage my burgeoning foot blisters. Before we left, I asked the cashier if she had a street map that we could consult. "Where did you come from," she asked.
"We walked here from the Walkway."
"REALLY," she exclaimed in disbelief.
"Yeah," I said. "It seemed much closer on the map I looked at this morning."
"I live over near the the head of the Walkway, and yeah, it's really not all that close, if you're on foot."
"Wa-WAH," said my mental trombone.
"But good news is," said the Soul Dog cashier, "that there are plans to put in an elevator on the Walkway that will take you straight to the waterfront."
I had a feeling she was screwing with me, but I chose not to ask for clarification.

She was nice enough to draw us a map that would get us back much faster than the way we came, then filled our water bottle for us and we bought two Soul Dog teeshirts to commemorate our adventure.

Needless to say, we decided to skip the Children's Museum.

The walk back was, indeed, more efficient, until a sign pointing to the direction of "Walkway street parking" completely threw us nearly a half-mile off our path. In the interest of full disclosure, following the sign was Madeline's idea. I was certain it was a mistake, but I learned a long time ago that I'm not as smart as I like to think I am, and that sometimes, SOMETIMES, Madeline's a little smarter than me.

But not that time.

I gotta hand it to the kid, she was an absolute trouper. The only time she expressed any displeasure was when someone sped past us on a bike, or if we caught a glimpse of someone's backyard pool from our vantage point high above the ground. "I wish I could jump down into that pool from here," she would say. "Okay," I would reply, "but don't miss."

She crashed hard in the car ride back to our house. I almost did, too, but the beeping and screaming from other cars kept me pretty alert for the drive home.

What I found most striking about that whole experience is how pleasant she was to be with. When she did complain, which wasn't much, it was done in the same self-deprecating, slap-stick style in which I've been known to dabble on occasion. Yeah, kids have more stamina than their parents. But I've often found that this fact alone won't keep them from griping. She was actually extremely patient, entertaining and funny, and managed to keep up with me. And I walk really stupid fast, because my mom did, too.

It was a bonding experience for Madeline and me, a rare moment in time when we were completely on the same page, when the true mettle of her being shown like polished silver. I know a dozen kids that would have turned that walk into a March from Hell, and Madeline did just the opposite: She kept me sane. And ask yourself, honestly, when was the last time an 8-year-old girl actually HELPED you keep your wits about you?

Maybe I'm imagining it, but things are a little different today between Madeline and me. We've joked a bit more with each than usual. When I asked her to help me clear her drawers of the winter and too-small clothes to make way for the summer clothes, she practically ran into her room. She asked me to hand her clothes to put away when we were all finished, instead of just letting me do everything. She reminded me to make sure that we labeled the bags "Too Small" and "Winter-KEEP" so we wouldn't get them confused.

I don't want to be one of those obnoxious parents who does nothing but talk about how great their kid is, because, in all honesty, Madeline really sucks sometimes. But when she gets over herself, and we spend real time together as opposed to Hamster Wheel Time, and we manage to eek out common ground by sharing a common experience, we become friends. REAL friends, not "I'd rather be your friend than your parent" friends.

And I know those people. They still put their 8-year-olds in strollers.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!

I’m still a little unclear about when it’s okay to start feeling my age. Because, invariably, there will be someone in your circle of friends who will pipe up about how young you are. So where do we draw the line? Can we all mutually agree on when it’s okay to begin feeling some sense of inevitable mortality? Can we decide on a number, just so we’re all clear and on the same page? Can we decide on 35, or 45, or 50, or 60?

Age is something that’s been on my mind for about the past 3 years. And I kind of feel like I need to apologize for that, due to the fact that I’m really not that old. Because if I express out loud that I’ve been reminiscing that I graduated from high school nearly 20 years ago, or that I was handed my college scroll in a ceremony that took place in 1998, I’m belittling someone that’s a few years , or a few decades older than me, so I just try to keep my mouth shut about the fact that sometimes, I stress about my retirement fund, or how I’m going to put my kid through college, or whether I’m going to have to keep working my job until I’m 70 so that I don’t have to eat catfood for breakfast during the sunset of my life. We live in such a weird, nebulous time in which everyone’s telling you that you need to get your affairs in order RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE TWO MONTHS AGO so that your lazy progeny will have a trust fund, but hey! Don’t bitch to me about how old you are, because I’m WAY older!

Where do I align myself? Do I join with the young, or do I relate to the old?

I can’t even shop for clothes that are age-appropriate. I walk into a department store, and I’m left with the choice of either the “Junior Section” or the “Missus Section”. Can I have something in between? Where’s the “I’m Still Somewhat Attractive and I Have Very Few Wrinkles and My Waist is Still Smaller Than My Hip-Line Even Though I’m Finished With Starving Myself To Fit Into Single Digits and I’ve Had a Baby” section of clothing? I’m talking to you, Marshall’s. I always thought you were on my side. I’m not dead, but I’m not a teenager. I have no desire to dress like a hootchie; however, I don’t need a baggy track/mall-walking sweat suit with various zippers and pleats and an over-abundance of cargo pockets.

Please, just tell me where I fit in, as a 35 year old. I feel like things are easier if you’re ten years on either side. Twenty-five is really young. Forty-five really isn’t, and that's very definitive. I can’t relate to kids who just graduated from college, but I can’t relate to their parents, either. I can’t comfortably talk about the fact that I hurt my back while stretching in the morning, right after I wake up, but sometimes, for some reason, I have unlimited, weird, adrenaline-driven strength after Madeline goes to bed at night. I have a boyfriend, which is such a juvenile term to describe my soul mate and the love of my life, but he’s the first person I’ve ever been with that made me feel like I was worth something, and that I was good and important and actually, truly, completely lovable. And I also know enough now to recognize that marriage doesn't guarantee happiness, and, frankly, I wouldn’t have known fifteen years ago, when I thought that marriage was The End and Final Destination of any serious relationship.

And yet, if I had met Michael when I was in my 20s, I wouldn’t have been remotely, sufficiently equipped or capable of having the type of relationship we have now. I wasn’t ready for it then. I am completely ready and mature enough now. So when Michael and I do get married, and we will, it will be an expression of how far we've come, a snapshot in a life that we've already established, not the end of a journey. The beginning of the next chapter. That is something I couldn't wrap my head around when I was much younger.

How do I reconcile my youthful and stupid mistakes with my ability to see that I’m not the same person now, even though I’m not that much older than I was when I made those youthful and stupid mistakes? They occurred just a few years ago, and yet, they happened so very long ago. Where do I go to meet it in the middle? Where does the wisdom I gained from those mistakes meet my desire to hit the shiny red candy-like rewind button of my life so I can take back those mistakes, knowing what I know now, being the Monday morning quarterback 35-year old I’ve become?

I just need some instruction on how to be closer to 40 than I am to 30, because everyone keeps telling me that the gulf is very wide. Please don’t tell me that you’re always going to be older than me, because that only makes me speculate on how I’ll feel when I’m your age. Please don’t remind me of how young I am, because, in the great, grand scheme of the human life line, I’m pretty ripe. Please don’t tell me that I’ve got lots of life ahead of me, because part of recognizing one’s mortality is realizing that death could come at any minute, either by bus accident or by rare disease. And, for God’s sake, please don’t tell me that whatever age I’m approaching is “the New Black.” Because I’m young and sharp enough to know that saying something is “The New Black” is rapidly becoming a cliché.

Just tell me how I’m supposed to dress for the next five years, and we’ll be good friends forever. Or, at least until I’m too old and senile to remember your name.