Empty Nest Magazine
Whining, Dining, and Realigning
by Kerry Peresta
“Humor is our way of defending ourselves from life’s absurdities by thinking absurdly about them.”
—Lewis Mumford, 1895–1990
Yesterday, I decided to be an upright and selfless American by giving blood. Today, I am paying for my constant dieting by swirling in a dizzy fit every time I stand up.
If I don’t put enough food in my mouth, my stamina goes out the window. If I do put enough food in my mouth, my waistline and thighs increase by roughly an inch. Absurdly impossible.
A few weeks ago, my husband declared a date night, and we descended upon Pub 34 in a frenzied rush to watch the Saints and Cowboys football playoff game.
As I listened to the guys at our table talk about football strategy (which interested me about as much as a disemboweled walleye), my eyes roamed around the room, sizing up the women and comparing myself.
Catching myself in this female ritual of subliminal self-loathing, I thrust aside the thoughts that pummeled my brain. Why do we do this? (Those of you who do not behave in this way have my undying respect. Also, I think you may be lying to yourself.)
I consoled myself by detaching from the football game and analyzing the futility of basing self-esteem on outward appearance. Then, one by one, the most expensive commercials in America marched across the screen between scrimmages, all featuring impossibly beautiful, young, perfectly proportioned women. I muttered something unintelligible and ordered another glass of wine.
Reinventing myself at this stage of life has been an exercise in self-examination that borders on manic-depression. After many years of single parenthood, I miraculously find myself freed from being a primary breadwinner, and a sea of options are open to me.
The problem, I am discovering, is that I learned to measure my worth in dollars somewhere along the way. Divesting myself of this point of view has been an exercise in futility. I am a capitalist to the core.
A hilarious dilemma. All my life I wanted to not “have to work” and now I find myself longing to return to a career.
Are we ever satisfied?
Contrary to what we are spoon-fed, there is no actual “plateau” of satisfaction based on external sources. I have always admired Henry David Thoreau, and recently discovered Walden Pond (the primary source of his most profound epiphanies) was actually a short walk from his parents’ house, from whom he mooched on and off for years.
I had to laugh at this absurd piece of information, which has lessened my respect for him. Our perceptions are so often shot to smithereens.
Like Thoreau, lately I am analyzing my life choices into the ground.
I think this must be a typical Baby Boomer pastime, as we are all around 50 now, and hoping somewhere along the line we have done a few things right. We can become mopey and depressed and opt for ongoing therapy and a merry-go-round of anti-depressants, or we can simply shake off the notion that a perfect body, lots of money, a promotion, or well-adjusted, successful kids are keys to happiness.
OK, fine. These are really, really good keys to happiness. They are just, um… superficial.
A friend of mine recently suggested a Women’s Wine Night a couple of times a month.
She explained that “Wine” also represented “Whine.” An excellent idea, and one my husband will appreciate, as I am pretty sure he will be happy to share my whining with others. There is strength in combined, gender-specific whining, especially if wine is involved.
As Abraham Lincoln said “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
As soon as I figure out what I am, I intend to be a good one.
Kerry Peresta lives in Owings Mills, MD, and has recently left a busy advertising career to write full time. She is a published women's humor columnist, empty-nesting mom, and grandmother of three. “Whining, Dining, and Realigning” first appeared in Capital Journal (Pierre, South Dakota) on February 4, 2010. Kerry invites you to visit her website at www.emptynesting.webs.com.
Empty Nest: A Magazine for Mature Families
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