Uncovered

Mission ruins, San Antonio

“Mommy!” my daughter gasped urgently. “Look, she’s a mermaid…” There was reverence and surprise in her voice. 

Imagine meeting a mermaid here!

“Yes, she is…. now, shhhhhh,” I responded.

I held my breath waiting for my little girl with no filter to say something about the woman’s size. She was probably close to 400 pounds and she was wearing a two piece bright purple and turquoise mermaid swim suit like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Mercifully my daughter said nothing more. Instead she snuggled up against me wrapped in her towels and fell asleep, smiling. I am grateful that she and the towels completely cover up my thighs.

I found myself very jealous of that woman. If I could have even half of that confidence, I could… 

But then, I remembered, what I saw was probably only just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. What kind of ugly things had been uttered by people under their breath as she walked by? Was she really, truly confident or was her swim suit an act of defiance, a f**k you to the world wrapped up in flashy purple and turquoise lame fabric? I would never know the reality of what lies beneath.

In contrast to the mermaid, there was a woman who must have been a size 4 standing in the wave pool with a voluminous hot pink coverup who looked so incredibly self conscious and miserable. I felt and understood her pain. She hid her body but did not succeed in hiding her discomfort. 

“Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief she is beautiful.” —Sophia Loren

I looked around me at the hundreds of other men and women, bodies of all shapes and sizes and the swimsuits of all sorts, each one an act of courage. Bacne, surgical scars, stretch marks, cellulite, fat rolls, belly bulges, love handles, etc. all exposed. 

My body is a blessing.

“You are the best looking woman out here,” he whispers in my ear as I take off my cover up. I’m not. The mermaid is, but I love that he can make me feel like he believes it is the truth. 

So I decide to walk around like I am, like I really do believe I am beautiful in my deep cobalt blue velvet one piece swimsuit. I don’t like my body but that is OK. I am not this body. I am not this swimsuit. 

I am beautiful.

Taking The Lumps

“You should probably wear a girdle with that,” my mother said, poking at my lumpy bits. 

I was maybe twelve or thirteen. I had no idea what a girdle was. 

She explained.

When I had put the dress on, a hand me down from some unknown person, I had felt beautiful. Now? Not so much. I hid in my room and took it off, never to wear it again.

My mother did not mean to be mean, I suspect. She had her own her serious body image issues, but it still stung something fierce and those words stuck with me for many, many years. 

Food in my house was torture. My father was obsessed with feeding us as cheaply as possible. For breakfast we ate slimy gruel every morning that he would concoct and which made me gag. My siblings and I would choke down bites, watching with extreme envy as my mother chowed down on a bowl of Cheerios.  To this day even oatmeal is hard for me to eat. He would bring home cans of salmon and forbade my mother to take the spine bones out. A salmon patty, which might have otherwise been tasty, was punctuated by chalky bits of vertebrae. I could go on, but I won’t. It was driven by a certain degree of poverty at one point but even as that improved, the food torture did not.

When I could get good food, edible food, I over ate. 

After my mother’s comment, I stopped eating much of anything, skipping meals whenever I could get away with it, even the things I liked to eat. As I saw it, I did not deserve to eat tasty things if I could not control my weight.

Thus began my issues with food and weight.

I have been blessed to have love in my life that does not see me for my weight, whatever it happens to be at the time, but that does not stop me from being hard on myself. For decades I have struggled with the fact that I have a curvy butt and fuller thighs. I still struggle but it is a losing battle. My body shape is in my genes. I cannot change that without plastic surgery. Even when I lose weight, even when I exercise like crazy, my butt and thighs are always “disproportionately” larger than the rest of me.

Who determines correct proportions?

You know what has helped the most? Finding jeans and pants that fit ME right. It seems so silly. It would appear obvious that women are not made the same. It was not until these past several years, though, that the clothing industry really began to embrace this fact. Thank God, because I feel less shame when my pants fit right. 

Go figure. 

Now, I am starting to like me better. I don’t feel like I have to punish myself by withholding food or exercising. I don’t have to squeeze myself into clothes that don’t fit. Exercising is fun. So is food. And the weight is fixing itself.

Is this going to be the end of my issues? 

Maybe not. 

But it is a very good start.

Hanging Out

Old Ferris wheel in black and white

I find that I am more and more conscious of my own nose hair. What is interesting about this is that I never, ever notice the nose hair of other people and if I did happen to see some bits poking out of a nostril it would not gross me out. So WHY on Earth do I care about my own nostril hair? 

Is this because my nose hair is getting longer? 

Perhaps I am growing more and more sensitive about the change of appearance that comes with aging and I am finding myself more interested in controlling the things that I can have some influence over? 

And then I wonder if there are people who do care about other people’s nose hair and if so, why do they care? What else do they do in their free time?

These are the thoughts I have on a Sunday morning after yet again having one of those pesky hairs ripped from my poor tender nostril by the stupid nose hair trimmer that is supposed to CUT the stupid things. I swear, next time I may as well just tweeze them out….

Sharpies

Interior dome at the Vatican
What is it about Sharpies, those black permanent marker, that makes them so attractive to kids?!?!!??!

We have dozens and dozens of regular (washable) markers in every shape, size, and color you could imagine…. including black. But what marker do they just *have* to use? 

The dang Sharpies, for crying out loud.

Is it the smell? That pungent chemical smell that you can get high off of? The satisfyingly wide, dark line it draws? The squeak you get when dragging the tip across some surfaces? Maybe it’s the permanence. The danger.

Well, I sure wish I knew.

Soft Scrub with bleach will take it off of countertops. But old hardwood floors? Bathroom tile grout? Matte finish walls? FABRIC? 

It isn’t that they are going around marking up everything simply to mark it up. It’s just that when you are excitedly drawing a race car onto a giant cardboard box from Amazon, things happen…. And apparently, it is far more fun to be drawing such things on boxes camped out in the bathroom while mom is distracted addressing oncall patient concerns.

I probably don’t beat them enough.

Wavelengths 

Tiffany stained glass window at Chicago Navy Pier

My microwave died and went to appliance heaven. 

Well. More like fell apart. 

The door plastic started cracking and then the tempered glass front exploded all over the kitchen one evening as I was about to heat up water for tea. Freaked the kids out. Personally, I thought it was super cool. Did you know tempered glass can still pop and explode even as the pieces are lying on the floor? 

It might seem like a simple thing to fix, right? Just order a new door. Except they no longer make this model of microwave. There is no door replacement. We will need to replace the whole dang unit.

However, this is not a microwave that sits on the countertop. Oh, no. It is mounted under a cabinet over the stove/oven and also serves as the stovetop ventilation unit. Apparently, it is also hard wired in, meaning there is no plug to unplug. Getting someone to take this out and install a new one when it is hardwired in is no small feat as it turns out. 

So, for a number of weeks I have been forced to go without a microwave. 

And you know what? It has not been the end of the world. 

In fact, I have found that I prefer heating things up in my toaster oven. Reheated bacon is crispier. Pizza is heated evenly. Corn dogs are yummier. Left over scones taste like the first day they were made. Tea? There is something nice about a whistling tea kettle as opposed to a microwave ding and I swear the tea actually tastes better steeped in water from my kettle. 

The other thing I have found? The couple of extra minutes it takes to use those other methods? They don’t really make a difference in my life. Schedules have not come crumbling down. We have not run late, we haven’t had to make cuts elsewhere. 

Never would I ever have believed I would ever say this: I can live just fine without a microwave. Not only can I live without a microwave, I now choose not to have one. 

That is incredibly liberating.

Makes me wonder what else I can live without…

Behind The Scenes

Gnomes in Switzerland

WordPress reminded me yesterday that I have been blogging for three years. Three whole frickin’ years. 

How the HELL did that happen, anyway?

I thought it might be fun to talk about the reality of what three years actually means here at Behind the White Coat:

5,060-ish people “follow” this blog as of this writing. When I wake up tomorrow it might be a few more or a few less. This number is meaningless, though, trust me. 

I average about 300 hits on my blog per day. That’s right. Sometimes less, like when I don’t post for a few days, and sometimes more. WordPress has changed how it calculates hits so many times that I don’t really know what that means anymore. I might get more traffic if I were on Facebook or Twitter or other social media platforms but honestly, I just don’t have that kind of energy. 

This post will be #865. That is a whole helluva lot of hot air. Some of it I am proud of. Some is painfully, woefully laughable. Some just flat out sucks. I have bared much of my soul here. Bless all of you who have taken the time to read anything I post. I appreciate all of you more than you could know.

Each day I spend between 2-3 hours reading other blogs and answering comments. Over three years that is an awful lot of time. Fortunately I don’t have any other serious hobbies right now. Anyone who tells you blogging is easy is either lying to you or selling something like SEO whatama-ever-thingamajigs (I have no idea what that really means, anyway, do you?).

I was Freshly Pressed in 2015 and featured on Discover WordPress in 2016. Those were huge honors but I found that they made me nervous. I don’t really want to become famous after all. That surprised me. When I started blogging I had delusions of grandeur. I was gonna be the biggest thing since KevinMD. Ha! Not my goal anymore. What is my goal? Having fun, making connections, and learning something new.

For 2016 I had a total of 112,879 page views and 27,416 visitors. The most viewed post was Black and White and Blurry All Over but not because it was some amazing piece of writing. It just happened to go up the day I was featured on Discover WordPress purely by accident. I got lots of hateful comments left by plenty of scary people on that one. 

Which brings me to the fact that I have had my fair share of trolls. The really psycho ones can be pretty scary until you figure them out…. They all have the same agenda, though, no matter who they are. It is best to just ignore that they even exist. 

In truth, I follow 1, 957 blogs. Only a small fraction of those still actually do any posting. This makes me sad. We have lost some fantastic bloggers over the years. Some left due to time constraints, intimidation, boredom… death. I hate to unfollow anyone, afraid I’ll miss their comeback post someday. 

Me, though? 

I’m not going anywhere anytime soon….

Pointing Ahead

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I thought I would do something a little different for the last post of 2016…

On A Slave to the Face from the other day, DM made a comment that got me thinking about our perception of beauty. What do we think the world wants to see in us and how does that compare to what we actually want to see in others. How does it compare to what they see in us?

What attracted you to your partner? How do you let them know what you find attractive about them? Do you think they believe you? What does your partner say about you? How do you feel about their compliments? What would you change about yourself? What would you change about your partner? Why?

This year I resolve to be freer with my own words of praise and a more gracious recipient of compliments from others.

The Deviled Inside

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What food do you love the most at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other holiday for that matter? What do you look forward to being on the table? 

I don’t really care for turkey or dressing. Or congealed cranberry “sauce” from a can. Green bean casserole? Ick. My personal favorite holiday food is deviled eggs. In fact, I ran an extra four miles this morning just so I could eat 4-5 eggs and not feel guilty about it. Oh, who am I kidding? I will probably try to eat six or more…. Of course, I have to sneak them. Most people judge you for openly putting that many deviled eggs on your plate.

For my international readers who may not know what deviled eggs are exactly, they are hard boiled eggs that are shelled and cut into halves. The yolks are popped out and mashed with mustard and mayonnaise, some salt and pepper, and then piped back into the egg halves. They are then topped with a dash of paprika and a slice of pimento stuffed green olive.

Mmmmmmm…..

There are countless variations out there. Some with bacon. Capers. Dijon. Schiracha. I haven’t met a single one I didn’t like. 

I first discovered deviled eggs when I was a kid. Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house, to be more precise. She would boil up about three dozen eggs and assemble several platters of deviled eggs, one for the elder adult table, one for the lesser adult table, and one for each of the kids tables. Fortunately, the kids at my kids table hated deviled eggs. More for me….

Here’s the thing, though. The eggs are hard work. I would much rather make a key lime pie with a homemade graham cracker crust and fresh squeezed lime juice from dozens of those teeny, tiny limes without the help of a juicer or garlic press, my finders bloodied from trying to get a tablespoon of zest off of the awkward rinds, than make deviled eggs.* 

Why do I love something so much and yet hate to make it? Dunno, but there it is. Probably a good thing because honestly, I cannot control myself. Twice a year, if I am lucky, I can get my fill.

So, what are YOU eating today?

*I made a key lime pie once and I promise you it will not happen again!

In Credibility 

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“I want to lose weight.”

“How are you doing on your diet and exercise?” 

“Well, Doc, I do have a Fitbit,” she offered, then shrugged.

“Are you using it?”

“Sure! I do challenges all the time,” she said enthusiastically. “My friends and family all do it.”

“How many steps are you averaging per day?”

“Well, I don’t know actually…” Her voice trailed off. Then she brightened. “Sometimes I get in 10,000 steps, though!”

Ah, that magic number….

“Are you counting calories? Eating plenty of fruits/veggies? Decreasing portion sizes?”

“Nah. That’s waaaaaayyyyyy too much work. Don’t you have a pill you can give me?”

“You know, we are going to have to work on the diet portion of things. The weight isn’t going to come off without it.”

She looked me up and down critically, then glared. “Whatever, Doc. What do you know? You’re already skinny. I can’t lose weight.”

Skinny?

I get this all of the time. I just sighed.

Just so you know, I am not a wisp of a woman. I have hips. And a butt. Some might call it a large butt. AND she has no idea what I have looked like in the past, no idea how hard I work to keep my size where it is. I count calories obsessively. I exercise daily. It is incredibly hard. I come from a long line of morbidly obese people and it is a daily fight. It doesn’t come easy.

I understand more than my patients realize.