Getting my just dessert
We got out of the house (alone!) on Saturday, and I wore a brand new dress.
It sounds simple, but coordinating care for two young children requires planning. And some begging. When we received an invite to a friend’s wedding in February, I immediately asked my parents to jot down the date. For perspective, my due date with Hadley was still more than a month out; I was arranging babysitting for a two-month-old who had yet to be born. I really wanted to go.
My mom and dad don’t book up as fast as, say, an exclusive on-base daycare center, but they’re planners. On the weekends, especially, Dad is active as a tour guide who schedules months in advance. Mom is typically relaxing after a long work week before launching into another one. Knowing I would ordinarily request both of them just to care for two-year-old Oliver, two adults watching a toddler and infant seemed wise. They graciously agreed.
So Saturday was Eric and Emily’s big day: the culmination of months of planning. These lovebirds must have special-ordered the perfect May afternoon, ‘cause they got it. I’d been looking forward to the celebration — and our kid-free afternoon! — for months. But I had nothing to wear. Pawing through my closet these days is like browsing a bakery on a rigid diet. I see plenty of things I would love to eat (OK — wear), but cannot. Some weight came off in March, but the lingering post-baby pounds make it tough to comfortably fit into my wardrobe. I could wedge myself into a few things, but not without a lot of cringing and difficult breathing.
My clothing ranges from size six to 16, but most of the larger items I owned were donated after a major weight loss in 2013. Four years and two kids later, what I kept — the skinny clothes, naturally — all mock me. I did purchase some tops and pants out of necessity after Oliver was born, but for the most part? I didn’t replace my bigger stuff because, in my insanity, I thought that would drive me to lose the baby weight. Don’t do that. Like many people, my body size and dietary habits are always fluctuating. I love when I’m active, eating well and chugging water — but that requires willpower and planning, and sometimes I just don’t have either.
Old me would have rolled her eyes at that. When I was heavily committed to a popular weight loss program, I attended weekly meetings in Waldorf — 30 minutes reserved for members to share their struggles and successes. We all had a reason for being there; I was newly engaged and hoping to get a handle on my bad eating habits before two weddings.
The attendees were all friendly folks, but one woman in particular has stayed with me. She faithfully attended our Wednesday meet-ups, but made no bones about the fact that she never tracked what she ate — a non-negotiable key to the program.
How can you hold yourself accountable if you’re not . . . taking account?
I religiously tracked my food choices using a phone app, including even three almonds or a tablespoon of butter. Forty pounds fell away, but it took militant devotion to the cause (a low calorie count, that is). Of course, living at home, I had little to focus on but myself; it was easy to visualize myself in a wedding dress, “thin” for the first time in my adult life, and work toward that goal every day.
The woman in a baseball hat at meetings — let’s call her Jane — was years beyond her own nuptials. She typically entered the session last and sat right in front, casually dressed and frequently checking her iPhone.
Jane often mentioned her teen children, their crazy schedules and the food she had to buy to fill their bottomless stomachs. Common tips like not bringing junk into the house didn’t fly with her. Jane was funny and supportive of others, but unapologetic in her dismissal of ideas directed at her. When Jane replied with things like, “Well, you tell my kids why there are no cookies,” even the upbeat instructor seemed flummoxed.
I used to wonder why she paid the sizable monthly fee and showed up week after week, in snow and rain and sun. If Jane wasn’t going to practice what the program preached, why did she bother?
As a haggard mother of two surviving on cold coffee and granola straight from a bag, I now reflect on her comments differently. Maybe they weren’t actually excuses, but veiled requests: for inspiration, motivation, camaraderie, support.
So if you’re out there, Jane, I would like to apologize. That Wednesday night meeting may have been your only time away from a child, spouse, parent or boss — a time when nothing was being requested of you, when you could answer to no one. Maybe you came because, beneath the dismissive comments, that half hour was still helping to shape you into a stronger version of yourself.
More than anything, it just wasn’t for me to judge.
As I got ready for the wedding on Saturday, I pulled out a blue floral dress I’d recently grabbed at Target. I immediately fell in love with its vintage appeal, and there had been only one in my size — but I hesitated on buying it. I’m actively eating better, exercising and trying to slim down. Did I really want to “invest” in clothing I might not wear again? The answer, for once, was yes. This was not a major splurge. I rarely do any fun shopping — and definitely not for myself. Spencer and I haven’t dressed up and gone out as a couple in ages. For half of what we spend on diapers weekly, I treated myself to something that just . . . made me feel good.
Health is everything — and goals are important, too. But we also deserve to be happy.
Not tomorrow. Not 20 pounds from now.
So I had dessert, too.