Hi, it’s Kate Flora here, musing on a topic of great concern to me, and perhaps to some of you, as we celebrate another summer. It’s all about how our favorite summer clothes have morphed into mysteriously tiny garments while in storage over the winter. I’d blame the heat, but it was a pretty warm winter.
While some might embrace with great delight the necessity to go shopping and acquire a nifty new wardrobe, while in our hearts secretly wishing that clothes sizing was like a countdown, with the the little gals starting at size 18, and the biggest sizes down there around 1 and 0. Or perhaps blast off? I’m trying to shop on what a writer makes, which means second-hand stores, and I’m a thrifty Yankee who believes that yes, we have our hats and we’re supposed to be “making do.” But making do in too-tight tee-shirts, sausage-casing dresses, and shorts and capris that won’t zip doesn’t do. And for this sad state of affairs, along with confessing to a sorry lack of will-power about getting to the gym, I blame my husband, Ken.
Don’t get me wrong. Ken is a lovely man. He’s attractive and generous and he makes me laugh. My life
would be much poorer without him. But I would also be thinner. Because my office is on a balcony that is open to the rest of the house, he is a semi-retired gentleman, and he needs to eat as often as a newborn. (He likes to compare himself to a bird, claiming that birds need to eat their own weight daily. Unless it’s a vole.) But whatever creature it is that the good man resembles, it involves many, many visits to the kitchen every day.
Thus, while I sit, disciplined and hungry, at my keyboard, the house is filled, early in the day, with the devastatingly scrumptious smell of cooking toast and the clink of spoon against cereal bowl. Midmorning, it’s coffee cake and grape juice. Perhaps, then, his head of silvery hair will appear around the edge of my door to inquire if there is anything for lunch. (I don’t fix it. I just give guidance.) Midafternoon will involve a lot of clatter and bang and refrigerator doors opening and closing, as second lunch takes place. Then there will be late afternoon snack and the query, “When is dinner?”
If I’m at home, it will be something healthy–broiled bluefish, low-carb noodles with roasted vegetables, and a salad. Baked chicken with a salad of couscous and roasted squash from Chloe’s Kitchen. If I’m going to be out at fine libraries and bookstores everywhere, it’s meatloaf and Martha Stewart’s mac and cheese, or oven-fried chicken and potato salad. But then, a few hours later, he needs another snack.
Have you ever tried to ignore the person beside you eating pretzels and raisins? At least it’s not cookies, which I cannot resist.
It’s not just the crunching of chips or pretzels, either. It’s the availability. He claims that when he met me, there were two things in my refrigerator: yogurt and lettuce. If I lived alone, it might well still be that way, supplemented by the ingredients of my favorite dinner–bourbon and popcorn. But instead, there are chips and pretzels, coffee cake and ice cream. Several different kinds of bread for the bread-loving man. Mango juice. Grape juice. Bagels and cream cheese. He’s afraid of the vegetable drawer, but the rest of the fridge could feed a family of five for a week.
We talk about diets. He says I need more exercise. I say I need to finish a book. He says exercise. I say that my best diet would be to send him away for a few weeks. He understands that this is not hostility. He goes on eating. He offers me a shopping spree when the ten pounds are lost.
When he contemplated retirement, I thought that I needed to fear for my writing rituals. I had had years of long hours of solitude, and now they were going to be shared by the person who reads the paper and says, “Listen to this?” Who wonders aloud whether its dry enough to mow the lawn. Who would like company on a walk. Who can’t find the spare batteries, lightbulbs, toilet paper, Tums, paper towels or toothpaste. Who thinks it would be a great idea to clean some closets. Right now. Or rearrange the garage, which is full of my books. Or who wants me to look at my calendar, so we can schedule some dinners with our friends.
Dinners? Friends? Walk? My head is full of the scene I am writing, or I’m just working out the careful balance of arranging where 250 pages of interviews will go and trying to learn to use Scrivener. I’m crafting the perfect dialogue. I am giving a hopeful writer advice on a new novel. I have not had breakfast and I’m resisting going downstairs where there is food.
And then I am undone by toast.
I can put on my Bose “husband-canceling” headphones. But what do I do for my nose?
Ah, yes! (Methinks you and I have had this conversation before, Kate!) The husbands who say, “just exercise more!” When either they don’t … or they clearly don’t need to. And they keep eating. This womanly metabolism thing combined with hours at a computer (and, yes, I know about those saints who write at computers strapped to treadmills, but … really???) just doesn’t produce the same sort of curves most of us had a few (ahem) years ago. Frustrating! And glasses of wine with a bit of cheese overlooking the sea may be relaxing and romantic … but they ain’t good for the hips, or any other body part in that general vicinity.
It’s an ongoing struggle. I just rigged up my laptop (which I don’t use for writing) so I could watch movies while I use the treadmill. My orthopedist says to tread lightly. That should sure take off the pounds. I could drink to that ….
My husband and I lasted about five months into his not-going-to-an-office-everyday-phase before we admitted we were driving each other crazy, Now he has a little office a few blocks from the house, At $200.00 a month, it’s much cheaper than a divorce.
The proper response to husbands who say you just need to exercise more is, “Oh my gosh! I never thought of that!”
Lea…I’m going to find an old VCR, or tv with VCR, to put by the treadmill. Imagine an excuse to watch an hour of movies every day!! I had a VCR there, gathering dust, and when I realized it was okay to do this…discovered that it had died.
Barb…I’ve thought about an office. Or I could take over another room. But I fall into the chair and put it off for another day, week, month, year…It may be in my future.
Hear, hear! My recently retired husband tries hard to respect my work time (I have an office in a barn a stone’s throw from our house), but it still seems like the blink of an eye from “What would you like to do for lunch?” to “Have any thoughts about supper?” On my own, I’d probably subsist on yogurt and fruit, maybe with French bread and cheese if I could possibly find it here, but he’s a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Oh, well. I DO love him, and it’s important to help keep the local economy going….
Sherry…it IS a blink of an author’s eye.
I could support my local economy with veggies, but he would be unhappy. Veggies have to be sneaked in carefully.
I DID get a great suggestion last week from my friend Nikki Bonanni, who is a trainer in Ithaca…she said…be sure you put down your fork between bites. I’m trying that. Along with the VCR. And this week, I’ve been working downstairs, while the computer is upstairs. I have done A LOT of stairclimbing in the service of things I needed to check, and e-mails I needed to send before I lost the thought.
I’m going through this since Husband took early retirement two years ago. I think some smart women should get together and write the ultimate survival manual for women who work at home with retired husbands. I had NO idea how much my life would change. The food is a big issue here, too, and the fact that he can walk for ten minutes and lose ten pounds. His advice “Just don’t eat the cookies!” has NO meaning for me. The noise is atrocious and he has no clue. I wonder what he would have done at his previous job if somebody waltzed in without knocking and started talking about their electric bill or what they’re having for dinner. LOL. I love him, and he does cook, so there’s that. But good golly, let me have a little peace and quiet so I can write! Happy trails! bobbi c.
Now you know why Mom had her famous three day rule about guests. BTW, it works both ways. Ever try to write your hero out of a tight corner when your wife is whistling off-key and sorting the 298 piles of stuff that has accumulated in the room across the hall? That’s why cookies have such appeal, they’re safer than bodily injury.
You could try what police at crimes scenes use (or at least what the TV says they use) Vicks VapoRub under the nose.
When my hubby retired, I naively thought I was going to get help around the house, especially since I was still working full time. Instead I got someone who stayed home and messed up the kitchen and living room.
My husband hits the magic 65 birthday this week. Well, he thinks it’s magic–I tell him 67 is the new 65, or maybe 70 is. We writers get used to having the house to ourselves. We can talk to the cats, invent creative curses–and, as Kate points out, concentrate. Having another breathing (crunching) human around is a distraction. Especially when it’s one who (as others have said) never picks anything up (“I thought I might use in again”–in six months or so) or washes a dish.
Not a blogger. Not in Maine nor a Maine Crime Writer. Not in the kitchen and not yet insane. Yes, running away from home is the only answer. XO LQ