I grew up Jewish in Montreal, where the best compliment you could give someone was “You look like you have lost weight!” One year in the late sixties, my Mother said to me “Katie, next Friday is Valentine’s Day! I just bought a gorgeous Chanel suit, and it’s a size 8. I must lose 10 pounds immediately! “Beginning today, I start my new program.” Now usually this meant she would drive to our local “YMHA” and walk around the track half-heartedly while talking to her best friend Mimi. After their “workout” they would retire to the sauna where they would languish for the rest of the morning, , my mother convinced that the loss of water resulted in lost pounds. This time though the thrill of actually fitting in to a size 8 suit, propelled her to eat nothing but eggs and grapefruit for three whole days before announcing that she was going to faint and begged my Father to drive to Swartz’s to get her a smoked meat sandwich, the Chanel suit now relegated to the back of her walk in closet.
So I was well primed to the idea of restrictive eating long before I actually began my foray into the world of dieting. I was in my early twenties when I decided that at five foot two and one hundred and fifteen pounds, I was fat. And, not just a few pounds over my goal weight, but extremely heavy and therefore unacceptable. I tried the cabbage soup diet, the Scarsdale diet, and my personal favorite – the eat nothing but drink a potent concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper which, when mixed into a glass of water was supposed to turn into a magic elixir that would cleanse my dirty damaged body and bring it back into “perfect” alignment , enabling me to meet the “perfect” woman to celebrate the day of love with. I remember one Valentine’s Day when a would be suitor brought me Godiva chocolates. I took one look at the box , turned to my now not so perfect suitor and said “Really? Chocolates? This is the best you could do? You know I’m on a diet!” Needless to say, that date did not end on a high note.
Thirty five years years later, and I find myself still riding that street car named self- abnegation, praying that when I eventually disembark I will step into my very own lavender land of Oz, where my mother will great me with a bouquet of purple roses exclaiming how proud she is now that I am slim and beautiful. The mayor will give me a key to the city, and KD Lang will give the key to her home.
But everyone knows what happened for Dorothy when she landed up in Oz. Dorothy needed to learn that there is no place like home, and that she had the knowledge all along.. yada yada.
So what is my Valentine’s Day goal for this year 2015?
To treat myself kindly, to realize there is no “there”
No magical land to travel to, no good witch to give me her ruby slippers (dammit !)
No magical number on the scale that will make me perfect.
I am the only one that can give me any lasting benediction.
And so, on this upcoming Valentine’s Day, I am going to try and love my aging wrinkled chubster body and be grateful that my body allows me to walk with my puppy at Beaver Lake, and allows me to feel pleasure when I eat the fresh red snapper from Milo’s in Montreal for dinner, and bagels from St. Viateur for breakfast. That I still love long slow delicious kisses, and reading a great lesbian detective novel in front of a roaring fireplace all cozy with a soft blanket covering my always too cold feet.
So perhaps instead of a Valentine’s Day goal I will instead institute a Valentine’s Day Manifesto.
Be kind to myself, Be kind to myself, Be kind to myself.
Thin or heavy . Happy or sad. Productive or sloth like. Brilliant or dull. Beautiful or plain.
Instead of looking outward for validation, I will try instead to look inward.
Learning to be kind to myself is the hardest work I have ever done.
But I am determined to practice every day.
And, if you all are still here with me.
Please try to be kind to yourself as well.