BY CLEM BROULET
I‘ve always thought of myself as having a good appetite, yet I’ve always been thin. I put on years, but not weight. In fact, for most of my life, my practice was to eat a little extra everyday to keep from wasting away (an advantage for a food critic). I would eat two sandwiches at lunch, an extra dessert, and four eggs at breakfast with toast, jam and potatoes. Yet I never gained a pound. People who knew me said I had a wooden leg.
At about forty-two, I found I could gain weight, but the revelation came slowly and with much denial. Having lived as a bachelor—without vanity, or pride, and therefore without a full length mirror—I had no idea I was increasing in girth at the midsection. While swimsuit shopping for a coastal trip, I happened to glance at myself in the long mirror in the Gap’s fitting room. No worries, I thought, and sucked it in. There, that ‘ll fix it, I said, entering into that state of denial that accom-panies weight gain, middle age, and unattractiveness in general (everybody thinks they look good, even if they’re a rhinoceros.) I even rationalized when I had to pull the suit tight around my belly to make it fit. Something’s wrong here, I thought. Must be a sizing error on the part of the manufacturer.
Later, on vacation, I was greeted in my swimsuit by the jeers and tauntings from parents and siblings. They were wrong, as they always had been about me, which was why I left home in the first place, for Montana, where as it turns out people rarely wear swimsuits.
Later, at a local athletic club, where I sauna only and pay by the day, I noticed that I weighed in at my usual fly weight, as I had for the twelve years that I visited the place. It was the only scale I ever used. I never liked scales in the bathroom, or the idea of weighing myself regularly. Eat a healthy diet, engage in mild exercise (like chess), and eat an extra sandwich when you feel like it—that was my philosophy, and it seemed to have been working well for decades because I was only slightly heavier than when I was in high school.
Well, as a man enters and speeds through his forties, a physical examination by a doctor is in order. I scheduled one of these one day, for no reason, and the nurse weighed me. She announced my weight to me, which was thirty pounds above my fly weight, the stabilized condition I had achieved for twelve years, and which I had documented after semi-regular visits to the sauna at the athletic club.
I told the nurse her scale was broken, and she said, No, I don’t think so.
A month or so later, I showed up for my semi-regular sauna, and by semi-regular I mean whenever I felt like it. Lo and behold, the management had replaced the old scale with a new one. I stepped on it, clothed only in perspiration, and saw my dreams of eternal youth and everlasting sveltness vanish in an instant. I was thirty pounds heavier than I thought.
I gave up the extra sandwiches and desserts, bought a Total Gym after seeing Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley promote one on TV, and started playing more chess. Some of my once-denied flab disappeared; there’s just enough left now to suck in without too much embarrassment. And regarding bachelorhood, I’ve lost that too; to a woman a good many years younger than me who eats everything in sight. She looks great, never gains a pound, but one day she ‘ll learn. I accuse her of having stolen my wooden leg, even though it was imaginary. English being her second language, she has no idea what I’m talking about. One day she will.
With age comes wisdom.