Monday, June 19, 2006

34 Is The New 34

Today is my birthday. I am thirty-four years old, two years younger than my mother was when she had me (although if you ask her, she will tell you I am thirty-three today. Somewhere, she has lost an entire year.)

There are certain rituals I can always count on when it comes to my birthday. My sister will inevitably call to tell me that I was born during Here's Lucy, the episode guest-starring Donny and Marie. The story is that my mother went into labor, my father dropped her off at the hospital and then drove home. When he walked into the apartment, my sister told him to go back, I was here. I don't know if he drove home to be with my brother and sister (they were 12 and 13, respectively and very capable of looking out for themselves), or if that was the thing to do back then, just drop her off and head home. Maybe he thought it was going to take a while. I'll have to double check with my source.

As you can see from the photo, I like to do it up on my birthday. This year's no different. I went out with some friends for an early celebration. Yes, I got dressed up. Yes, I had a lovely time. And yes, I got drunk. Some people have no interest in marking their birthdays. I use June 19 as the one opportunity a year to celebrate and maybe be a bit selfish. My parents always made a big deal out of my birthday, maybe because I was the baby, maybe because I was born in America, maybe because they needed a reason to throw a big picnic to kick off the summer. No matter, they always made me feel special. Lots of people, food, booze and presents. Fifteen is, of course, the BIG birthday for a Cuban girl. More on that some other time, for that birthday memory deserves its own entry.

The only thing that will be missing today is the phone call from my Dad. He'd call and sing Happy Birthday to me in English, which sounded like "Hoppee Berrday tooo zhooou." Cracked me up every time.

According to one website, my birth "tree" is: "Fig Tree, the Sensibility: Very strong, a bit self-willed, independent, does not allow contradiction or arguments, loves life, its family, children and animals, a bit of a butterfly, good sense of humor, likes idleness and laziness, of practical talent and intelligence." I had no idea I had a birth tree. Birth stone, yes. Birth tree? I think overall, it's accurate, even the idleness and laziness part. I like to spend the occasional Saturday or Sunday on the couch reading magazines.

This website also breaks down my age in dog years, which is always good to know. Good news! At just over four yearsold, I'm still chasing cats.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Body, My Self

I went on a shopping spree on Saturday with my girlfriends. It was pretty great, lots of good deals and it's always fun to hang out with the girls. But I paid the price on Sunday and spent most of the day flat on the couch because I pushed myself too hard and strained my back, again (this is the part where my sister will say I need to be seeing a chiropractor regularly). Anyway, I had a lot of time to think as I lay there smelling of Icy Hot and waiting for the drugs to kick in and I realized that I've been doing a lot of shopping lately. This is unusual because (a) I tend to prefer spending my money (now that I have some) on others more than on myself and (2) buying clothes means looking at myself in the mirror (in a cramped dressing room, under hideous lighting) and that's just an opportunity for me to pick myself apart. It's that dazzling cocktail of vanity and low self-esteem that makes for a great day of trying on clothes.

Let me go back a bit. I was your typical chubby-cheeked kid with a little pot belly and maybe I never got over it. I took gymnastics for four years and though I never played sports in high school, I was fairly active (gym class, school dances, etc). My mother (loving in her own crazy way), though I don't think she obsessed over how much I weighed, still calls me "gordy" which is Spanish for chubby (perhaps I've mentioned this before?). My father would tell my mother to leave me alone if I came home from college weighing more than I had when I left. He told me I looked great, even if I didn't. I gained the freshman fifteen, then lost it. At some point during senior year, things got out of hand. The first semester was really hard, and I felt like everything was out of control. I had one semester to go and no post grad plans. I had already dropped some weight during RA training that August and at some point decided that the only thing I could control was what I was eating or not eating. I started going to the gym a lot more and hitting the dining hall a lot less. I wasn't weighing myself, but I knew I was dropping pounds. This was in the early 90s when everyone was wearing flannel shirts and baggy jeans and those oversized sweaters from the eighties were still lingering, so you couldn't really tell what anyone looked like under their clothes. I have no idea know how much weight I dropped during those last 5 months of school, but judging from the look on my mother's face at graduation when she saw me in a sundress, it must have been a lot. Scary.

My weight fluctuated for the next several years, and the body I had at 30 was a result of a lot of nights spent in smoky bars drinking myself silly and an equal amount of mornings spent in greasy spoons eating what one eats the morning after. Somewhere along the way, I started to take care of myself and deal with my eating disorder. Therapy helped, so did having friends that would say "eat something" when I needed to hear it. Unfortunately, I had a relapse the summer before my dad passed away. Again, things felt out of control and the switch in my head flipped. I basically stopped eating and spent many a lunch hour sitting on a bench feeling helpless and sorry for myself. I knew I had to eat, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I also knew I wasn't fooling anybody. The scary part was I no longer cared.

I think I'm at a healthy weight now, and I try to eat regular balanced meals, but it's still hard. I worry that too much stress can flip the switch again,so I've got to keep my wits about me and listen to my body when it needs food. I'm pretty sure that the woman I see in the mirror is actually in better shape than I perceive her to be and I'm still working on accepting that fact. I'm also working on taking a compliment when I hear one.

Here's the kicker: I bought a bathing suit for the first time in 6 years. Two piece, Calvin Klein,eggplant colored, super cute. This was my third outing to find a suit and I was starting to think I would never find one. I couldn't figure out if I was getting the wrong size, if suits were simply being made with less fabric or if there was simply more of me to go around. Fortunately, the very pregnant sales woman made what could have been an excrutiating experience a lot less painful simply by being straight with me. "Looks great, love that color on you, that's the one" At first I thought she was just being nice and trying to make a sale, but as my friend Heather put it, "She looks at butts and boobs all day, if it didn't look good, she would have definitely said something." Point taken.