Let’s beat the whole crazy season into submission by turning October, November and December into one long Euro-style holiday for the 99 percent!
Regular visitors to this yeasty, entirely overheated corner of the blogosphere by now will have noted my less than sunny views on the holiday season. Each year, Halloween ushers in the annual frenzy with a vodka and Twizzler orgy that more often than not ends with me climbing to the roof to burn Martha in effigy, inadvertently blowing up the portable bar or otherwise frightening the children. Soon after, Thanksgiving red-lines my culinary stress meter and pushes my frazzled psyche to the limits of sanity, so that by the time Christmas rolls around, I’ve been on a liquid diet so long I can no longer tell the difference between a Bloody Mary and a large gazpacho, and even if I could I wouldn’t care, as long as there’s enough Stoli for my soup. Then like clockwork, on January 2nd it’s back to Betty Ford.
Just as predictably, it seems to me, every year the holiday decorations go up a little earlier, the carols start a bit sooner, and the event horizon on my liver transplant slides ever closer. I know I am not wrong about this — the holiday creep, I mean.
And so it was with real horror that I encountered something very like this in the local bookstore. On October 30th. Owing to the unseasonably balmy weather, I was wearing sandals as I passed the festive display of holiday titles, which gave the experience a kind of surreal, even menacing quality.
Imagine if you will an average housewife on an average day. She enters the bookstore on a harmless birthday present-buying errand only to encounter a bewildering array of Christmas paraphernalia — in the month of October. Has she lost three months due to dissipated excess, is she merely a victim of overeager marketing, or are more sinister forces at work? Perhaps she has entered . . . the Holiday Zone.
Sends a shiver up your spine, does it not?
Well, it did mine. So as soon as my purchase was complete, I hightailed it toward home, only to encounter this in my neighborhood. Was it any wonder that, shaken and disoriented, I staggered into the local watering hole, which became a kind of sink hole, and eventually a black hole? At evening’s end, Mr. Slattern was somewhat less than pleased at being called to collect me, though he got over it eventually. Thank heaven the man is handy with a stomach pump.
Anyhow, now that my head has cleared and I’ve taken the pledge — again — my recent experiences have got me thinking, and I have come up with a heck of an idea. Let’s beat the whole crazy season into submission by turning October, November and December into one long Euro-style holiday for the 99 percent! Over the three months, we’ll all work about one day out of every five, as our Continental cousins appear to, while the one percent (retailers, marketing companies, advertisers) continue to clock-in as usual in a frantic effort to flog the decorations, specialty foods and gifts we can’t be bothered to shop for because we’re too busy lolling on the beach, sipping espresso in cafes and binge-viewing all five seasons of Fringe in one weekend.
Then instead of discrete holidays, we can just decorate for one. No more changing from jack o’lanterns to turkeys to Christmas trees or menorahs. Just throw it all up at once in October, and take it all down in January. Or never. What difference does it make? Think of all the time you’ll save. On October first you can festoon your Christmas tree with tiny pumpkins, dress your dancing Santa up as Dracula and fill your cornucopia with fake severed fingers. Spin your pentagram dreidel, stuff the Thanksgiving bird with leftover Charlestown Chews and Red Vines, bob for drumsticks, go caroling in your Pilgrim get-up. The possibilities are endless. See?
Holy Mother of God, is it Halloween again? Already? How I could have missed this given the flurry of Martha Stewart Halloween hints that clutter up my email this time of year is a mystery. Perhaps it’s because this is the first year the little Slattern has not been home for the holiday, and as such the first year I have not had to make or even think about costumes. Anyways…in recognition of this, my least favorite holiday, I give you…drum roll please…last year’s post. Don’t be disappointed. It was a corker.
I hate Halloween. The costume hysteria, the sugar meltdown, the sugar coma, the instant weight gain, the toilet paper in the trees, the stink of scorched pumpkin innards, and that’s before we even begin to deal with the children.
Then there’s the expectation that this, or something very like it, will somehow come into play. Yeah, sure. Imagine a bag of cold oatmeal in a thong and handcuffs for a preview of the appeal of that. Finally, factor in a bunch of cranked up kids and you’ve got a recipe for instant Armageddon, folks.
So how do I cope with it year after soul-destroying year? I think you know, but in case you don’t here’s my strategy. Do with it what you will.
October 27: Buy candy I think the kids will like, but which really is what I like: Snickers miniatures, Twizzlers, Heath bars, peanut butter cups, et al.
October 28: Emerge from sugar coma long enough to destroy the evidence and trash any remaining food items.
October 29: Replace consumed candy with items I do not like (Charlestown Chew, Laffy Taffy, pixie stix). Eat those anyway, because by now the sugar monkey on my back has become a gorilla and the beast must be fed.
October 30: Join Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous or similar. Plan a gym visit. Begin green tea detox and abandon it three hours later.
4 pm: Run out to corner store in a panic to replace candy currently stored on my ass or passing through my digestive tract. Find only reject items, such as Good ‘N Plenty, Mary Janes, Red Hots. Buy anyway along with a large bottle of pink grapefruit juice.
5 pm: Dump all reject candy into a large bowl and set on front steps. Too shameful to hand out in person. Turn out all the lights. Retreat to the back of the house with the grapefruit juice and a large bottle of vodka and wait it out with a Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon. By the time the trick or treaters have finished their retaliatory toilet papering and egging for the crap candy, I’m too fat to clean it up and too drunk to care.
November 1: Back to Betty Ford.
Well maybe if you paid me in Dom Perignon…Nah, not even then.
I’m not going to enable the attention-getting behavior of that rat’s-ass crazy chick who posed on the cover of Time with her three year old hanging off her left breast by reprinting the photo. I’m sure by now the image is forever seared on your consciousness, just as it is mine. I’m also certain I won’t be the first person to point out that breastfeeding a child who can pull up his own pants, conjugate verbs in the past tense, and program the TiVo has more in common with molestation than meal time, but if your primary goal for your kid is to end up on top of the library tower in 15 years with a hunting rifle in his hand and a clothespin on his penis, nursing him until he goes to middle school strikes me as a pretty effective way to start.
Carbohydrate deprivation at the ragged edge of sanity.
It’s been two weeks since a barbecued potato chip, a buttery baked potato or half a chocolate cherry cheesecake found its way to my plate. Beer is but a distant memory, and wine is scarcer than, well, bread and potatoes. The numbers on the scale are slowly falling, my jeans are showing signs they might one day loosen their vise-like grip on my southern hemisphere, and my ass no longer hits the sofa a full minute before the rest of me — it’s probably more like 30 seconds, though it’s hard to remember to count when you’re collapsing from hunger and exhaustion. Nonetheless, visions of filmy summer frocks and strappy tank tops skitter merrily before the mind’s eye, and I have even entertained the occasional mad thought of frolicking sarong-less on the beach come August. Yes indeed, I am on my way to becoming a diet success story.
Provided I don’t kill someone first.
Anybody really, but I would have to say that the person with a large chocolate eclair in hand is in far greater danger than say, somebody sipping a blameless cup of nasty green tea. I don’t even want to think about what I might do for a Singapore Sling at this point. Consider yourselves warned.
Life on the straight and narrow, I am finding, has all the charm of hard time at Betty Ford with catering by Gwyneth Paltrow. Now I know why she always has that pinched look — she’s hungry every goddamned minute of every god forsaken day. By all appearances the only things Gwynnie’s filling that gob with are mung beans, lettuce shards and air. This is not a meal plan that brings out the best in anyone, I can assure you. It certainly does, however, bring out the thoracic skeletal structure. I, unfortunately, run no such risk.
Now I have lost and regained enough weight to insulate the skeletons of at least four or five brand new, well-fed adults in my lifetime. The dieting process is nothing new, but let me tell you it does not get easier with age. Still, if like me, you embark upon a dietary clean-up with optimistic goals of achieving glowing health, physical perfection and emotional equilibrium by embracing a healthier regime, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Better, in my view, to accept that replacing the foods you like with healthy, non-fattening items will be about as pleasurable as a mandatory NPR marathon. Sure it’s edifying and makes you feel all superior and plugged in at first, but after about three hours you know you’d rather be watching the Stooges while working your way through a two-pound bag of Oreos, a bag of Doritos and a case of Coronas.
So in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to disabuse you of a few of the myths surrounding weight loss.
1. Salad is filling.
It is not. Not even a little. You could spend three days at an all you can eat salad bar and you’d still be jonesing for a breadstick. Sure you can eat all the greens you like, but who the hell wants to eat a plate of greens instead of a burger and fries?
2. Salad is satisfying.
It’s about as satisfying as it is filling. Unless of course it’s covered in bleu cheese, croutons and hangar steak. THAT is a meal.
3. Diet/low fat treats are a good replacement for regular treats.
Probably the biggest load of bullshit since Bill Clinton straightened us out about Monica. In fact, to take the comparison one step further, eating one Skinny Cow is about as satisfying as giving an unreciprocated blow job. In my experience all one Skinny Cow leads to is another Skinny Cow, and pretty soon you’re sitting in front of the freezer, bloated and sick, with nondairy stains all over the front of your dress and an empty ice cream sandwich six pack clutched in your sticky hands.
4. After a week or so you’ll stop craving sugary treats/potato chips/cheese doodles/french fries.
Oh ferchrissakes, as my sainted Grandpa Harvey used to say, if that was the case we’d all be slender. You will never pass a bakery or a McDonald’s without feeling an adrenaline rush that is not unlike a great whacking jolt of ECT, or so I am told.
5. You can have a few drinks and still lose weight.
Really? Does anyone buy that? Here’s how it works, children. One glass of wine leads to another glass of wine (see above, Skinny Cows). Two glasses lead to three and so on, and eventually you’re lying on the living room floor with a pint of Phish Food and a serving spoon, wondering if it’s too late to order in a pepperoni pizza which would be delicious with that bottle of chianti you’ve been saving for company.
6. Whole grains taste better than refined ones.
Sure they do. If you like eating mealy cardboard. There’s a reason white rice and bread were historically reserved for the wealthy — they taste better. That Ezekial bread you’re chomping on requires toasting and at least half a cup of butter to be even remotely palatable, whereas a warm hunk of a crusty baguette delights the tastebuds all on its own, completely naked and utterly nude. Add a suspicion of salted butter and a dollop of cherry jam, and you have what I used to think of as breakfast.
7. Skim or low fat milk is acceptable in coffee.
I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.
So why do it? Why not just embrace your God given right to be ample? Well, it’s costly to buy new clothes every year and depressing to have to gaze at yourself in a changing room mirror for more than ten seconds. And looking like the Michelin man in a bikini is more upsetting than you might think. So when you’re waffling on your diet or feeling tempted by the pastry cart, try this:
Would you pass me a carrot stick please?
As the six-month anniversary of my little experiment in self-expression draws near, I note that there seems to be a bit of confusion among my readers as to my feelings about the domestic arts in general and cooking in particular. Frankly, this surprises me since my opinion on the subject appears, at least to me, to have been made abundantly clear in this, my little corner of the web. But in the interest of enlightenment and with an eye toward full disclosure, let me be clear.
I would be completely happy if I never cooked another damned meal*, set foot in a fully functional kitchen, or laid eyes on a vacuum cleaner again for the rest of my life.
Oh yes, I would be perfectly content to order in or dine out every night for the remainder of my time in this earthly paradise, and if someone wanted to meet me for lunch most days, that would be fine too. In fact, I’d be willing to forego the midday meal altogether just to avoid having to provision, prepare and clear it. If you’d ever had a squint at me, you’d understand the enormity of that statement. Let’s just say you could count the number of meals I have missed in the past year on one hand without stressing the pinky or thumb unduly and leave it at that.
I would miss housekeeping even less than cooking, and so I am flummoxed when I hear my friends (to clarify, my older friends) talking about downsizing plans that involve offloading houses and acquiring condominiums. Yes, it’s less square footage, and not so much hassle, but you still own the damned thing. When the toilet backs up it’s you wielding the plunger. If the Baked Alaska suddenly becomes the Towering Inferno, you’d best know where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it (not to mention being able to convince the firefighters you were in full possession of your faculties when the “incident” occurred, but that’s a story for another day). And when the refrigerator gives up the ghost, you’ve got to source and buy another, only to start the whole ugly business of meal prep over again. Ditto the stove. And who in his right mind would want to do that, for pity’s sake?
Now I do have friends who have very cleverly repurposed their kitchen appliances as storage, and if I owned furs (I don’t, I just can’t), I would certainly keep them in the fridge. I used to keep my film there, but digital photography has eliminated the need. As it is, my nail polish collection is doing well on ice, but really, who has that much lacquer? So it’s either unplug the damned thing or fill it up. And once it’s filled, you’ve got to cook. Really it’s that simple. And that sad.
So, imagine how thrilled I was recently to hear a fresh solution to the downsizing question from none other than my brilliant cousin, Rebecca! Ready? Here it is: Skip the condo, bypass the rental apartment and go straight to a hotel.
Become a PERMANENT GUEST!
Consider — there’s no kitchen, save for a coffee maker and a minibar (what else do you really need?). You get room service, daily maid service (provided by someone other than yourself), laundry service, porters, and your bed turned down every night with a little mint on the pillow. And the bar is right downstairs! It would be just like assisted living, but without the colostomy bags, institutional food and restraints. In fact, come to think of it, it would be very like Betty Ford, sans Betty or any of the other killjoys who infest her establishment.
Just thinking about the possibilities of permanent guest status nearly makes me drop to the floor and rock in a frenzy of overstimulated bliss. My path is clear, now if I could just get my head to follow.
* NOTE: Exceptions would of course be made for the odd dinner party, provided it was limited to no more than eight guests and someone else cleaned up.