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by Barbara Silverstein

I am a former attorney, felter, publisher, pruner, and counselor. Mother of two, owner of one. Happily married and living in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  

I just really wanted a waist...my old waist. Mine got lost sometime during my forties or fifties, along with toned upper arms and firm jawline. I don’t know where or when it happened. The last thing I remember was that years ago, B.C. (before children) my waist was small, so somehow, despite any and all evidence to the contrary, I carried that image, like an old photo in a well-worn wallet, with me over the next two decades. This self-deception, or self-preservation, was easy because like many femmes d’un certain age, I had become adept at looking in the mirror and not seeing myself. 

It wasn’t until the children left home and I lost ten pounds that I began seeing myself again. Not the whole picture but at least I was looking. My reflection in the mirror wasn’t great but wasn’t too bad either. In fact, at first, I was self-congratulatory, “Wow, looking good, losing weight…pants too big.” Only when my pants’ crotches kept slipping down and hobbling me was I forced to make an accurate and critical assessment. My once 36-28-36 figure was now 36-36-36 and instead of an hourglass I looked more like a milk glass. Well, what could you expect after two caesarians, an appendectomy, and a herniated stomach wall.

I needed a belt. I bought belts: leather belts, wide belts, skinny belts, belts with a little stretch, belts with a lot of stretch. Nothing worked. I had to keep hiking up my pants.

 I girded myself for the inevitable as the specter of the gym reared its ugly sweaty head. I need both hands to count the number of gym memberships I’ve cancelled. I had sworn I wouldn’t join another, but this was an exception. I was on a quest. So once again, I harnessed myself to a hefty initiation fee and a year’s worth of membership dues hoping this time would be different. Zumba was great, the first time. Humiliating the second and third times when I realized I could only get my groove on with Motown…not salsa. Pilates with its emphasis on core, core, core, had me in class twice a week. Six months later, my waist was still AWOL.

I started yoga. Hooked on the physical and meditative aspects of “the practice”, I focused on breathing, not on my waist. When the yoga studio offered an hour-long hula hooping class my inner-self awakened. “Ommm”. I blissed out. This was what I had been seeking all along. But it was not to be. I got sick and couldn’t go. Karma.

Then I read that Catherine Zeta Jones hula hoops for exercise. Although no one has ever said, “you remind me of Catherine Zeta Jones”, we were soon to have something in common. The weighted pink hula-hoop called to me from the checkout aisle of TJ Maxx. I know that’s the sucker aisle, the impulse aisle, but not this time. This time it was fate. It was also cheap.

Oh my god, I still had the moves. After so much yoga, I was limber. I swayed, rotating my pelvis rhythmically. Out of practice, I tired after five minutes. I rested. Delirious, I hooped another five minutes. I went to my yoga class. During the preliminary stretching, my right side seemed a tiny bit tighter than normal, but I didn’t focus on that. I focused on my breath. That night Alan, my husband, and I took turns proving to ourselves that age is, thankfully, just a number.

A number I should have counted, instead of the hours that ticked by that night. I tried to breath into the pain, but found relief only in the doggy position, on all fours. Alan dug out an old bottle of Valium.   The next few days, I existed on Advil, heat wraps and Valium. Then weeks of Celebrex and Prilosec to counter the side effects. I’ve had x-rays and MRIs. My days are filled with doctors, physical therapy, massage, dry needle, and acupuncture. Two months out and I’m still sleeping in a cervical collar, taking arthritis medication and unable to exercise.

The pink hoop, leans against the wall reminding me of things past. I can’t yet bring myself to give it away. Childishly, a part of me wants to prove I can do it. I can’t quite shake the self-deception that first brought me down, that someday I’ll be hooping with equanimity. But in the meantime I’ll buy some suspenders.

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