Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pudgy Me 3: My Butt is Killing Me

My butt is killing me.  I am sitting on a soft, throw pillow on my favorite easy chair, and, nevertheless, my butt is the primary source of my pain, a throbbing thump pulsating up and down my backside no matter how I angle my body.  This is not good, believe me, and this is not supposed to happen when I’m on my favorite, overstuffed chair -- what the hell is going on!  

-- Wait, give me a second...
...Ah, thank goodness for ibuprofen; the last round is wearing off... too soon, too soon… 
My daughter, Helen, had her wisdom teeth pulled over the holidays. This fact, made in passing, has nothing to do with my badly-abused butt, but now, because of the pain in my posterior, I am contemplating slugging down her remaining oxycodone.  The two tablets of ibuprofen I took a few minutes ago better kick in soon or it’s on to the heavier stuff.   

-- But, what if the oxycodone numbs my mouth rather than the 'offending-object-of-my-attention'?  I would hate to have my lips numb and my tongue lolling around, banging against my chin, while at the same time my butt is shooting electrical sparks up and down my back and side-to-side from cheek-to-cheek.  “Can you tell me what’s wrong, son?” my old doctor would ask.  

Listen, I’m not seeking sympathy, believe me, and this pain in my backside is not nearly the level of craziness requiring an ambulance crew running in to wheel me out in my easy chair, or, for that matter, undergoing major, extractive surgery with a team of surgeons removing my gluteus maximus, say, for a smaller (hopefully) and less painful gluteus maximus from a warm (I feel no pain) cadaver.  No, my throbbing arse, I'm afraid, is purely the result of a running-thing, and this thing is killing me as surely as my wife's arsenic snuck into my breakfast every morning.
Several months ago I decided to attempt a half-marathon... or so I said.  Sometimes when I’m out on the road training, I think, I am not running at all, but emptying whatever fumes I have left in my old, rusted tank-of-a-chest.  It’s like I’m composed of crumbling clay -- if I glance back behind me, I will spot bits and pieces of me, like large clumps of dried mud, cluttered along my route.  If I ran any slower, drivers passing by would think I am a living statue, a poorly-designed monument to weary, old men who get crazy notions of lost youth lodged in their heads.  If I was on a theatrical stage, people would think I am a pantomime playing out the physical characteristics of a dubious long-distance runner, moving deliberately in the slow motion of exaggerated drudgery while remaining depressingly, forever, in one place.  (Okay, got it, enough with the alliterations!)

Needless-to-say, this is not good.  Not when the race I signed up for (and paid way too much money to participate in) has a fifteen-hour time-limit...     

-- ‘Wait a minute!’ you are saying probably.  ‘What’s going on here?  Have I missed something?  Where’s our buddy, 'Pudgy Me'?  When did 'The Pudge-Man' start running and... and, when are you going to tell us how you lost all that weight?’   

To be honest, I never set out to lose any weight.  Then, again, once you learn more about the kind of guy I am, you will discover I never set out to do anything.  

I was on my easy chair -- yes, the very same, overstuffed, easy chair in which I now am suffering in agony.  About two-or-so years ago I went out and purchased my chair at a second-hand store (much to my wife’s dismay), jammed it on its side into the back of my old jeep, and drove home, carrying it into the house by myself, grunting and groaning every inch of the way, precisely so I could sit on it with my blossoming posterior, precisely so I could watch the channels on tv I wanted to watch, and, most importantly, precisely so I could sleep in peace.

Until then, if I was on the couch in the other room, and I fell asleep while watching the evening news, say, my wife would lean over and poke me hard in the side, admonishing me, “Hey, wake up, you old kook, you’re missing the news!”  Her finger knew every time exactly where to find my diaphragm!  

-- ‘Ugh!  I can’t breathe!  What’s going on?  Where am I?  Have the British landed?’

Almost immediately upon bringing my chair into the house, it became a marriage savior and, ultimately, kept you-know-who from being strapped down onto another chair.  My chair had the one essential feature necessary to become a beloved member of my house -- a foot rest!  Pull back the bar by the side of the chair and an-ever-so-cool footpad plops up with a soft thump to nestle under my woefully- inadequate, well-worn, run-damaged feet.  It’s heaven, I swear!  I can be asleep in seconds, and, just as significantly, I’m not gasping for breath minutes later for missing, of all things, the evening news!  Since I bought my chair and brought it into my life, we have become true-blue, bosom buddies.  

My dastardly daughter -- what a pain she can be -- pulled me up and out of my restful roost.  

Nearly two years ago in June, Helen came home from college to work for the summer.  The job she found required that she sit at a computer all day and enter data.  It wasn’t long before this exercise-in-adulthood started driving her crazy.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but my fate was sealed when I signed her up at our gym so she could work-out after work.  If truth be told, we never should have mentioned our gym to her!  In fact, actually joining that damn gym, to begin with, was a stupid idea; I don’t think my wife, Karen, and I ever went enough to get our money’s worth.  However, the facility was nearby and exercise was one of those things we did when Karen decided we simply needed to do something, once and for all, about our weight.  She would get all antsy and, soon enough, we both would suffer.  After a couple of visits -- me walking along on a ridiculous treadmill that, it turned out, went nowhere (!) and Karen struggling on an elliptical thing-a-ma-jig -- our enthusiasm would wane, and we would return to the endless nights of tv news and the too-close-for-comfort embrace of our confining couch.  

‘Sputtering’ I guess, is how you would describe it.  We were sputtering along, fat as whales -- and me, now that I could hear my new easy chair welcoming me the moment I entered the house (‘Hey, big fella!  You’re home!’), I was in complete denial.  I truly felt I had solved my one-and-only immediate problem: gaining separation from my wife and her diabolical finger.  I put a stool next to my new chair, plopped a beer on top it, grabbed the tv gun, and was good to go!  Asleep in seconds!  Had I gone to the doctor, say, for a physical, I am sure, I would have discovered I was experiencing all the health issues that come with age -- obesity, diabetes, increased blood pressure, high cholesterol levels -- you know, the things we expect to experience as we get older and, if truth be told, are oh-so boring.  

I guess, I never really thought about the implications, or, rather, in this age of media overkill, I guess, I was sleeping when these particular health segments came on the news.  Of course, none of our friends bothered to mention our burgeoning weight, and, to be honest, Karen and I simply didn’t talk to each other about our deteriorating health.  I suppose, looking back, I was heading for a heart attack, stroke, or some strange, debilitating disease as a result of my unwholesome weight.  But, so what.  Wasn’t this the badge of honor for being nearly sixty, middle class, and experiencing all the joys life has to offer?   

My duplicitous daughter -- she can be so irritating -- told me I was screwed up.

“It’s a good thing I came home, Dad.  You’re so screwed up.”

That’s what she said, or something like that.  She had taken a zumba class at our gym and a class in circuit training and wanted to know why I wouldn’t join her for a “step” class that very same night.  She said her mom -- my wife -- had agreed to go, but I was the obstacle keeping it from being a truly family thing!

-- Listen, I was totally relaxed in my easy chair, my foot rest was fully engaged, and the news was about to come on in an hour so -- so why would I, then, break away to participate with them in a “soft” female, exercise-thing -- everything was aligned so nicely!  I mean, even if it was mid-June, wasn’t it still cold outside, and, if not, too hot?  And, okay, I’m going to say it -- I never saw highlights of ‘step’ on Sports Center, or even, on the questionable sports shows, like the ones featuring high school cheerleading competitions at Disney World-- so, wasn’t this a direct challenge to my manhood?

“Dad, you can be so irritating!  You talk to him, mom!” Helen moaned in frustration, running upstairs to get ready for the class.

--’Uh-oh!'  Here comes the big gun in the form of Little-Miss-Antsy-Me...

“Wake up, you old fool!” Antsy-Me says, pointing her deadly finger at me.  “This is the one thing you can do for your daughter.  She’s only around for the summer, she goes out at night, and you don’t see her in the course of your day.  Why wouldn’t you want to do this with her?”  

-- Ugh.  Karen -- now she’s a piece of work -- obviously she isn’t in touch with her inner fat cells.                

-- Well... well... well, jeez, in that light... jeez...  

“Okay,” I say in the most reluctant voice I can muster.  It is obvious my demeanor isn’t much better (just in case Karen hasn’t caught the reflection I am aiming for in my voice) -- and ‘enthusiastic’ is not the word I would use to describe it.  I get off my chair grudgingly (‘No, no, no!’ my comfort buddy says) and go upstairs to put on a ratty, old t-shirt and a pair of too-tight exercise shorts that fit just fine ten years ago. (‘What are you doing?’ my buddy calls out from afar, ‘What about the news?’).  

-- ‘Goodbye good friend!’ I say sadly, as I walk by the room where my chair is a major monument to my sedentary-but-serene life.  ‘May our paths cross again!’  With a huge sigh, I get into the car with Karen and Helen to go to the gym.  ‘Weren’t we just at the gym several months ago? --’  

“-- And what, what is the female, pseudo-exercise thing we’re doing tonight?” I ask hunched over in the back seat, staring out the window like I’m shackled and on the way to prison for the rest of my life, or, worse yet, hoodwinked into shopping with Karen at the mall...

“Step class,” my daughter answers cheerfully, driving the car, avoiding my obvious challenge to start an argument.  

-- ‘Hmmmm... What the hell is ‘step?’ I ask myself, as I watch trees falling, twisters destroying brick building, cars on fire, dogs on leashes biting their masters, red lights bursting into flames, streets crumbling into churned-up-chunks of asphalt, jets falling from the sky, smoke billowing out everywhere around me...  ‘What the hell is ‘step,’ anyway?’  

“Welcome!” say a bunch of old and obese women when we walk into the gym.  

-- Rather, “A Man!” -- I translate when I see I am the only male in the class.  

I am standing on the edge of a wooden floor in the middle of our gym, and I know I am about to be eaten alive by these ravenous women clustered around us in all shapes and sizes.  Some commonalities between them I can see fairly quickly:  none are small and petite, most have huge breasts that have swelled to gigantic proportions with age, and, for that matter, not one is younger than forty.  In fact, I bet, the average age is closer to 70 -- maybe even 100, given several of them.  Geez, because of my pain-in-the-butt daughter, here I am with a bunch of old geezer-wannabees dressed in all manner of clothing -- from full-length pants and blouses to athletic shorts and t-shirts, from black to colorful to abrasive.  They look exactly like Easter eggs.        

The instructor is on a small platform at the front of the class; she is putting on a microphone headset and adjusting her taped music, amplified through the console behind her.  She is wearing tight leggings, bright, colorful sneakers, and two shirts -- a tight, sports undershirt with a loose, sleeveless, t-shirt over it.  Her long, brown hair is tied back.  She is thin and muscular and appears to be no older than my daughter.  Suddenly, I see this for what it is -- a twenty-something being paid to beat up a bunch of old people.  I get it...  

“Welcome to Step!” she says to the group.  “I see we have some new people tonight.” (Who us?  We’ve been members for years!)  “Welcome to Step Challenge,” she says directly to us.  “We’ll begin in just a few minutes.” (I look at Karen and roll my eyes -- 'If we’re in a class where it’s a challenge to step, then we’ve got problems...')

I figure, about twenty women are standing behind low, black, rubberized platforms, and Helen says we will need ones too as this is what we will do for over-an-hour:  we step on and off of these platforms to thumping dance music and the instructor calling out moves.  Well, okay, I have rhythm, or at least I did until I lost it a decade or so back when I tried to do the foxtrot with my daughter at the local Indian Princesses’ Father Daughter Dance (another disaster Antsy-Me got me into!), and I know I can lift my feet (on occasion) rather than shuffle all the time, so this seems easy enough, even if it is for sixty minutes.  

Hey, I have to say, back in junior high school our gym teachers got together and had us square-dancing with the girls.  That was pure torture.  How hard can this be?  

Soon Karen, Helen, and I are standing behind our own platforms, and, when I look down the row, we look like a three “newbies” weirdos, antsy, and oh-so nervous.  Though, that said, it dawns on me, my wife, the traitor, is fitting right in and already engaged in conversations with other women in the class.  Suddenly the logic for my being there becomes clear.  ‘Yes, I’ll do this strange, awful thing for Karen because Karen needs to lose weight, and I need to be more supportive of my wife.  Then, afterward, I will do something manly for myself...  like eat a hotdog.’    

Several women in front of me, who look like they have ‘step’ on the brain, turn to say hi and offer their advice, “Don’t worry about keeping up.  Just keep moving!” they each say.  And I wonder, ‘What the hell they’re talking about?  Maybe I should practice a few times--’

-- ‘Ack!’ my platform says when I step on it for the first time.  ‘You’re fat!’    

‘Oh, shut up.’ I respond.  ‘You stupid piece of equipment.  What do you know about it, anyway.’  

‘Help me, help me!’ it squeaks, again, when I step on it a second time.  ‘A fat man is squashing me to pieces!’  

Oh my god, my luck, of all the platforms, I pick the whiny one.  This is going to be a long night, I decide, thinking, maybe I should drop a barbell on it, so it knows the true meaning of pain.  

“Let’s begin.” says the instructor, before I can follow through with my idea.  “Everyone, Right Basic.” And we start stepping onto the platforms in rhythm with our feet, though, as it turns out, I can’t remember my right from my left.  I must have been home sick that day back in junior high.  I decide, maybe it’s better just to pretend I know what I’m doing and keep moving!      

‘Ouch, ouch!  You’re hurting me.’ squeals my platform.  ‘Oh why, oh why!  Why did I get the fat man who can barely lift his feet!’  

I look around to see if anyone else is noticing how much racket my platform is making, but the instructor is the only one to say, “Lightly now, everyone.”  (- Meaning me!)  “Don’t stomp. This is not a stomp and drag class!”  (Oh, jeez!)     

Soon everyone in the class is swirling around in rhythm to the music, on and off the step in every manner of movement and direction, following the instructor’s lead -- everyone in syncopation -- that is, except me.  (Who taught women to do this?)  Even Karen has it figured out.  However, I alone, am struggling with this stupid on-off ‘step’ thing.  I seem to be on a ten-second tape-delay, trying to execute as quickly as I can what the instructor is telling us, while, at the same time, she is two steps ahead.  Quickly, I am out-of-sorts, my brain can’t process her words fast enough, my platform absolutely hates me, and now I’m sweating like a pig.  

During a brief break for the desperate, I find myself looking over longingly at all the treadmills side-by-side, along the gym, remembering fondly all of my past, wonderful, walks-to-nowhere.  

-- ‘Hey you!’ I suddenly hear one of the treadmills calling over. ‘Don’t you be looking over here!’

-- ‘That’s right, girl!’ I hear another joining in. ‘You stay right where you are, fat man, until you lose some weight.  We’re tired of your tired ass tromping on us!’  

-- Oh jeez, not you too!  What’s up with this gym?

“Okay, everyone,” says the instructor, “Round Two!  Let’s get started.”  

“Dad, wasn’t that great!” Helen exclaims, as we get ready to go home after class.  

“Horrible” I reply into my towel, wiping sweat from my face.  “Horrible is a much better word.”

“Don’t worry, Sweetheart,” Karen says, all-so-superior-like, I can hear it in her voice.  “You’ll get better.”  She and Helen start laughing, like they just shared an inside joke.  

“Ha, ha!”  I say back at them, knowing it’s over.  I have survived the dance of the Easter eggs and successfully completed my duty as both father and husband...  

But, then, the bottom falls out of my well-orchestrated, pastoral life... Helen adds --

“-- We’ll have fun all summer -- there’s a different class every night.”


My victory dog with thick ketchup, diced onions, and piled-high chili, my lovely, overstuffed chair that I carried into the house by myself, my fabulous footpad that pops up so dutifully almost before I even pull the lever, my eagle’s nest at the highest point of the highest mountain back home, suddenly, completely, totally slide away from my grasp, slowly, irrevocably, disappearing into the deepest, darkest, recesses of inner space...