Why I’ll Never Get On Another Scale Ever In My Life

My new happy weight - nought.
My new happy weight – nought.

So finally, at the age of 42, after being a slave to my scale for as long as I can remember, I have stopped weighing myself. It’s been about six months since last I voluntarily made myself feel crap first thing in the morning, post-wee, pre-coffee. And it’s not because at last I reached a level of self-acceptance and understanding that I am more than that what those numbers say, it’s because my scale takes those little round batteries like you used to get in Nintendo games and I have no idea where you buy them. And while at first the site of that blank screen filled me with panic (how would I know how fat I was? How would I measure yesterday’s level of gluttony or – less commonly – denial if I didn’t know my exact weight, down to the comma whatever?).

And then an interesting thing happened – nothing. At first it was weird not starting my day with the rush of oh-yay-I’m-down-300-grams-since-yesterday-I’m-not-gonna-touch-a-carb-all-day OR the crash of oh-fuck-why-did-I-have-those-three-glasses-of-wine-now-look-I-might-as-well-have-ciabatta. I missed the smug (albeit hollow, short-lived) feeling of victory when I had gone hungry and the scale was my best friend, but I didn’t miss the other feeling which happened rather more often – the dismay and the quiet self-loathing. Because it’s really quite difficult to feel okay about yourself as a woman if you’re not pretty thin. And somehow, achieving that goal can feel like the most important thing in the world. Which is seriously fucked up.

Three years ago, roughly (I remember this moment well) I got on the scale at midday (midday, nogal!) and it read 57kgs. That’s low for me as I’m not a naturally skinny person. The reason I weighed 57 (as opposed to 62, my body’s happy weight) was because I had recently moved countries with two small children, had no job or home, my husband was working overseas, I had chronic insomnia and our marriage was taking strain. I have never been so stressed and on edge in all of my life but, by god, I was thin! And that made up for all the other stuff. Needless to say, my delight was short-lived. We bought a house, I got a job, we settled in and found the love, and with happiness, (for me) comes food. We cook and we eat and drink wine and talk into the night because we’re friends and we’re alive and days are hard enough without living on grilled chicken.

I don’t weigh 57 anymore, and – barring a terminal illness or my head falling off – I never will again. I have no idea what I weigh, and I don’t really care. Okay, that’s not true. I do care, but not enough to make me go buy those batteries. My really skinny jeans are too tight on me, but luckily I have others. I exercise a few times a week without being mental about it, and instead of imposing crazy rules on myself, I try to listen to what my body is asking for. Sometimes it’s an enormous salad; other times it’s Kettle Fried chips. I have days when I eat too much and days when I eat just right. Sometimes I clutch at my muffin tops and hate the way I look naked; other times I think, hell, you’re not doing not too bad, lady. I think the biggest challenge we women face is being nice to ourselves. And without that mofo scale to torment me, I’m finding this a little bit easier.

Why, when a man advises you not to have sex with him, it’s a really good idea to listen.

Last Friday at sundowners in the Courtyard of Iniquity (the home of my neighbour-friend where we frequently gather to let off steam) a forty-year-old divorcee whom we’ll call Craig started entertaining us with stories of singledom – who he meets, what it’s like out there and what the new rules are for dating. And what amazed me is that even though the women he’s seeing are older and ostensibly wiser – having travelled around that proverbial block more than twice – their stupidity and naivety are nothing short of amazing. While Craig is a nice-looking guy with a good job and a sexy car, it takes around 7 seconds to work out that the man is a bona fide dog. And I say this with affectionate because I like him. He’s warm, open and engaging. But if I was a single woman I would avoid him like the plague.

Because, not only did Craig’s marriage end because he was a serial cheater (leopards and spots, friends, leopards and spots), but because it’s patently clear that he has the morals of Hugh Hefner and less than no respect for women. But now before you start feeling sorry for the hapless girls who stroll into his favourite drinking hole den, here’s the rub: at no point does this man attempt to hide the dogness of his ways. On the contrary, when he meets a woman whom he knows is only good enough for a shag and will never, ever be anything more in his life, he tells her upfront. Not in Arabic or code or veiled language, either. What Craig says is this: ‘you do not want to sleep with me. I am a dog. I am the kind of man your mother warned you about. Take my advice, and don’t go there.’

And what do these women do? Do they go, ‘at last! A man who is honest about his intentions. I do not want some arsehole who won’t call the next day, I want a husband. So, best I move along swiftly. Goodbye, player guy, I was made for better things.’ Nooooo. They whip their knickers off faster than you can say La Senza. They love his admission; they lap it up. Turns out, it’s the best line he’s ever used. It’s foolproof. Then, when he doesn’t call (like he promised he wouldn’t), they are incensed. They hound him, leave furious messages on his phone, demand to know why it meant nothing to them. What is going on here?! What part of English are they not understanding? It’s truly the oddest thing.

All we could work out that night was that either they don’t believe him (mistake), or they see it as some kind of challenge – I’ll be the one to change you. That’s how amazing I am. Needless to say, they end up getting burnt. So, the moral of the story is this: in the first half hour of meeting someone they’re going to tell you who they are. This is the most honest he will probably ever be with you, so play close attention to what this guy chooses to reveal. Later, in the heat of the moment, you’re deliberately going to forget, and then the disappointment that follows will be your own damn fault and you’ll be phoning him and crying when you knew all along. There are as many different kinds of guys out there as there are women, but one thing holds, irrespective: when a man advises you not to have sex with him it’s a really good idea to listen.

The worst holiday of my life – with pictures

Road trippin'... Sophie, two-and-a-half Road trippin’… Sophie, two-and-a-half

Who – as in, WHO – puts a two-year-old and a newborn baby with a personality disorder into the back of a station-wagon and drives across northern Europe in horizontal rain? And how could this scenario ever, possibly, end well? In my defence, I was newly post-partum and I think hormones and the searing pain of mangled nipples (and mangled other bits) were clouding my judgement to the point that when I saw the photograph of the house on the fjord, all awash with sunlight (they must have taken the pic on the single rain-free day that year) with snow-capped mountains in the background and the water an astonishing aquamarine I did not think, ‘hang on – this house in the mountains would be a very nice vacation spot for two adults who like to read, relax and take walks, but since we now have these dreadfully noisy and demanding young children, no way, José’ – no, I did not. I thought, hell – how bad can it be? Well.

While we knew the distance in kilometers from Malmö, south of Sweden, to the village of Sogndal in Norway, what we didn’t know is that Norwegian roads are roughly four metres in diameter, and that July is the month when all the Germans of the world decide to rent camper-wagons and go and purvey the fjords. So, while we should have arrived at our destination relatively quickly, instead we crawled along, unable to overtake, while the smaller of the dictators screamed blue murder pretty much non-stop. It was a long journey, to say the least. Our only respite came on the ferry when – please understand that these were the days before Madeleine McCann – we locked her in the cabin, asleep (okay, screaming, but eventually she’d wear herself out and nod off) and enjoyed a very nice fish buffet with an ocean view.

Not pining for the fjords - The Sognefjord
Not pining for the fjords – The Sognefjord
The house on the Sognefjord was every bit as beautiful as the picture promised. One doesn’t say this lightly when one has grown up in Cape Town, but Norway is off-the-charts gorgeous, with its alpine-looking mountains towering over lakes the colour of a Caribbean ocean. But, it must be said, there is the issue of the weather. We stayed for a month while my husband did a locum for a chiropractor couple who’d gone to the States to have their baby, and it was the longest month of my life. Because there is only about half an hour of darkness a night, nobody slept. And in the day, when you needed to be awake to deal with the demands of two bored, cranky babies, a constant, grey drizzle made you want to do nothing but go back to bed forever.

I can write about this with humour now, but honestly, I don’t remember feeling more desperate and suicidal in all my life. Since the house was (literally) on top of a mountain, putting the smaller and more tyrannical of our children into a pram so that she’d be appeased for 30 minutes was tricky. We spent more hours than I care to remember walking up and down this mountain in a perpetual drizzle while I, in a high-pitched Mary Poppins-voice (bordering on hysteria), pointed out ‘interesting’ flowers and insects to my soggy two-year-old who was trying her best, under difficult circumstances, to keep a stiff upper lip. There were times that ‘holiday’ that I lost it, and even writing this, the memory brings tears of shame to my eyes. Sometimes I yelled at the two-year-old when it was the other one who deserved my wrath. I was just so fucking tired. And fat. And miserable. Per went off every day to work in Norwegian (not easy) and tried his best to be with us, but somebody had to bring in the dosh. The days dragged, and every afternoon I sat by the window, Carly Simon on repeat, waiting to see the car turn the corner so that he would be with me and life would feel manageable again.

Per, Sophie and Bride-of-Chucky visiting a glacier
Per, Sophie and Bride of Chucky visiting a glacier
And there were fun times, too. My mom and dad-in-law drove up from Denmark, and they took the girls for walks and gave me a few moments to gather myself (though even saintly grandma’s patience was tried by the child who refused to shut up for five seconds). For my birthday we boiled king crab and Per made me the best seafood platter I’ve ever eaten in my life. We took road trips on the weekends and were astonished by how every corner we turned revealed landscape more scenic than the last. And we survived with our sanity and our family intact. Now, we look at those pictures and laugh and shake our heads and say, what the fuck were we thinking? But, it’s a holiday we’ll never forget.