the punishment will continue until you get prettier.


Today we return to our gym-talking roots. I don’t plan on recounting the horror of my New Year’s weight loss plans, much to your sadness, I’m sure, but rather we will focus on the dark and oft not spoken of underbelly of the high-end fitness world: it is exactly like high school.

What does this mean? It means that the minute I step off the elevators at the SCLA I am again the slightly less than popular girl who hasn’t learned how to manage her skin care regime and still thinks that her mother was correct in telling her that blue eye liner will help her eyes pop. Despite my years of estranged silence from the people I went to school with, a time period in which I developed a personality, became an intellectual, drove myself into a career with reckless abandon, became a successful and functional member of society with a flawless skincare regime, I am still the awkward girl. My lululemons, though equally as costly, aren’t the color that every cool girl has decided to ban together and wear this season. (Which reminds me exactly of whatever whore bag decided that Uggs and Umbros were going to be all the rage my freshman year of college. What the fuck? How could any girl know that trend was going to take us in that direction?)

Now, for all this gym misfortune, there is one teeny detail that keeps me floating along, despite the evil that prevails at the gym: I am, and will always be, twenty years younger than most of these women. That’s right ladies, you can stare, murmur, eye roll, blacklist– whatever– but at the end of the day, guess who is still going home a cake away from fifty? That. would. be. you.

And so I’ve learned to adapt. On Saturday mornings, my favorite gym fairy George (who, by the way, should be the next Best of Boston, lets work on that), teaches back-to-back weight training and cardio classes. The weight training is a spacial free for all, with women literally throwing their bodies onto the ground to save themselves a space. Because gym buddy and I have gotten into the inner sanctum, we simply stroll in about three minutes before class and talk to George until, what do you know, class as has started and we’re standing at the front. Sorry, ladies.

The cardio class, on the other hand, is not the same gig. My first cardio blast experience I was like a little fawn. Unbenounced to me, I had ignored the evil stares of “The Three” and positioned myself on their turf. George probably could have told me that I’d made such a fuck up, but I think that maybe he wanted to see if “The Three” would actually eat a young girl like me alive.

(“The Three” have different nicknames depending on the day. They started out as the Heathers, but there was something not quite evil enough about that name. Heather sounds soft and youthful. What we’re dealing with is something agier and more bitter.)

So there I am. A girl who has struggled her whole life with less than stellar coordination standing amidst “The Three” at the start of a cardio class where, guess what, a fair amount of focus and coordination is necessary.

I failed.

I turned left at “The Three” were twirling right. I grapevined when “The Three” were adding their own cardio zest with a whirlybird. I felt myself self worth shrink, but then I remembered that they probably knew these moves from the original Jazzercise, something I couldn’t possible remember because I was in grade school.

Now, you must be asking yourself, “where is gym bff? why is she not saving you from this horror?”

Well, this particular day, gym BFF was dancing to the beat of her own cardio drummer, having not quite figured out if the alcohol from the night before had completed its course through her system…

i once started to write a book:

And this was it. (Though, unfortunately, I had to take out some of the much funnier parts now that I am totally sure that my whole family reads this blog…)


Writing around the holidays (and most especially that melancholy period shortly after—when the tree is dead, the spirit gone, but neither removed from sight) has always suited me. In the aftermath of the gift giving, gorging and memory-erasing drinking, I find myself sorting through a year’s worth of afflictions, all the while chanting that never, ever again will I subject myself to those people. I am going to hole up in the East and pretend they do not exist. I cannot put up with the dysfunction. From the pain and agony comes the prose. Some go to therapy, I write it down. Lord knows I need an record of this, if for no other reason to prove that I was right. I was sane, and every last fucking one of them was cooked.

As far back as I can remember, Christmases have been pre-planned disasters, fueled by our inability to look around and realize that 80% of us are shitheads, and the other 20% too stupid to stop us from ruining the season. Being from the South (all hail the great state of Texas) holidays are not about Jesus, but how Jesus managed to give your family the upper hand, whether it be your wife’s phenomenal new breasts or your son’s completion of his second senior year of college. I only pack my best outfits for trips home. No sense in bringing something comfortable and then running into someone that I know. My mother would only be upset that I didn’t look like I turned out better. Of course we are all best friends, and have been since before we could talk.


Meet the Family

About a year ago, my mother called me up on the phone. I was living in Boston with my husband, working for a commercial real estate company, and spending my nights drinking rose and wishing that something slightly terrible would happen to me, mostly so I wouldn’t have to go to work anymore. I started a blog so that when people asked me what I was doing (in reference to the writing degree I had received) I could say something smart and slightly untrue like “Oh, yes, I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing. I actually have a blog if you want to check it out.” The truth of course was that the only writing I was doing was via Yahoo, and the blog was a half-assed effort to remain visible. Occasionally I would post something and send the link to my immediate family. They always got a kick out of it, thus calling me to tell me what I genius I was. It was a sick, but sustaining kind of validation that kept me from feeling altogether shitty about myself for the whole of that year.

Anyway, after one of my more fantastic bi-yearly blog posts, I received that phone call from my mother. She had recently moved to a small farming town in Texas and spent most of her early days trying not to remind herself that after twenty-six years of marriage, a nasty divorce, and a recent remarriage there wasn’t going to much in her future to rival the drama of the previous three years. While she was outwardly relieved that life had finally settled into something “more manageable” there wasn’t a soul around who didn’t wonder what she was going to do with no one to talk about. In lieu of local gossip, she started an outreached program. She reached out to me a few times a day to see what was going on. On this particular day, she didn’t seem to have much interest in what was going on in my life. It was too bad that I couldn’t get her going with news of an unexpected pregnancy or something of the sort, but she didn’t seem to mind. She had found an old collection of stories that I had written. My writings go back as far as elementary school, and though the transition hardly noticeable, continue into the present. For fifteen years my mother had been reading my tormented memoirs, laughing, and calling to remind me that she thought I was a genius. I could hear her flipping through printed pages, whispering lines while she looked for one she wanted to read to me. I reminded her that I wrote the stories, and had likely referenced them numerous times recently, trying to piece them into something worthy of the Pulitzer. It was a baited hook, but it had been a rough week, and I just needed to hear someone tell me I was better than some stupid prestigious award. It was a gimme shot.

“Have you started writing your book?”

I knew that if I answered affirmatively, she would send out a bulletin to the family, prompting them to call and email about the book, its subject, its title, and ask whether or not they would be making an appearance. I responded that writing a book was something that most writing people were doing on an on-going basis, and I was pretty sure that most of them never actually finished, and those that did weren’t guaranteed that it would ever see the shelf of a Barnes and Noble. She pulled through with a savory bit about my book most certainly being a best seller.

It was after about thirty minutes that she remembered why she had called me in the first place. She was reading through my stories, and it occurred to her that most of them were about the family. She was wondering what I was writing about now, having resolved that I wouldn’t write anything about the family in any potentially published works.

Rut roh.

I was suddenly sitting in my senior introspective writing class, listening to my professor talk about the “rules” (spoken and understood, though not written anywhere—to my knowledge) about writing non-fiction. I was straining to remember what it was that he told me about writing unflattering details about the unsuspecting members of one’s family. If memory served me correctly, I was technically allowed to write anything I wanted about anyone that I wanted. As a general rule, writers who wished to maintain interpersonal relationships after their work was published did tend to share the contents of their work with family members, but it seemed to me that the worst-case scenario was simply enduring a brief period of exile from family gathering and holidays. To my knowledge, families seemed to come around after they realized that being infamous is pretty close to being famous.

I didn’t really trust that my mom was going to buy into that, so I told her that I was writing book about myself.

“That’s great! You are so interesting, successful, young, funny, perfect, poignant, charming, smart. . . . “

And fucked.


Since I’m a female, I endured (or should I say my mother endured) the requisite mother-hating period of my young adult life. I’m not sure the median duration for these bouts of concentrated hatred, but I can say that my mother and I locked horns for a solid two-year period, one that I’m quite certain the better part of my immediate family thought would end in fatal bloodshed. I started out a daddy’s girl, so it was no surprise that I remained fiercely loyal to Camp Father during those years, as well as the divorce years. What will be a surprise is how I managed to stockpile such delicious bits on my father all those years and how I seemingly have no code of honor keeping me from sharing them. My moral fiber has always been a loose weave.

My dad and I were simpatico from as far back as I can remember. My mother was a southern gardener, which meant that every square inch of her prize-winning, potted, planted, pruned, weeded, and seeded grounds were the product of slave driving her children at hours of the morning that could have landed her flowery ass in jail for abuse. We were desperate to escape the rounds, but unless you had chemotherapy for terminal cancer at eight am on Saturday morning, you could assume that you were going to spend the first half of your day playing fertilizer roulette, while kneeling on the pond stone walkway.

Once a friend of my mother’s slowed in front of the house for the sole purpose of admiring and commenting on the gardens. (Drive-by conversation is something that I have yet to witness on the East Coast, but growing up my mother would have hour and a half conversations through the driver’s side window of a neighbors Suburban.) As my mother sat there, beaming from the glowing commendations, I was seized by the need to blurt out the unimaginable roots of my mother’s flora. I was a small Indonesian child listening to a Nike exec talk about the quality and craftsmanship of his company’s American-made sneakers. I knew that if I could just tell her about the abuse my Saturdays would suddenly open-up. (Not the mention the thrill of watching the mighty and revered gardener fall beneath accusations of deception!)

fyi: a half truth newsflash

I added another page to the site. You can see it right there above me. It says, ” the ‘ironing out’ period: writings from long ago.” It’s a completely unformatted page with stuff that I’m just cutting and pasting from old docs. Most, if not all, if from college, and most of it is also from when the parents were getting divorced. So its dramatic and kind of sad…

Not the normal fat kid gym chatter, but if you’re bored….

not in the self help aisle, corey!


To those of you who don’t actually know me (uhh.. no one…), Corey is hubs. I try not to use his name because he is a shy sensitive type and because we’ve mutually decided that Corey is one of the top ten worst names. Not one you see next to Oliver and Angus on the ol’ “Most Popular Baby Names” list. But it’s okay. That’s why we have nicknames.

Today is the big birthday. You know, getting a little older, feeling exactly the same. I did allow myself a few seconds last night to fall deeply into a pit of black despair, but only long enough to think “wow. you really dont get time back”, and then I remembered I had peanut butter Puffins in the pantry and forgot all about what a creeper aging can be.

The truth about aging, I think, is that it’s all relative. As a person who sets goals, it is, of course, important to feel like I am achieving my goals at a fairly good clip. For me (and I’m not judging you), if I woke up this morning on a mattress in Southie and baby powdered my hair before heading out to man my mall cart, I may not be so inclined to wave goodbye to the year before. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, I’m not winning any Pulitzers. What I’m getting at is a little thing called perspective. I’m doing all right for my age. I’m potty trained, self-aware, and pretend to exercise at least three days a week.

The dark underbelly of my progress is my penchant for hating myself. I have actually always liked hating myself. The richest, most buttery delicious humor is that which is true, and I’ve always found a warm fuzzy place for myself in the world of self-hatred. When in doubt, make a joke about what a fat kid you are and suddenly everyone loves you. I’ve said it before, but seriously, people LOVE to know that they are better than (ie thinner than) at least one person in their presence. It keeps us going.) Which is why, when the clock struck midnight on my new year, there I was, reading about my “Trance of Unworthiness” and how to open my life to the light of the Buddha. Fucking save me.

It all started when a very dear, and very honest, friend admitted to me that perhaps, just maybe, on occasion, my personality didn’t welcome people in with open and embracing arms. (So I’m not a hugger…) I was okay with it until I thought about how selfish it is to go through life expecting people to exist in the space that I have allowed for them. (Which explains why I have nothing to offer Stuart the family cat. I’m out of fucking compartments… and I’m not going to waste one on a cat… who cries… when he has food… and water… and one of those cage balls with the bell inside…) So I spent some time reflecting on the iCaroline, and even though I concluded that I’m a pretty fine person as is, I also decided that maybe I just dont know what I’m missing… thus I ended up in the self help aisle.

I decided immediately that I would be avoiding Christian ministries of any kind. The last thing I need, especially on top of all this birthday nonsense, is to wakeup and realize I want to be a Christian. Not only would it go against everything I believe (or don’t), it’s time consuming and expensive. The Sunday clothes alone would cost thousands. (Though I did think I was going to be a Christian when I first moved to Boston. We have some really lovely churches.) I was going the path of Eastern religion/philosophy or no path at all.

Being a yogi, I felt a kinship to the Eastern religion aisle anyway. I thought about a book on the 14th, but then I thought it would only give me greater struggles. I dont think it’s smart to start comparing yourself to His Holiness right out of the gate. Especially when you’re feeling raw and fragile.

I decided to start with books that made it on the NYT best seller list. My theory is that the reason that they make it there is because all those single cat-loving crazy women have a secret group that sends out emails about when these sorts of books come out. They shoot to the top of the best sellers list immediately because a whole legion of lonely women buy the book at the exact same time. Now, that doesnt give merit to the content, but it at least means that someone, somewhere, was able to get through it.

I started a stack for myself and decided that when the hubs was done fannying about with the architecture books I would run a few by him. He has a low threshold for BS and I thought he could help me separate the real, helpful shit from the nonsense.

By the time he arrived I had two or three picked out. I showed him the titles and asked him if he thought they would help me.

“Um. Maybe. More than likely it will serve as a how-to for more and more ways that you can hate yourself.”

Hubs. What. The Fuck. Is wrong. With YOU?

I’m standing in the self help aisle. I am PUBLICLY crying out for help and guidance. Do you REALLY want to start something right here? Right now? IN THE SELF HELP AISLE? Seriously?

My Buddha light wasn’t shining on shit. It was become a dim shadow of hatred and anger.

And then I read the title, “Radical Acceptance.”

And I decided to let him live. After all, clearly he was naive. The book had just helped me– helped him, really. I didn’t need his advice. I needed the book.

this is a moral outrage, i’m told

It’s never been a secret that I’m not stellar with money. The truth, actually, is not that I’m bad with money, but more that I really just don’t care about wasting it. For a brief period in my early advertising career, I worked with Bank of America. This was during the launch of their “Keep the Change” program, which effectively saves small pennies and cents from each debit transaction and deposits it into your savings account. It sounds all super exciting, and it is, except that it’s not like you’re saving $37,000 dollars a year or something. As a matter of fact, last year I think I saved $96.14–in twelve months.

For me, there aren’t a whole lot of things that are worth the sacrifice. During this hard economy, many Americans are taking a look at their spending and budgets to make certain that they are not extraneously spending. Well, Americans, let me share with you a simple theory for saving money:

Unless your primordial livelihood is going to be directly inhibited by your purchase, who gives a fuck.

I know, Obama is going to call me to Cabinet in just a sec.

What does this enlightened (and probably going to be chastised into blogosphere oblivion) idea mean? It means that savings are only worth something if you spend them on something worth saving for.

If you’re saving $3 on coffee to blow hundreds on booze… it probably isnt worth the mental anguish.

Let’s chat about Starbucks. Now, I should admit that I am not a Starbucks frequenter. I don’t drink coffee and I really think that Tazo Tea is like the white guy in the street gang. You can act like you belong, but we all know you’re white. Take the bandanna out of your hair. Poor delinquent white kids join the armed forces, not gangs, everyone knows that.

Anyway, I hear a lot of talk about people cutting down on Starbucks to save money. One person even told me that they are saving $100 a month on Starbucks– almost $1500 a year. Could I fucking believe it? Of course I can. The hubs and I quit drinking booze for like 3 days and saved almost a grand. Shit ain’t free. What I can’t believe is that your $1500/year savings is going towards heating oil for your house, or teeth cleaning for the Chihuahua in your purse.

I’m especially sensitive to this because people are constantly commenting on my all American brand of consumption. If I like it, I buy it. If I want to eat it, I buy it. If it costs a few dollars, who cares– what I am I going to do with an extra $3?

Well, according to some I could save it along with all the other $3 and then I’d have $500 and then I’d save that and I’d have $1000, and then if I saved all that I’d be pregnant with two kids and a minivan.

Or I could just spend the $3. Because the truth is that saving $3 may make some people feel good about themselves, but for me, I’d rather eat burgers than sushi and save $100 all at once. Drink that you $3 savers. Then at the end of one month I will have saved $500 in eating out expenses and still been hydrated and had the pleasure of I’m married flirting with the boy child who works at the Starbucks. And you’d still be plugging along, saving $3 a day. Could I buy you a coffee?

Last night, when I was too lazy to get up and watch The Biggest Loser on Hulu, I asked the hubs to move the Apple TV to the bedroom so I could just download it. For $2. The hubs was outraged. TWO DOLLARS! They were charging me TWO DOLLARS when I could just watch it for free on Hulu.

I was scared to tell him how little I cared about that $2.

For $2 I can stay under the covers, in my bed, and download my favorite missed shows and watch them on a screen the size of an actual TV. For free I could set my overheated MacBook on the unsteady surface of my jiggly belly and squint to see my mini fat friends lose weight.

That sounds like it’s worth $5, even $7.

I glazed over it, mostly because the Apple TV account is linked to my personal checking account, so it wasn’t like those $2 were going to keep us from paying rent. But then I got to to thinking about it: is something wrong with me that I care so little about the little dollar amounts that factor into my paycheck? It is alarming that if $4 went missing from my account I wouldn’t even waste the time to call Bank of America?

No. Nothing is wrong with me.

I am enlightened. And now I am going to enlighten you.

Remember that peace of mind costs money– usually the least amount of anything. It’s $2 in the morning, or $3 in the mid afternoon, it may even add up to $100 a month, or $1500 a year, but if your bills are paid and your priorities straight (and you’re not putting yourself into debt)…

who. fucking. cares.