Control is very important in scientific experiments. But for me, the most nonscientific person I know, there is one instance where control is a necessity, where minimizing as many variables as possible is the number one task at hand. I speak of the weigh-in, the moment when you step on a scale and wait for a number to appear. It’s like waiting for a slot machine to complete its rolls so you can see what matches up – your jeans will fit, your jeans won’t fit, you have less chance of a heart attack, this weight makes you look older….
Now men, or at least my husband, have a very interesting view towards weighing-in. They seem to put no thought whatsoever into it and do as they’re told with no questions asked (and in my house, that is a behavior that’s rarely ever seen). My husband recently came home from his yearly checkup and our initial conversation went something like this –
“How was your doctor’s appointment?”
“Fine. She said my weight was okay this time.”
“Great! What did you do before you got on the scale?”
“Nothing special. The nurse asked me to get on the scale, so I got on the scale.”
“You didn’t even take your shoes off?”
“She asked me to get on the scale, so I got on the scale.”
“Did you even take your coat off?”
My husband then asked –
“Why? What do you do before you get weighed at the doctor’s?”
Well, first of all, I don’t get weighed on the scale at our doctor’s office or, actually, on any scale other than the one I have at home. The doctor’s scale always weighs heavy whether I have my shoes on or not. I weigh myself at home, first thing in the morning, after I pee.
When the nurse asks me to get on the scale to be weighed, I tell her what my weight is with the tone of voice and facial expression that say, “That’s what you’re getting, tread lightly.”
By the way, I did that experiment. After I made sure my scale at home was perfectly positioned in the same place it always sits for my weigh-in (the requisite two lines in the wood away from the wall), I weighed myself first thing in the morning with nothing on. Then I peed. Then I weighed myself again and I weighed one less pound. The “scientific portion of that experiment was that I weighed myself three times and took the weight that came up twice.
This weigh-in conversation with my husband made me think about what other things I’ve done in the past when about to be weighed-in and wonder what other women have done. So I conducted a survey. It wasn’t very scientific, but much data was definitely there to be collected.
I made a list of what I’ve done to “lighten the load” and spoke to women from 20 to 80 who were all shapes and all sizes. According to my survey, at any point prior to a weigh-in, some or all of us have done the following:
*Weighed our clothing to find the lightest pieces
*Worn the same clothing to every weigh-in
*Worn the same clothes every time, but kept our shoes on so that when a weigh-in occurs where you need all the help you can get, you can take off your shoes to be assured of a loss
*Had prune juice, raisin bran and/or a bran muffin in the morning to assure the prerequisite pre-weigh-in poop
*Exhaled and not breathed in again until after the weigh-in was over. I quote – “Hey, air weighs something!”
*Taken off, not necessarily in this order, shoes, socks, sweaters, belts, jewelry, glasses, headbands and barrettes
*Worn a cami so they can take their shirt off. Hell, if they’re somewhere private, some women will get down to their underwear. Some wore a bathing suit so that everything else could come off.
*Removed nail polish
*Donated a pint of blood right before
This weigh-in conversation with my husband also got me to thinking about why I’m so concerned about a number on a scale when he is not.
When I was younger, I was thin and it took no effort on my part. I was really thin, but very unhappy with my life. I would look in the mirror and see sadness – my father dying when I was ten, being bullied for years, in an unhappy and much too long first marriage. I felt sorry for the person I saw in the mirror, but didn’t really know how to help her.
Now I’m older and not very thin anymore, but I’m really happy with my life. Happy with my life, but still concerned about the number that shows up on the scale.
You know, we’re bombarded by distorted images on a daily basis. Photo shopping is a true “gift” from Satan. But I think I’m past letting that bother me. I actually play a game with myself trying to identify which body is photo shopped and which is real.
So, in trying to figure out why I feel this way, why I’m so concerned about that number that shows up on the scale, I realized that it is all link to aging and dying. I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to. There is so much I want to do with my life. I always say that I want to live long enough to drive my children’s children crazy. I love my children and I want to be around to celebrate all the new milestones and experiences of their lives. I want to talk endlessly and for many more years with my husband, sharing old and many new memories. I want time to go to cities and countries I’ve never visited before and have lots of time to go back to the ones I’ve loved.
I don’t really have to be “thinner”. I need my body to look like it used to, to look younger, so that it matches how I feel on the inside. And so I’m not afraid I won’t have all the time I need and want.
I don’t know about you, but I am truly surprised in the morning when I look in the bathroom mirror and don’t see the younger woman who still lives inside me. Hell, I’m still sometimes shocked when I think about being old enough to have children in their 20’s – a son who lives in Pittsburgh with his fiancé and doesn’t need to be reminded to take his vitamins anymore and a daughter who spends her weekdays teaching preschoolers many of the things I taught her. Didn’t we just finish playing “Pretty, Pretty Princess” and Legos last night? It’s all shocking to me. In my head, I’m so far away from the inevitable until I greet myself in that bathroom mirror.
I know there are other variables involved in getting the results you want from a weigh-in like exercising regularly and eating properly. But, every little bit I can control helps.
Some antonyms for the general term control are helplessness and powerlessness. This struggle I’m having with aging often makes me feel that way – helpless and powerless. It’s good to know that at least I can have some power, some control, over that damn weigh-in.
Debbi Welch has told her stories throughout the Chicago community, including at Story Sessions, Story Lab, Here’s The Story, Serving the Sentence, This Much is True, Is This a Thing? and Essay Fiesta. She’s also performed at Seattle’s Rain City Slam and London’s Spark London, and was featured in the 2014 Three Cat Productions’ Solo Showcase in Chicago. She recently submitted her children’s picture book to publishers and is currently writing a middle grade novel whose main character is an asthmatic science/weather loving young girl. Debbi’s the immediate past Board president of Young Chicago Authors – an organization that transforms the lives of young people by cultivating their voices through writing, publication and performance education, and whose internationally-known Louder Than a Bomb teen poetry festival was the subject of an award-winning documentary.