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Recently, my boss approached me with the offer to get a health screening at work.

“Is it free?” I immediately asked.

“Yes.” she told me.

So I trotted on down to where the health screeners were set up, eager to blow them away with my ablebodiedness.  Typically what happens when I get a health screening is that my blood pressure is excellent, I get a bit of a strange look when I get weighed, my resting pulse rate is very low, and then we discuss my exercise routine and lifestyle concluding that I should keep on doing what I’m doing, then I feel great about myself for the rest of the day.  It’s a lot of fun for me.

This time around, the woman (I assume she’s a nurse, but I don’t know for sure what kind) took my blood pressure.

“It’s a little high.” she told me, looking concerned, “Have you been stressed lately?”

I was alarmed as this has never happened to me before, “I don’t think so,” I told her.

“Have you been eating a lot of high sodium food lately?”

I racked my brain to think of what I had eaten recently, and finally told her, “I ate a bunch of hummus late last night.”

“Well hummus is a healthy snack, but you should really be watching portion size and late-night eating.  I recently cut out my late-night snack, and found that the first few days it actually hurt, but now I don’t miss it at all!”

During this speech, I tried to interject that this was not, in fact, a late night snack, but dinner, as I had not gotten home from work until 10pm, but she wouldn’t late me break in to what sounded very much like a prepared anecdote for just such an occasion.

Then she asked, “Would you like your BMI (Body Mass Index)?”

I’ve figured out my BMI at home plenty of times, but never had it professionally done, so I decided to go for it.  What I forgot was that I am a very, unexpectedly heavy person.  I’m not big, no one would ever describe me as fat, or overweight, but when I tell people how much I weigh they either don’t believe me, or they are shocked.  I told a friend once that he would be amazed how heavy I am–this is a friend who was an avid weightlifter.  A few months later, during some work shenanigans, he picked me up and ran with me down the hall.

As he, panting, set me down, he remarked, “Wow, you weren’t kidding.”  This was when I was at my skinniest, when my mother was calling my brother telling him to tell me to eat, and co-workers were asking how I stayed so svelte.

I didn’t get a chance to tell this woman any of this because she weighed me, took out her chart, and then started lecturing me on the importance of exercise, even when the daylight hours are so short, and not filling up on bacon and soda.

She and her partner then loaded me down with brochures about losing weight the healthy way, and “exercise for busy people.”  Not once did they ask me if I binge eat bacon, or how much exercise I get on average; they just assumed from my weight that I’m sedentary and have bad habits.

What surprised me was how bothered I am by this.  Having grown up with a mother who is constantly dieting and who loves to make comments about my weight–usually based on how she feels about her weight–I’ve developed a healthy body image almost out of spite.  I know none of their assumptions about me are true, but the fact that they would make these assumptions started filling my head with all kinds of notions–what if I am fat, and I didn’t know it? What if my friends and loved ones are just too polite to tell me that I’ve let myself go?

My stork-legged, bacon-loving, and staunchly sedentary Jewish Friend quickly reassured me that that was not the case, and I believe her.  I like to think that I have the kind of friends who would honestly tell me if I’ve somehow gotten fat without my knowledge.

I’ve long thought that the BMI is a load of bunk, because weight is not the final arbiter of health.  A friend of mine who recently lost 85 pounds, and is featured in this month’s Fitness magazine, is still technically overweight, according to the BMI.  I could start smoking again, quit eating, and be at a “healthy” weight in no time, but that shouldn’t be the kind of lifestyle a workplace wellness person promotes.

I want to call this woman and yell at her, but I honestly don’t know what to say. “I’m a naturally heavy person” sounds like an excuse, and calling her up insisting that I run 25 miles a week, haven’t eaten bacon since I was 12, and almost never drink soda would be a very strange thing to do.

All I can do is shake it off, though I feel like maybe I’ll picture this woman as I run my next 1/2 marathon.  I bet I’ll destroy my old time that way.

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This is possibly the easiest thing I’ve ever made–simple, simple, simple, and made easier by the fact that I got myself a new immersion stick blender!  Wow, life changing. This will be a winter of soups.

I’ve tried to use the hand mixer in lieu of the blender, and that was a splattery disaster, plus a cleanup hassle.  This time around, I made a bit of a mess, but not bad at all.  Plus my hand mixer is silver–it’s so sexy.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup

Ingredients:

1 14-ounce can vegetable broth, or 1 cube bullion + water
1 cup water
1 pound broccoli crowns, trimmed and chopped (about 6 cups) –I used 1 bag frozen, rinsed to get the freezer burn off
1 14-ounce can cannelloni beans, rinsed (Canned beans are super high in sodium, so next time I’m going to buy dry beans and soak them)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I did not add salt because the canned beans are salty already, as is the bullion–tasted great)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

  • Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add broccoli, cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in beans, salt and pepper and cook until the beans are heated through, about 1 minute.
  • Transfer half the mixture to a blender and puree, or use kick-ass hand blender.
  • Transfer to a bowl and blend the other half of the mixture.
  • Stir in cheese.

Yes, this looks like throw-up, but it is delicious and fantastically fast and easy.  I will be making it again soon.

I’ve worked in customer service most of my working life.  I genuinely enjoy it because in my real life I’m not terribly gregarious, and this way I get to interact with all sorts of characters in a controlled, limited way.  I’ve seen, if not everything, plenty of stuff, enough to make me a bit more unflappable than your average newbie librarian.  Why is it then that I have forgotten about the breed of patron/customer that has brought me the most grief over my checkered career?  How remiss am I to think that just because I have a master’s degree in library science that I will not have to deal with the gross old men of the world?

My interactions with gross old men go back to high school, yes, high school.  Working at the gas station, wearing an unflattering red, later tan, polo shirt made me the target for many inappropriate men.  They would flirt, flatter, follow.  Co-workers and I would enact elaborate “save me” routines to extract one another from the clutches of these wannabe philanderers.  Thankfully, I learned quite quickly how to deflect these advances, and I think I was aided by the fact that, as a sixteen-year-old, I had the law on my side should anything get out of hand, but the comments and winks became exhausting.

I chalked it all up to living in a very small town, and moved to the big city where surely, surely, men behave appropriately around significantly younger ladies.  I got a job at Barnes & Noble, which is second only to the library as a place where the weirdos come in droves.  There I met a man who spent about 12 hours per day in that store–sometimes longer.  In the cafe, we served him breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus the occasional snack, and he sat at the high counter reading the paper, magazines, and being visited by friends.  He also decided that I was the girl for him, or if not for him, for his son.  He brought in pictures, talked the young stud up every chance he got, and introduced me to people as “my future daughter-in-law.”

When he first got the idea that his son and I were meant to be, his son was out of the country.  “He’ll be back in a few weeks,” he told me, “What will you say to him when I bring him in?”

“I’ll ask him if he wants a coffee,” I replied.

He was very disappointed in me.

Now, at my present job, I have a new fan.  He comes in all the time, right before closing, and traps me in conversation as often as possible.  “Andria, can you recommend a DVD for me?  Andria, I need articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education and I don’t know how to find them.  Andria, is Land’s End a good store to get a gift card from?”  At least some of what he asks me are actual reference questions, but not nearly enough.

Yesterday, he gave me a christmas card (with his phone number and email address included), and when I complained to my boss of his overtures, she suggested a stunt ring.

“Go get something cheap and flashy and make sure he sees it, then he’ll leave you alone.” she told me.

This is something I’ve though about before, and when I was working at tv station, the foxy meteorologist and I discussed it at length as she had been getting a lot of crude emails from many, many men, but it seems like I shouldn’t have to take these steps.  Why would a man who is old enough to be my father, who is educated, and supposedly sensible think that my being polite and courteous is anything more than me just being good at my job?  I don’t want to wear a stunt ring, and I don’t want to be a girl who talks constantly of her boyfriend, but I think it may come to that.

I was working at a wine bar before I moved to Rhode Island, and there was an older gentleman who came in often, monopolized my time, and asked me to go out with him several times.  When I heard that he had come in on my night off, asked where I was, then promptly left, I decided to play the boyfriend card.  All conversation halted– he wouldn’t even look at me. He chugged his wine, threw some money on the table, and left without saying goodbye.

I certainly don’t miss him or his company, but I was a bit hurt that all our interactions seemed to just be a ploy to…what?… get me into bed?  Does that actually ever work?

I just don’t want to have to deal with this, but I do, which I find unfair.  After this guy, there will be more, I’m sure, and once the attention stops, I’ll probably feel bad about my looks fading.

Two things used to drive me crazy when I was growing up:

  1. When relatives would look at my little brother, and remark, “Wow, he is going to be tall.”  This happened at every extended family get together, and I would listen to it seething with rage and think, I’ll show them, I’m going to be tall too!  Jokes on me, though I do feel taller than I used to, I’m still average height.
  2. When people would ask me if I played sports like my brother.

My extended family lived far enough away that we only saw some of them once a year. Since my brother was tall (or would soon be tall), it was assumed that he either did play or would play basketball, so they talked about that, then the conversation would  extend to college or professional sports, and they would talk as equals.  I don’t know if my family was just sports obsessed, or really bad at talking to kids, but they would always ask me if I played sports.  If I did, we would talk awkwardly about it because there really wasn’t much to say, and even in my more athletic days, I wasn’t very athletic, and I didn’t really care about sports; or if I didn’t, I get some kind of mini-lecture about not joining enough things, and then we’d talk about my brother’s sporty endeavors.

As a kid, I was involved with plenty of other things: I was a figure skater, I was a Girl Scout, I took piano lessons and later played flute until junior year (first chair); in high school I was Future business Leaders of America Vice-President, I was yearbook co-editor–there was plenty of “joiny” things for us to talk about, plus I was always an avid reader/movie watcher/story writer.  All this was rendered useless because I hate and am no good at basketball.

I imagine that once of my brother’s major grievances is having to talk about sports all the time as well, cause it’s really bizarre, but I’m finding that it’s still continuing.

When Gentleman Scholar and I moved into our current apartment, the first floor apartment was empty, and Elderly Neighbor lived on the third floor.  He had since moved to the first floor, and Hip Young Couple are in the process of remodeling the third floor getting ready for their move in.  Elderly Neighbor being on the first floor, means that his living room is right above my “home gym” i.e. treadmill and tv in the dusty basement.

I ran into him on the stairs a while ago, and he mentioned that he could hear the tv.  “Oh, I’m sorry,” I told him, “I can turn it down.”

He waved away my concern, “It’s not a problem, I’m usually watching tv, or on the internet, so it doesn’t bother me.  How much do you run a day anyway?”

I told him that I was presently training for a 1/2 marathon, and he practically slapped his knee with glee, “I knew it! I knew when I heard you down there, I told myself ‘that girl is training for something’.”  Then he bombarded me with questions about my daily mileage, how many races run, how I started doing this, etc.  These are all questions I have no problem answering, but it seems to be all he cares about anymore. I’m half expecting him to come scampering down the stairs next time I’m running and monitor my breathing technique.

When I used to run into Elderly Neighbor on the stairs, we would talk about librarianship, or my cat, or just random other stuff–now it’s all running all the time.  What am I training for?  Is usually the big one, and when I say “nothing right now” the look of disappointment on his face is alarming.  I mean, I guess I’m always training for something, but nothing I’ve registered for, and that doesn’t seem to be exciting enough for him.  It seems like he would be unimpressed if I told him that I just like running.

I guess talking about books, movies, travel, librarianship, or anything else that I’m interested in/good at just isn’t going to happen, and I should accept that, and I should avoid him as much as I can.

When I was in high school, in home ec class (though by that time the name has been changed to the more PC Family and Consumer Sciences), we had lessons in hair, nails, and make-up.  Clearly, the name of the class was the only thing that had changed, the spirit remained firmly stuck in the 1950s.  Because I did not care for make-up, and hate having a fuss made of me, my friends thought it was hilarious to volunteer me to be the “model” for both the make-up day, and the hair day.  In order to prepare for the make-up demonstration, I had to go to the local Mary Kay lady’s house, and sit through two hours of learning how to put on make-up “the Mary Kay way,” then I had to repeat the whole process in front of the class, and spend the remainder of the day feeling like I was wearing a mask and worrying that I was touching my face too much.

This town’s Mary Kay lady was no-nonsense.  She was savvy, all business, and wore a blazer that was decorated with all kinds of epaulets like a military jacket.  She also managed to lobby to have putting on make-up, and doing your nails turned into a two-day lesson for our class–the hair lady only got one.  Since that time, I’ve been forced to go to a dozen Mary Kay parties where a bunch of girls sit around a long table, wash their faces, put on make-up, and then marvel at how shiny our nails are, or how amazing this concealer is.  I half get swept up in the fervor too, but have never actually bought anything.

In college, Baby-Having Best Friend duped me into going to a Mary Kay party with the promise of a free meal and drinks afterward (really a surefire way to get me to do something unpleasant).  She had been guilted into going by the woman who would soon become her sister-in-law, and she wanted moral support.  What neither of us realized was that this was more of a recruitment session than it was a typical Mary Kay party.  Sure, we’d all be putting on make-up together, and gawking at the “new holiday colors,” but after that, we’d all be forced to sit through a lecture about how amazing Mary Kay is, and how much money we can make, and how we’d be foolish not to take this opportunity.  I looked around the room, and listened to the figures that these women were quoting as to how much product each of us would have to move in order to get the good life this presenter was assuring us we could all have, and it just didn’t add up, there aren’t enough consumers to make this scheme into the get-a-pink-cadillac-retire-early-in-the-Caymans life we were promised.

Despite the hard sell, and the groupthink, I did not become a Mary Kay lady that day, but I did write a satirical screenplay about the experience, so it wasn’t a total loss.  I’ve managed to avoid parties of this kind almost successfully since this one (except the Pampered Chef party that the same friend suckered me into going to, again, promising free food), but now it seems even by avoiding these parties, I’m still not able to avoid the stuff.

My mother’s sister used to have some job, I don’t really know the name of her position, but she worked in a clinic in Philadelphia doing brain scans on kids.  She got laid off, unfortunately, but rebounded with a new job as a Creative Memories salesperson!  This meant that my graduation present was a big blank book to put photos in, a bunch of funky stickers, a pair of wacky scissors, and her brochure for when I needed new supplies.  It also meant that at every family event, she would put together a picture college decorated  with funky stickers, and pictures cut in cool shapes with wacky scissors!  I was not happy.

I’ve been invited to Lia Sophia jewelry parties, Party Light candle parties (I’m sorry, what the hell do you do at a candle party?), numerous Pampered Chef parties; and when I refuse invitations to every single one, catalogs still magically appear, and get passed around at work.  Even at stupid Pepsi, when they expressly told us in our week-long training that they do not allow people to solicit on work property (the only thing I heard during training that made me happy), I still got the hard sell from more than one eager woman.

Currently, at my work, there is a whole setup in the staff room from someone (no idea who) selling Wildtree Natural Foods.  There are brochures, samples, a giant crock pot that had I-don’t-know-what in it, and the promise of a party on Saturday!  I understand that people need to make money, I get that, but when you start selling stuff like this, I can’t help but feel like you’re just begging your friends, family, and co-workers for money in exchange for something that no one really wants or needs.  Also, soliciting co-workers, and having parties and your place of employment is just tacky and inappropriate.  I don’t like feeling like a cheap or mean person when I refuse this stuff, but I always do.  I’m trying to get over it.

I am not a big holiday fan.  My family is not very good at celebrating christmas, too many years of working retail at christmas time have made me hate christmas music and people who don’t embody the spirit of the season when dealing with retail staff; and it always feels like forced gaity.  When I tell people that I don’t care for christmas–they yell at me, demand to know what’s wrong with me, and tell me that I need to change–hardly the spirit of loving your neighbor.  It’s not that I hate christmas, I’m just indifferent to it, but apparently that is just not okay with people.

When I first moved to Rhode Island, I was incredibly excited to spend christmas by myself.  I had the day off for the first time in five years  (when I worked in television, I volunteered to work christmas every year because it was important to other people to have the day off), and had plans to lounge, eat frozen pizza, watch James Bond movies, read, and have a completely guilt-free no-agenda-of-any-kind day.  I was looking forward to this with tremendous intensity, and made the mistake bragging about my plans when people asked.  The typical reaction was dismay, followed by disappointment, followed by an emphatic disavowal of my plans, sometimes followed by an insistent invitation to spend christmas with whoever I was talking to.  No one was happy for me, even though I was clearly happy for myself.

Eventually, I accepted an invitation from the people I call my Rhode Island parents because they would not let me say no, and and the end of the parental haranguing, I was almost convinced that I would wake up the morning after christmas weeping and regretting missing a family meal and “togetherness.”  It was a lovely time, and a delicious meal, but I also had to drive 90 minutes in quasi-bad weather, and put on nice pants–not what I had planned for my lazy day.

This year, I have planted my feet firmly in “My christmas/my rules” territory much to the dismay of Gentleman Scholar.  Being a native Rhode Islander, he has scads of extended family within driving distance, and holiday traditions that include a ravioli eating contest. I spent Thanksgiving with them, which was lovely, and made lovelier by the fact that his family actually drinks (unlike mine).  As I was getting to know his mom’s cousins, they asked where I was from followed with the, “You’ll be going back there for christmas, I assume.”

“I’m not, actually,” I told them, “I like to spend christmas by myself,and I have a wonderful day planned…”

“Oh no!  Don’t your parents want you to come back and visit? Are they coming here?”

“No, we aren’t a big christmas family…”  I watched their faces fall in the familiar pose of pity, and sadness, and tried to regroup by being flippant, assuring them that it wasn’t a big deal, somehow I managed to mention my dead grandparents.  It was about as awkward as it could have been, and only made them feel sorrier for me.

I cannot figure out a way to sell my type of christmas in a way that makes people really realize that I’m really, really happy with it.  I moved 1,800 miles to escape familial obligations, and I want to celebrate that, but it’s still seen as tragic.  The only way I think I can deal with it in a way that makes everyone feel good is by lying, but that seems like a lot of backstory–not worth it.

This year, my Jewish Friend and I are having what I have dubbed “Jenna and Andria’s low-key xmas of fun!”  We will watch Anthony Bourdain, read, snack, and have a grand old time.  I’m very excited about it, please believe me.