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

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