I guess I’m a “Lifestyle Blogger” now

On March 19 I bought an introductory unlimited membership to a local spin studio. The studio is so close to my rented home in a suburban community that I can leave my driveway at 5:26 and be on the bicycle at 5:30. Despite this level of convenience, I drove by that spin studio for 5 years without once booking a ride.

Spinning is feared by many. I always pictured a group of sweaty fitness freaks in beast mode pedaling on stationary bicycles. I’ve had many friends and coworkers claim to be terrified of even trying it. I took my first class back in 1997 and all I remember from that experience is the horrific pain in my mons veneris. I was told “You get used to it,” or worse “It gets better.” Yeah, that’s what I want. No feeling in my crotch.

It’s also like joining a cult. You’ll hear that a lot too.

Even before I had babies, I worked out inconsistently. I was born athletic, though a very particular type of athleticism. I’m not agile or coordinated. I can’t dribble, serve, hit, or catch a ball. I have endurance and strength. Those two qualities make me a prime candidate for spinning.

I took my first class March 19 and attended 3-4 classes a week until June 20 or so, after which I hit a lazy patch and missed all but 2 classes a week for 2 weeks. It’s really easy for me to become obsessive and inflexible. I have a problem with all-or-nothing thinking. Either I’m working out perfectly or I’m ruining EVERYTHING. I had myself convinced that taking off 4 days in a row had undone 12 weeks of working out consistently 3-5 times a week.

I’d love to be able to tell you that I’ve lost tons of weight and I look amazing, but I haven’t and I already looked amazing. But seriously, I weigh the same and I look better, but I’m toned, not thinner. I feel great when I spin and especially afterwards. My resting heart rate dropped 17 beats per minute in 3 months. I’m beginning to suspect that I can’t eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream every night and lose weight. That if I don’t also radically change my diet, then I’ll never see the results I want.

I don’t have a big dream; it’s just a little dream. I want to get dressed every day without having to consider if my clothes make me look fat. Okay, it’s a big dream.

I have struggled with bulimia in the past, so I have to be careful. I can’t count calories or “diet” because it triggers me to binge and purge. I won’t use apps on my phone or other “easy” tricks. Not today, anyway, and not tomorrow. I will endeavor to be less rigid in my thinking and accept the possibility that I will use phone apps or the like at some point. Today, my priority is taking advantage of the opportunity I have to work out at convenient locations that are offering affordable summer/newcomer specials. I start Bikram yoga on Tuesday. I hate heat and I’m kind of “myeh” about yoga, so this will be interesting. My mother was a yoga teacher and she once gave Chuck Norris private lessons. True story. He had to stop chanting “Om,” though because he would create a new universe every time. Also, Chuck Norris doesn’t do sun salutations. The sun salutes Chuck Norris.

Bikram yoga is also called “hot yoga” and I despise the heat. Still, it gets so hot where I live, it might be nice to walk outside after class and enjoy the cool 98 degree day.

I’m challenging myself to work out every day until I go back to work on August 10. This isn’t going to turn into a lifestyle blog, but I will keep you apprised of my progress. I would love to hear about your own fitness make-overs and successes. To borrow a joke from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, let’s all turn our resistance up to “Gandhi.”


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True stories that never happened

Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” Stephen King

My audience is a mix of complete strangers, relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Some of those acquaintances are coworkers. I never know who is reading my posts, only which ones are being read.

When I started my blog five years ago, about 20 friends comprised my audience. Two years in, I wrote a post that went as ¨viral¨ as any of my posts have ever gone (close to 3,000 views in a single day) and my fan base grew to include more strangers than friends, not in small part due to me alienating some of the friends. Because honestly, if you know me, you don’t so much want to picture me doing some of the things depicted here.

Other friends, coworkers, and acquaintances freely admit they forget to read, which is fine with me. The more I delve into more personal topics, the more I understand how my nearest and dearest might want to skip it. I totally get it, and I’m okay with you guys being disloyal assholes.

Then there’s the fact that I write about them sometimes, or I should say my versions of them. My worst offense is Toxic Best Friend (TBF). She’s a work of fiction in the sense that I change details and blend numerous toxic best friends I’ve had over the years into one amalgamous anorexic, OCD, narcissistic Borderline. What can I say? I have a type.

Everyone gets a pseudonym that makes sense to me and occasionally to them. A few named themselves: Trixiebell, Beezy, Odie. I screwed up and used a real name once. In the comments, she exclaimed, ¨Don’t I get a pseudonym?¨ In a private chat, she told me it was okay, but she was startled to be called out by name like that. I felt like a shit. Still do.

Although, to be fair, it was Odie’s guest post and he did it. So, NOT IT!

But I copy edited and didn’t change it. I figured she’d think it was funny. I didn’t think anyone but her would know it was her.

This blog world of mine can feel like a work of fiction because in many ways it is. ¨I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction¨ (Katherine Ann Porter) and ¨All stories are true. But some of them never happened¨ (James A. Owen).

The people in my blog are real people who never existed. They are fictional characters in a true tale.

A few days ago, an acquaintance read one of my posts. This acquaintance, I’ll call him Jean-Paul, remarked upon the craziness that is the Toxic Best Friend story, and then ¨jokingly¨ warned me that I better not even dream of writing about him on my blog.

Hahahaha! Oh, no. Never, never!

But seriously, I can understand Jean-Paul’s threat concern. Anyone who would write Toxic Best Friend Part 1: Always Bet on Bitch is not to be trusted.

I responded ambiguously that I had ¨barely¨ written about him, just to be a dick, then racked my brain. Have I written about Jean-Paul? If so, I definitely gave him a pseudonym. I’ve never had a reason to write about Jean-Paul. He’s never humiliated me at The Bellagio or broken up with me ten minutes before Open House.

But neither has anyone else. Those are true stories that are fiction about real people who don’t exist. They are tangent to the truth.

After reading Seeing Myself from Other Angles, my friend Clara admitted she was ¨dying to know who Donny is,¨ so I told her, and she was surprised. People can’t imagine us together. Even when we were together, people didn’t believe it. Crammed into a corner table at a pub in Galway, Ireland, Donny’s closest female friend Halina scowled at me and declared me ¨not even kind of his type.¨ She was right (she was also jealous as a motherfucker). He was completely my type, though. My long list of ex-lovers is lousy with people who were physically obsessed with me and emotionally indifferent to me.

Our mismatch resulted in dozens of funny stories. Unlike my Odie stories, they don’t quite feel like mine to publicly tell. Odie is mine. His persona is my invention, though I think most of you who know him would say his fiction is the truest fiction I tell. Besides, he doesn’t read the blog. Why should he? He lives it. He married it. Our stories are mine.

I think that’s what Jean-Paul was saying when he promised to end my life told me to never even imagine writing about him. His stories aren’t mine to tell.

Anyway, he has nothing to worry about. I have absolutely never written about Jean-Paul on my blog, so we’re cool.

Posted in Confessional Stories of my Past, Essays/Commentary, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Got a Long List of Dreck Troubles

Some writers travel seamlessly between fiction and nonfiction. For the past few months, I’ve been scribbling scenes and ideas for fiction into a notebook and the results are not what I’d hoped. There is something that rings so false in my fiction writing.

Yes, I do recognize the irony in that statement.

You get my meaning, though. If the memoir is fraught with the troubling claim “my life is interesting,” as Joe Fassler writes in Atlantic Monthly, then fiction is equally laden: My imagination is interesting.

No, it isn’t quite that. My ideas would make at least as good a read as some of others’ shit I’ve slogged through over the years. The problem is in the execution. My dialogue sounds cheesy. The descriptions are stilted or banal. The vocabulary is pedantic.

Why continue with something I’m so clearly bad at? Because no matter how much I make that argument, Odie insists I take my turn at laundry, dishes, and cooking. But seriously, folks. Why write fiction if I suck at it?

Good question! Man, you ask good questions. Go, you!

Every writer dreams of penning the next Great American Novel, whether he admits it to himself or not and I am no exception. I also have the urge to write stories that I don’t or can’t live, as well as to disguise and disown the ones I did. To protect the innocent. And the guilty. And the ones who plead “no contest.”

My story is magical realism-esque, philosophical, and kind of porny. That last won’t surprise those of you who read my last blog Seeing Myself from Other Angles. I should probably write a “Shudder Warning” or “Cringe Warning” at the beginning of any such future posts for those of you who actually do know me. Just be happy I edited that post to be way less explicit. I’m not trying to get on that 50 Shades bandwagon. Lee Child wrote that if you can see the bandwagon, it’s already too late to hop on it, but that isn’t the reason my story has those elements.

My friend JG posted on Facebook that she and everyone she knows hears the words “lonely Starbucks lovers” in Taylor Swift’s song “Blank Space.” The actual lyric is: “Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane/But I’ve got a blank space, baby/And I’ll write your name.” JG and others hear “Got a list of Starbucks lovers. “I get mishearing lyrics because I thought Pharrell Williams was singing, “Bring me down, Canan.” He could be Turkish. I didn’t know.

Melissa Dahl of New York Magazine writes that based on her research, “our expectations have such a strong influence over what we hear that they can alter our interpretations of the sounds.” I know for a fact that JG does NOT have a long list of ex-lovers. As for whether the current and only love will tell you she’s insane, no comment.

Evidently, those who listen to Taylor Swift or admit to the same do not have long lists of former bedmates making armchair psychiatrist diagnoses of them. Dahl later writes that’s the reason so many people mishear the lyric. Long lists of ex-lovers? No experience. Starbucks? Indubitable experience.

I never misheard the lyric.

Would they tell you I’m insane? Let’s say that I can think of at least one person who has never shared my bed (nor the counter of a public restroom, the hood of a car, a shower, a jacuzzi, a tent, a catwalk in an auditorium, Space Mountain…) who will tell you I’m insane. If I even think of just Donny, my co-worker ex from the last post, and imagine him replaying my shrill invective delivered via classroom phone 10 minutes before Open House, I end up firmly in the “Yes column.”

What makes a “long list”? The answer is different for men than women, and so is the judgment. That is the subject of an upcoming post along with my thoughts about the most obscene sexual act that no one is allowed to talk about due to the vomit-inducing yuckiness of the topic: married sex.

My fiction story isn’t about married sex. It’s about a compelling protagonist who has some obstacles to overcome. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some friends become enemies. Some enemies become friends. At the end, the character is richer for the experience. (Thanks, Stewie Griffin).

In Hollywood-speak, it’s sort of The Matrix meets Memento with elements of The Notebook and Aliens thrown in.

Reading over what I’ve written so far of my fiction, I feel frustrated. Why can’t I take those scenes I see so vividly in my head and hear so clearly in my mind’s ear and put them on the page? It’s an existential problem that my beloved T.S. Eliot expresses so perfectly:

“And would it have been worth it, after all,/Would it have been worth while/After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,/After the novels, after the tea cups, after the skirts that trail along the floor — /And this, and so much more –/It is impossible to say just what I mean!”

Eliot’s frustration at the inadequacy of language to convey experience makes the hairs on my arms stand up. If a master like Eliot struggles with it, I will try not to feel too bad about my own trials. My plan is to keep scribbling my fiction, no matter how bad it is. If I keep practicing and keep writing then one fine morning… I, like other writers, will just beat on, a boat against the current, “till human voices wake us and we drown.”

Posted in Confessional Stories of my Past, Essays/Commentary, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment