The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

March 23, 2006

In which I prattle on about weight and marriage

I think I’ve always been afraid of becoming overweight. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but it’s safe to say that not a day goes by when I don’t think about how my body looks or mentally tick off everything I’ve eaten in the past 24 hours. Kinda sad, isn’t it? And it’s so habitual now that I don’t even notice I’m doing it.

As a child I had “baby fat,” as Mom termed it. In photos from that time, I look very… round. Most of the pudge was shed by the time I hit junior high, and I skipped through high school at a delightfully average size: 7 or 9 in juniors, 6 or 8 in women’s clothes. I ate cheese fries for lunch. I hated playing sports. I had the blessed metabolism of a teenager.

In college I began to pay more attention to my size. I took full advantage of the pasta bar and frozen yogurt machine in the dining hall, but I also didn’t have a car and walked a few miles a day to and from class and work. I sometimes used the weight room and the indoor running track. My clothes size remained a 6 or an 8.

Much is said about the jolt of entering the “real world” after college, but one of the biggest changes for me was my new sedentary lifestyle, driving everywhere in my leased Saturn and sitting in a cube eight hours a day. Together with my roommate, I began exercising five days a week—walking, jogging, flailing along with a kickboxing video. I gained a few pounds during this time, but I also gained a really terrific habit: ever since 1998, I’ve felt like something’s missing if a few days go by without exercise. It’s ingrained in me now that this is something I should do.


This topic’s been on my mind lately because of a fascinating post (and follow-up post) that I read at another blog, Morphing into Mama. The post generated quite a bit of commentary on the Internet, and several other online writers tackled the subject as a result. I don’t usually write about these types of things, but this time I wanted to.

I’m not sure I agree with MiM’s term of “false advertising,” although I know I’d be annoyed if John stopped exercising and caring about his appearance after we were married. But more than that, what I’ve been thinking about is this determination I have to not gain weight. As if my life would be over if that happened.

I don’t know where this determination comes from, exactly. I’m sure it’s part insecurity, part “the media tells me I need to be a stick figure.” I know that part of it is for health reasons. My job involves reading a lot of health information, and one of the things that’s really struck me is the danger of heart disease. It’s the number-one killer of American women, and having a waist size over 35 inches significantly increases your risk. I don’t want heart problems. I want to feel good, have energy, be in shape.

Of course, part of my determination is also a desire to look good. I’m 30; I know I don’t look like I did in college, and I’m not attempting to. But I want to look fit. I want to wear clothes that are somewhat hip. I don’t want to look matronly or older than I am. And yup, I want my husband to like how I look, to be proud of my appearance. Some people think that husbands should like how their wives look no matter how much weight they gain. That being able to do that is part of a mature, loving relationship. But I’m not sure I agree with that. I wouldn’t expect John to be just as happy with my appearance if I gained 50 pounds; I wouldn’t be as happy with my appearance. And I don’t know if that’s caused by vanity or insecurity or shallowness or what. Maybe I’m not the “feminist” I’ve always thought myself to be.

After I read that post on Morphing into Mama, I asked John his opinion. “Would you be upset if after we got married, I ‘let myself go’ and gained 50 pounds?”

“Well… yeah!” he replied, without much thought. “I’d wonder what was wrong, and why you were letting that happen.”

His answer didn’t offend me; it would be my response if the tables were turned. I’m not sure if this “says something” about our marriage. Obviously we wouldn’t stop loving each other if one of us gained weight, although I wonder if we’d be less attracted. But I’ll still love John when he’s bald and love-handled, and I expect him to love me when my body changes after childbirth and when I have gray hair and sagging skin. Botox is not in my future, thanks.


When I’m really busy, with work and school and freelancing, exercise does fall by the wayside. But I’m active. I walk the dog every day, I try to take the stairs at work, sometimes I lift weights while watching The Daily Show. I belong to a small, cheap gym that’s within walking distance of our place. I use the treadmill in our building’s basement. I’ve started jumping rope sometimes. Are my workouts two-hour marathons? No, more like 30 or 40 minutes. Do I always feel like doing this stuff? Hell no. Sometimes I have to literally force myself to lace up my New Balances.

But I know that my metabolism is slowing down. I’m still a size 8, although my body doesn’t look the same—my waist is a bit thicker, and cellulite has rippled up in unexpected places. Some of my older pants and skirts are a bit tight. On Monday, I ate three chocolate chip cookies, a handful of chocolate Easter eggs, a Rice Krispies treat, and some mint chocolate-chip ice cream. So believe me, I am not the most disciplined girl on the block.

But I’m working at it—both for me and for my spouse. I don’t think John is shallow for being glad that I haven’t gained weight. I’m not ecstatic about how I look, but I’m satisfied. I feel pretty good. Perhaps, in the end, that’s what matters?

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Blogger said...

Hi, just wanted to say I enjoyed your flickr photos a lot--wow! Beautifully done. This is a great blog, too. Blessings.

Take care.

11:03 AM  

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