15 December 2016

What if ?

There are only two games in the world that are truly entertaining. The first is ‘Who Would You Do? This one’s especially fun when the options are undesirable. For instance, would you rather do Sam the Butcher from the Brady Bunch, or Reuben Kinkaid for the Partridge family?

The second best game is ‘What if?’ This game peaked for me in high school. Those were the mad days of dieting, where I limited my intake to jujubes, coffee, and cheese whiz. During these frustrating times my friends and I would play a game to take off our mind off the trauma. ‘What if', we’d say, ‘we were skinny first, and dieted later? If we woke up suddenly skinny, could we stick with a diet so that we would stay skinny forever.’

The answer was a resounding YES! As long as we had the reward , we could accept the challenge. If we had the body we wanted, obviously we’d be inspired to diet for the rest of our lives! After all, if we were suddenly skinny, there'd be no temptation to reach for the Haagen Dazs? Who would be so foolish?

Me. That’s who. 

Three years ago I had the fat surgically removed from my stomach and was sewn up tight as a drum. It was the silver lining from a very arduous process that began with cancer, and ended up with a lengthy (but amazing) operation that relocated my fat to my breasts. To be honest, if there hadn’t been the promise of a flat tummy, it would have been a significantly less enjoyable operation (the clean bill of health was also a bonus).

With my taut tummy I was the envy of all my friends.  I remembered the teen fantasy of ‘skinny first & dieting later’; only this time I was playing it for real. Apart from the cancer, it was a dream come true.

At first I was really good.  Lots of vegetables and (almost) no sugar. Giant bunches of kale that I lovingly massaged and sprinkled with high quality olive oil. Grilled salmon, & smoothies with flax. Then I stopped massaging my kale. And then I’d have the occasional caesar sale. And champagne. And waffles. And cake.

So now I’m getting heavier, and as I struggle to do up my skinny jeans I’m aware that I’m lackadaisically sabotaging a darn good fantasy. But here’s the thing.  When we played the ‘wake up skinny ‘game, I assumed that new circumstance would come with a mature attitude. I assumed this in the same way I thought I’d automatically wear high heels, and start to knit.

But no. I’m still 16 and I still think I can hide my fat. (And I almost can. Because my stomach is so tight it stays flat, and weight goes directly to my sides so I look like I’ve been run over by a small steamroller. When I look at my profile in the mirror, I’m thin. When I look head on, I’m wide. It’s like being an eggroll in a fun house mirror).

For people like me, ‘what if’ games are fabulous beucase they’re fun and exciting and completely safe. Our expectations of ourselves are so high! And so unrealistic! As one of the few who have had their fantasy put to their test, I realize that, as kids, we have very unequivocal view of how we will nurture the gifts we receive. We overestimate our discipline, but underestimate our strengths. My resounding ‘YES’ when I played the skinny game was woefully underdeveloped and hadn’t factored in things like emotion, hunger, responsibility, and life.

Still, ‘what if’ is still a favorite game. I just don’t answer as quickly. I take a time to ponder circumstance and mental ability. But for the record, I’d do Reuben. But only if he was wearing his eye mask.

And only if I got to do Keith.