It was a Friday morning and I was on MySpace exchanging messages with a guy who had asked me to go to dinner. My immediate response was, “How big is your penis?” His return message was, “I’ve never had any formal complaints.”
This made me laugh out loud. As if when women encounter a small penis, we wake up first thing the next morning and lodge a formal grievance with the LAPD. I consider myself to be a very obnoxious person, but even I would never tell a guy that he has a small penis.
Men don’t seem to understand that, under no circumstances, will we confront them on this issue. That would be on par with telling a girl she has a smelly vagina, which, by the way, is something I have once been told by a woman, but only during a particularly disturbing massage. Most men would never tell a girl her Pikachu smells like a crab cake. It’s just not done. But they would have no qualms telling their guy friends. Similarly, if you’re a guy and you pull your pants down, and the girl you’re with immediately starts text messaging her friends, you have a small penis.
After I decided to never meet this person in public, I looked down at my gut. My body had really taken a turn for the worse, and the surprise party I was throwing for my thirtieth birthday was three weeks away. I knew I wasn’t out-and-out fat, and I don’t think anyone would have described me as a heifer, but there was definitely some toning up needed. It had gotten to the point that the only body parts I felt comfortable exposing in public were my forearms.
Everything else seemed to be in some state of disrepair, especially my abdomen, which somehow managed to divide itself into three sections when I was sitting cross-legged. Something had to be done, so I closed MySpace and Googled the word “fatass.”
While looking at a website for liposuction, I learned that it was a six-to eight-week recovery period, the clincher being that, during that time, I would under no circumstances be able to use street drugs. Obviously I had to think of a more realistic approach.
I decided to call a nutritionist my friend Lydia had used, and set up an appointment for Monday. He asked me to keep a food journal of everything I ate over the weekend. I decided once and for all to commit to eating healthy. I have always worked out, but my diet has never been the best, and I knew things were only going to go downhill after thirty. This was my chance to make a change, and I made a commitment to be completely honest about what I was eating. Unfortunately, that Sunday I had to go to a good friend’s baby shower, where there was an abundance of unhealthy food. When I met with Matt, the nutritionist, on Monday morning, I handed him the following list:
Breakfast:scrambled egg whites with spinach and jack cheese
Lunch:chicken Caesar salad
Dinner:2 crab enchiladas and 2 margaritas
Lunch:turkey sandwich with cheddar and mayo
Dinner:filet mignon with mashed potatoes, 3 Ketel One and cranberries
Friend’s baby shower
17 jalape~no poppers
1 brick of cheddar cheese/12 whole wheat crackers
14 chicken wings/no bleu cheese dressing
1 bagel with low-fat cream cheese
8 Bloody Marys
14 pigs in blankets
I thought I had made some healthy choices on Friday and Saturday. Obviously Sunday was a complete disaster, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little proud of the will power I demonstrated when opting for the whole-wheat crackers to go with my brick of cheddar cheese.
I must have repeated that I had been at my friend’s baby shower seven times, and the phrase “I don’t normally eat like that” at least four times. I could tell the nutritionist was repulsed, but I explained to him emphatically that I was ready to commit to being a healthy eater, and that jalape~no poppers were a thing of the past. “I wanted to go out with a bang,” I told him, staring at my stomach with my head hanging down.
He explained to me what clean eating was and had a whole diagram with charts, percentages, a pointer, and a blackboard. The whole presentation was no different than what you’d see on an episode of CSI: Miami.
Then Mark weighed me and measured my body fat with a body-fat clipper. I was 131 pounds and 25.2 percent body fat. “Is that good?” I asked him.
Mark was about six-two with blond hair on his head, but no hair anywhere else. Not my favorite quality in a man, but I guess when you get down to 1 percent body fat, you’re also required to wax yourself.
We talked for an hour about what I had to do to get lean, and he put together a meal and exercise program for me and showed me how to log on to a website where I would type in every morsel of food that entered my body. I would also have to change up my exercise routine. He explained that since I had been jogging for so many years, I’d plateaued. He suggested that any martial arts or kickboxing would be just the kind of jump start my body needed.
I explained to Mark that I had been kicked out of three separate aerobics classes due to severe motor challenges when moving my arms and legs in different directions.
He seemed suspicious of me and I didn’t want him to think I was making up excuses. I told him about the first time I took a step class, when I hit my neighbor after I had somehow managed in my confusion to step my way over to her step. The first time I backhanded her, the instructor let it slide. The second time, my victim had fallen to the floor and was covering one side of her face when the music came to a screeching halt. I would have been an idiot not to figure out that I had made a major step faux pas.
The last incident was during a class called the Bar Method, which uses ballet bars and poses that focus on concentrated areas. This was the only class I hadn’t been kicked out of due to my spastic hand-eye coordination. But I did get kicked out for giving the instructor the finger.
Mark recommended I try boxing.
“Done,” I told him. “What’s next?”
He then guided me through all my dietary options, like how to replace a yam with four ounces of broccoli if I so desired. “Let’s talk alcohol. Are you with me?” I asked as I pounded one fist on his table.
“No. Alcohol is all sugar,” he replied. I tried to remain calm.
“Okay,” I said, taking a deep breath. “What about vodka?”
“I’m not following you.”
“Vodka is empty calories, Chelsea. Alcohol is carbs that cannot be used for energy.”
“Well, that’s not true,” I told him. “I get tons of energy when I drink.”
“Vodka turns to sugar, Chelsea, and whatever you’re mixing it with is going to have a lot of sugar.”
“Well, isn’t there anything that doesn’t have sugar that I can mix it with?”
“You can drink it straight, or use fresh lemon juice.”
“I can do that.”
“Chelsea, alcohol slows down your metabolism and is not going to help you get lean. You can have one drink a week, but any more than that is going to bloat you.”
I was left with no choice but to cover my ears and shake my head from side to side. It’s not easy to hear negative stuff about the person closest to you, even if it is true. He had obviously never seen an episode of Jerry Springer.
“Listen up, Mark. I am committed to this, but I absolutely must drink more than once a week.”
“How many do you need?”
“Well, I’m a comedian.”
“How many do you need?”
I tried to undershoot in order to sound like I didn’t have a problem. “How about seven?”
“No,” he responded. “You can have two drinks a week. Vodka with lemon juice and that is it.”
I was silent. My eyes watered and I looked away to avoid Mark’s gaze. I didn’t want him to see me get emotional this early in our relationship, but the things he was saying were hurtful, and there was no denying that.
I decided on the way home from my visit with Mark that I would just not allow myself to drink as much as I’d like. Something had to be done about my body, and it needed to be done in time for my thirtieth birthday.
I drove straight to a kickboxing gym around the corner from my house and bought fifteen classes on the spot. I explained to the woman at the front desk that I could only focus on one body region at a time. I could box or I could kick, but I would not be able to do both at the same time. She suggested I take private lessons with a trainer until I felt ready to join a group class.
“Would that mean that I wouldn’t have to clap at the end of the class?” I asked her. “Because I would really like to avoid that.”
“You don’t have to do that,” she informed me.
“Great, let’s get this party started,” I told her as I triumphantly kicked out one leg and knocked over the table next to me. “Sorry.”
I met my personal trainer, Brad, and he was very patient with me. He told me he would incorporate the kicking part only when he felt I was ready. He understood my desire not to be humiliated in front of an entire class again. Surprisingly, boxing turned out to be fun, and something I could actually do.
Three weeks and six drinks later, I went for my third weighin. I had lost 4 percent body fat and three pounds. I felt amazing, had more energy than I’d ever had in my life, and was now a believer that muscle does indeed take up less space than fat. I didn’t care about only losing three pounds because I could see a major difference in my body. I noticed little muscle lines down the side of my stomach starting to form a two-pack.
This diet was actually working. No diet had ever worked for me in my life. I was the only one of my friends who had tried the Atkins diet and gained four pounds. Not to mention that after being on it for a week straight, my apartment, car, and all of my clothes smelled like a cheeseburger. Up until I met Mark, I was convinced I was having the same life experience with food that Paula Abdul was having with her meds. We were both hanging on by a thread.
I was practically skipping out the door of Mark’s office after I jumped into his arms and wrapped my legs around him, elated. “I love you!” I screamed. I knew I still had a little way to go before I’d be where I wanted, but I was just thrilled to know that I had stuck to a program that was actually working.
My boxing classes with Brad were amazing. He told me that I had a lot of resentment inside, and this was a great way to get in shape and also take out all of the anger I had stored about Pearl Harbor.
I would leave class so pumped up that I’d walk onto the street almost hoping to get mugged. I knew I could kick some serious ass and had dreams of heading downtown to an unsafe neighborhood just to test out my mad skillz.
Once in my car after class, I called my sister, my mother, and Lydia to tell them the great news. After not one of those people answered their phone, I decided I would celebrate with a coffee from Starbucks. This was definitely a “new me.” Just weeks earlier, if I had cause to celebrate, I would have headed straight to the nearest California Pizza Kitchen and ordered two spinach and artichoke dips back-to-back.
I walked in, decided to treat myself to a Frappuccino instead of my standard nonfat cappuccino, and then, before I knew it, I also ordered a turkey pesto sandwich, a coffee cake, a rocky-road brownie, one raspberry arugula salad, a fruit-and-cheese plate, three chocolate-covered graham crackers, and a chocolate-chip muffin. “Fuck it,” I said to the Samoan woman working the counter. “I’m going to town.”
I gathered up all of my purchases and bounced right out to my car to head home. I got a picnic blanket out of my closet that I had inherited from my former roommate Cameltoe, spread it on the bed and put on the lobster bib that came with it, and then got under the covers, turned on Lifetime, and dove headfirst into my rocky-road brownie. After shoveling all my perishables down my trachea, and on the heels of my third chocolate-covered graham cracker, I decided I wanted to vacuum, which was disappointing since my apartment is covered in Spanish tile. Then I thought about masturbating, but remembered my vibrator was in the shop. I had a ridiculous amount of energy and needed an outlet for it. I had to do something. I couldn’t sit in bed, so I got up, went into the kitchen, and got out my mop.
My mother had actually purchased the mop for me years before, and it hadn’t been used since. I couldn’t think of a better time to get involved with my apartment’s personal hygiene. After I filled up a salad bowl with water and shampoo, I moved all of the furniture in my living room and kitchen against the wall so that I could really get at the floor.
After thirty minutes of full-blown mania, I decided to rearrange my furniture. I hadn’t had this much energy since splitting an eight ball with my rabbi at my bat mitzvah. I put in another good nine-and-a-half minutes of elbow grease before I lost any and all interest in finishing what I had started. I couldn’t imagine what my cleaning lady, Fantasia, had to hop herself up on to get through a solid eight hours of this shit. It occurred to me that it probably came easier to Mexicans, considering that they inherit the cleaning gene, but I still had a huge amount of respect for her.
All of a sudden I felt extremely wiped out. I walked back into my room, got under my covers, pulled on my eyeshades, and passed out. Two-and-a-half hours later, my phone rang. I had woken up from a dream where I was still in high school and thought it was the bell. I looked around my room in complete confusion, wondering who I had hooked up with in order to end up here. I didn’t understand why the bell kept ringing until I looked over and saw my cell phone on my nightstand. Right next to the wrapper of my turkey pesto sandwich.
I answered the phone and it was Lydia. Apparently, I had agreed to pick her up from the airport and I was an hour late. No wonder she hadn’t answered her phone earlier. I felt like I’d been in some sort of nuclear explosion. My head was pounding. I had left my contacts in and they were having trouble finding their way back to the centers of my eyes. I felt exactly the way people describe feeling after being slipped a roofie, minus the anal pain. It occurred to me that what I may have been suffering from was a sugar hangover. I hadn’t really had any chocolate in weeks, and my body was completely appalled with what I had shoved into it.
I slowly got out of bed and held onto my desk, and then the wall, as I tried to maintain my footing on the way into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror to see my hair matted to my forehead and some chocolate stuck to the side of one of my cheeks. “When did I get bangs?” I wondered out loud. What a disaster. I walked out of the bedroom and slammed my shin straight into a leg of the couch that was now sitting in my kitchen. “Fuck me!” I screamed as I hopped up and down on one foot and then fell over. I craned my neck to look around the corner at the clock in my kitchen, which read 3:59 p.m.
I got up, went and brushed my teeth, and put on a pair of flip-flops, all the time wondering why I agree to pick people up from the airport. It really is a ridiculous activity if you’re not sleeping with the person. People in their thirties need to know that if they can’t afford a taxi, then they don’t deserve to go on a trip. I reminded myself to say this exact thought during one of my stand-up routines the next time Lydia came to a show; hopefully that would get the point across.
My vision still wasn’t twenty-twenty, but I hoped that it would clear up once I got outside. I ran out the door and jumped into my dark blue Volvo. I drove to the end of the alleyway, then slammed on the breaks when I saw three young teenage girls wearing backpacks, crossing. I couldn’t have been going more than five miles per hour since the entrance to the street was only a hundred feet from my space, but I’m sure I still scared the girls, so I lowered my window and leaned out. “I’m sorry, girls,” I said as I waved.
“Fuck you, cunt,” one of the girls responded, while the other two girls gave me the finger.
I couldn’t believe my ears. These girls couldn’t have been more than fourteen years old, and they were calling a complete stranger a cunt? I didn’t even start using that word until my late twenties, and I curse all the time. Two of the girls were Mexican and one of them was white, but looked like she was trying very hard to be Mexican. In my opinion, pretending to be Mexican is right up there with wearing a mock turtleneck. Why would you pretend to be wearing a turtleneck?
By this time they had crossed over to the other side of the sidewalk, the side closest to my passenger door. I opened my car door and got out. “I’m sorry, did you just call me a cunt?” I asked the chunky Latina who had yelled it.
“That’s right, fucking bitch, cuz that’s what you are!” she yelled.
This was too much. I couldn’t believe how anyone, never mind three young girls, could talk to a complete stranger like this. These girls were clearly walking home from school, which disturbed me even more. “I’m sorry…” I had to press on. “Where do you get off talking like that to complete strangers? How old are you?”
The girls had stopped where they were at this point, and the one I was talking to started walking back toward my car with her fingers and arms waving around like an orangutan. “Because that’s what you fucking are,” she replied. “A fucking cunt. How the fuck old are you is the better question, and where the fuck did you learn to drive?”
“Listen, you little bitch,” I screamed, completely losing any remaining dignity that hadn’t been lost earlier when I had inhaled more than five thousand calories in one sitting. “I didn’t fucking hit your ass, and believe me it wasn’t easy to miss, so I suggest you tone it down a notch. I was apologizing to you, and then you call me a cunt? Where are your parents?”
The girl was now standing on the other side of the car, still moving her head around in circles. “Who the fuck do you think you are, asking me about my parents? I know you’re not my fucking mother, I know that! Shit!” Her girlfriends were now laughing as she turned around to join them. The fact that this girl wasn’t backing down and had no qualms about talking to me like that-when in my mind, I thought I was being reasonable-pushed me over the edge.
Fully aware of my newfound upper body strength, I walked around the front of my car toward them and yelled, “Really? You’re that tough that you can just yell at strangers? You think you’re some sort of badass? Let’s go,” I said, shrugging my shoulders and bouncing from foot to foot with my fists clenched. “Let’s do this!”
The fat girl seemed surprised by my reaction, as she should have been, knowing what I knew about my recent combat training. This little bitch was going to get what was coming to her. She was messing with the wrong person. A few months earlier I wouldn’t have been able to defend myself in this way, but I tightened my abs, jumped up and down a couple of times, and got ready to rumble. She yelled something in Spanish, and then turned around and walked toward her friends. I, however, kept going.
“That’s exactly what I thought. Think about it next time you want to shoot off your mouth!” Then, for good measure, I threw in a “puta!” I turned and walked back to my car, got in, and put my foot on the gas. That’s when all three girls started running back toward my car, so I slammed on the brakes and got out again.
“Oh really?” I screamed. I stayed on my side of the car while the girls stopped where they were and all four of us assessed the situation. “This is ridiculous,” I said, throwing my hands up, and went to get back into the car. Just as I did, all three girls took a few steps toward the car, and the wannabe Mexican girl kicked my passenger side door. That was the straw that broke the cameltoe’s back.
I got out, and before I could even stand up, one of the girls was on the roof of my car, and the fat one had somehow managed to airlift herself to my side of the car and had a lock of my hair in her hands. Hair-pulling is a very painful experience, especially when your head is already pounding from an alarmingly volatile sugar misfire.
Shakira was pulling me out of the car by my hair when I decided the only way to release myself would be with a left upper-cut. Disappointingly, the fist I had formed landed directly in the center of my own forehead. The girl on top of the car was screaming, “Yeah, bitch,” as the head Mexican took her one free hand and punched me in the stomach. Somewhere between that and the skinny girl spitting on me, it occurred to me that I was in a street fight and it was not going well.
My mind raced to remember all the new moves I had learned, but they were useless. I had spent most of my training with Brad fighting a punching bag that always stayed in the same position. I could fight a person who was standing still, but had no idea how to fight someone who was on the move.
I had to do something and I had to do it fast. I smacked the sloppy fat girl in the face, hard, and then punched her in the vagina, which resulted in her losing her grip on my hair. I ran as fast as I could, but only made it a few feet before one of my flip-flops dislodged and went flying into the air. I tripped and fell down, and just as I managed to get up and start running again, one of the girls kicked me in the ass, propelling me forward onto the pavement. Instinctively, I held both of my boobs together in order to cushion the fall. I scurried to my feet once more, and ran down the street in the opposite direction, all the while hearing the girls screaming, “Stupid cunt!”
Three blocks away, I found a bush and dove into it. After catching my breath while trying not to make too much noise, a couple of things crossed my mind: (a) This was not at all how I had planned on spending my afternoon; (b) My boxing classes had not paid off; and (c) I had a burning sensation over my left eye. I don’t specifically remember getting struck in the eye, but everything happened so fast, there was a good chance that I had taken a punch.
It occurred to me that my brand-new Volvo was also sitting in the alleyway with the driver-side door open and the keys in the ignition. Obviously that would be gone. Either the girls would have stolen it, or someone else walking by would have stolen it. I didn’t live in a bad neighborhood, but I knew that you didn’t have a day like I was having and not get your car stolen. I was in a defeated state of mind and was feeling confused, not only about the direction my life had taken, but also about other things, like Lisa Rinna’s career, and penguin birth.
Once I realized my Rollerblades were in my closet, and that I could use them to ride to the Santa Monica PD to file a police report, I had a moment of elation-until I remembered that my kneepads and helmet were in the trunk of my car. I had never actually worn a helmet before, but not having it handy gave me the perfect excuse not to be caught Rollerblading in public.
Then I remembered Lydia. “Fuck!” I ran back to my car as though in a drill I had seen in the movie Sgt. Bilko, where the soldiers bounced in and out of camouflage in order to avoid being seen by the assailants. Surprisingly, my car was still idling with the door wide open and the key still in it. No Mexicans to be seen or heard for miles. I hopped in, and carefully headed for the airport. My cell phone rang. It was Lydia.
“Yello?” I answered.
“Are you coming or what?”
“Yes, Lydia, I’m coming.” I huffed. “I was jumped.”
“I said, I was jumped!”
“Chelsea, what are you talking about?”
“Jumped. You know…like, taken down by three girls at the same time. I was in a brawl!”
When I heard nothing on the other end, I said, “Lydia, do you copy?”
“Chelsea, what the fuck are you talking about? Jumped? This isn’t a Michael Jackson video.”
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes, and you’ll see,” I said as I hung up. Now I was pissed. As if I would make something like this up. The fact that I was still on my way to pick her ass up after being caught in a Holyfield/Tyson-like altercation made me feel like a really dedicated airport picker-upper, and the fact that she was not getting the significance of it infuriated me!
I couldn’t wait for her to see my shiner and know that I had been involved in a full-throttle scuffle. “Homo you don’t,” I said as a gay man crossed the street in front of my car. “Homo you didn’t!” I screamed again as he crossed slowly, all the while staring at me with a confused and disgusted look on his face. I was ready for another fight, and was pissed I had missed my golden opportunity to lay someone flat.
I arrived at LAX, and while I was pulling up to Continental Airlines, an officer told me to keep moving.
“I don’t think so, buddy,” I said, putting my car in park and stepping out. “You wanna piece of me?” I was pissed now, and no one was gonna fuck with me again.
“Excuse me?” he asked.
“You heard me, hotshot! You wanna rumble? You know what? I’m here to pick up my friend from the airport and I think it’s ridiculous that we are not allowed to stop for one second to let her get in the car. Is my friend supposed to dive through the window while the car’s moving?”
Lydia found me just as the officer was issuing me a ticket for parking my car, along with a second one for lewd behavior.
We didn’t speak for most of the car trip home, until finally she turned and asked me, “What is wrong with you?”
“Um. Is that code for ‘thanks for picking me up at the airport’?” I asked her.
“You have a huge knot in the middle of your forehead and your thirtieth birthday party is tomorrow night. How does that make you feel?”
“You know how it makes me feel, Lydia? It makes me feel like I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”
Lydia sighed loudly. I awaited her response with bated breath. I had finally taken a stand, and knew for sure my friends would have to see it my way. Someone, perhaps a higher power, was clearly out to get me.
Finally, without looking at me, she opened her mouth.
“Please take surface streets.”