In fifth grade, my mom took me to Weight Watchers. More on that later. Suffice to say that I had been promised “a whole new wardrobe” when I reached goal weight. Reach it I did, and looked forward to a serious shopping excursion. Except to my mom, “a whole new wardrobe” meant the “Pretty Plus Bargain Box” from Sears.
The cheerful lavender box printed with pink frogs, flowers and snails hid horrors rivaling the TV in Poltergeist: Six polyester double-knit shirts in egregiously awful patterns. Six pairs of polyester double-knit stirrup pants in colors never seen in nature. My mother did the appalling math for me: six pants times six shirts equaled 36 outfits, total! That was more than seven weeks of school before I’d have to repeat an outfit!
For those too young to remember the fashion apostasy that was polyester double-knit, I’ll enumerate the virtues:
- Untouchability – this stuff would catch on everything, and the tiniest pull made a feather-like puff. More severe pulls (and since each Kevlar-like thread was unbreakable with human hands, must pulls were severe), and cutting the puffs, made runs.
- Impermeability – wicking? What is wicking? Sweat and you’re guaranteed an eelishly slimy feel coupled with truly ominous odors as your body chemistry reacts with the petroleum by-products used in manufacture.
- Colorfastness – directly connected to the abhorrence of the original color – the more hideous it was, the longer it stayed “true.”
- PermaPrest™ unwrinkleability – but it never lay exactly flat, either. After a couple of washings, one sleeve was always shorter, and the hem was an asymmetrical pucker.
This was in the mid-seventies, when every self-respecting young teen in Southern California was wearing OP shirts and Dittos Jeans (feel the fit!). At a time when I craved conformity, my clothes said “iconoclast.” Except I didn’t know what that meant. And I don’t think it counts if you’re one by mistake.
The stirrup pants weren’t nearly long enough, so I either had overstretched loops standing straight out from my calves, or a waistband hugging the lower curve of my belly and a mid-thigh crotch that made me shuffle like a penguin with a DePuy hip replacement.
Somehow Ban roll-on made a yellow pit stain on every shirt, no matter what color it was. The revolting patterns didn’t manage to hide a single food spill. I heard inauspicious seam-pops every time I dragged them over my head that quickly led to running holes.
So there I was in Junior High, my belly and ankles peeping from brightly hued stretchy industrial waste, surrounded by fashion plates in flare-leg jeans, pinball wizard t-shirts, cork-wedge shoes and floor-length pimp coats. What could be worse?
You have no idea.
So recovery continues. I’m sore and tired, and I went back to work way too soon and pushed things way too hard. Because, dammit, no one can do my job like I can.
Sure, my abdomen is very tender and I feel unaccountably bitchy. (Okay, it’s accountable, but I’m not going there at the moment.) But this whole “ordeal” hasn’t been nearly as difficult as, say sixth grade.
In sixth grade, my family moved across town and I went to a new school. Which was a nasty-ass, filthy, overcrowded heckhole. So many kids smashed in there that we were on year-round schedule and double-session. Demographically, we had the non-English-speaking migrant workers’ kids and the super-rich from Summit Drive rubbing shoulders (avoiding shoulders, actually), with a thin stripe of middle-class kids wedged in between.
And you know how at every school there’s that one kid that everyone hates? The one who’s so defenseless and annoying that even the teachers openly mock them? And their every trip to the bathroom is fraught with peril as the tough kids lie in wait for a retribution-free thrashing?
That would be me. Why? (And I love you for asking.) Read on.
I went to the Mayo Clinic for my consultation on Thursday. They recommended surgery on Friday (why wait and worry?). My uterus was history by 3pm, and so was the cancer. And I was sent home Saturday.
So now I’m home and sore. and still kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Really? Is this all there is? It was CANCER for crap’s sake. Cancer killed my dad when he was just a few years older than I am.
This has been too easy. But I’m going with it.
I seem to have progressed pretty quickly through the stages of grief… I seem to be squarely at “acceptance” without noticing all the rest. Is it possible that I’m really that firmly pragmatic? Maybe I’m just so comfortably ensconced in “denial” that I can’t even recognize my surroundings. Who knows.
Which reminds me of intriguing lyrics (to a song unfortunately just called “Dead”) by purveyors of profundity They Might Be Giants:
Now it’s over I’m dead and I haven’t done anything that I want
Or, I’m still alive and there’s nothing I want to do.
I had the big conversation with my husband on the way to get my test results. The one where I found out I have no bucket list. The one where I realized that if I had six months to live, I’d do exactly what I always do.
Apparently, I’m living the dream.
So I just keep on keeping on. Doing the daily duties that stop for no disease. The cats still need to eat. And the cats still cough up godknowswhat. At 3am. All over the brown comforter. Which offers little comfort when it’s covered in kittyhork, even when you’re contemplating your own mortality.
There’s nothing like the dreaded C-word to make you sit up and take notice. Suddenly there’s a finish line somewhere up ahead, and you can’t help realizing that you won’t be going around the track forever.
Consulting Dr. Google is a universally bad idea. Mortality rates are always absurdly high in the Worst Case Scenario ward, and the bedside manner is grisly at best. Still, the banner ads are right on target: what a great time to worry about my belly fat and the one weird tip that can make me lose two pounds of it a day! I think I’ll pass on the Aricept, though… this is something I’d really rather forget.
Thinking comparatively is helpful. You can go here to find out whom you’ve outlived:
It’s macabre but interesting: I’ve already passed Judy Garland by 146 days. And if I can lay off the Kool-Aid for just one more month, I’ll be older than Jim Jones. I’d hate to be the chicken salad filling in a Drunken Chanteuse/Egomaniacal Nutjob sandwich. (BTW, I’ve got JFK beat by nearly a year, and Nat King Cole by almost two.)
Of course, there’s nothing about a cancer diagnosis that says I’m going to die anytime soon. Except Dr. Google, and his license is in question. I’m heading up to the Mayo Clinic on Thursday for consultation and more tests. It will be a hysterectomy for sure, but x-ray and CT scans will determine what’s on the dessert cart.
Up until now, the M-word I found most distasteful was “moist.” Now I’m thinking “metastasis” is in the running.