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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Dieting Dilemma

May 15, 1999

I woke in a cold sweat, the other morning, from a dream that I was pregnant, about two weeks from delivery!  It must have been the honey-cheese-and-dill pickle on toasted Russian rye, washed down with copious draughts of diet soda, that initiated the nightmare.  Thank God it was only a dream, most likely brought on that wee snack to tide me over til morning.  Or, possibly, by all this election talk.

Because electing a government is a little like giving birth and raising a family, don't you think?  You have no idea what you're getting; all you know that what ever it is, it's going to hurt a little and you're going to be spending some sleepless nights.  You hope and pray that it will listen to you and do the right thing.  And when it starts getting mouthy and obstreperous, you invite it to shape up or risk being shipped out.

Of course, the dream could also be an allegory for all the socializing I've done in the past few weeks, filling myself brimful with culture and education, to say nothing of the sumptuous goodies that are often offered in conjunction with the exercises in refinement and edification.. 

Take the Gala opening of the new season at the Art Center, for in-stance.  Mattew Lien and Steve Philps and a bunch of friends entertained us royally and in between and after, we were invited to partake of snackies provided by the Chocolate Claim, chocolates and gooey bits of this and that and a hot cheesey dip to die for.  Oh sure, there were veggies and herb-and-yogurt dip, as well.  But if you are re- signed to exceeding your day's allotment of calories anyway, what's the point in kicking over the traces for CAULIFLOWER, for heaven sake? Might as well be drummed out of your support group for devilled chicken wings as celery sticks!

My friend Ida tried to throw me a line as I was going under in an orgy of crab-stuffed mushroom caps.  "Come on, Ellen," she said, tugging at my arm. "Let's go and say hello to Matthew."  I brushed her away.  "Goo awar." I said indistinctly, a mouthful of cream cheese and tiny marinated shrimp blurring my usually precise diction.  "Ter Maff 'lo an' 'at 'm biffy."  A little spray of crumbs and bits of crustaceans accompanied the words.

Eventually, Ida wound me up in a submission hold and frog-marched me away from the delicacies and out to the car but it was already too late. The damage had been done and my Monday afternoon weigh-in was an exercise in embarrasment and frustration. I've really got to pull myself together and get with the program: I'm such a loser at the losing game.

I'd like to tell you that I take my failures in stride, that I deal with the disappointments, pirouette with the punches, rise above the rack and ruin of my resolve.  After all, that's what you'd expect from a lady of my pleasant mein and tranquil disposition, isn't it?  Calm acceptance and quiet vow to do better?  It pains me to have to inform you that such is not the case.

No, indeed it is not.

My men look up aprrehensively as I slam in from my Monday date with that lying, off-kilter piece of feculence they call a scale.  "How did you do today, dear?" Phil asks, already quailing as the look on my face tells him, before I do, that I'd gained a pound.  "And what's more," I snarl, "I'm going to have ice cream for dessert tonight and may even gain another pound before morning.  Tell ME I'm going to have to cut back, I'll show THEM cut back!"  And on stiff legs, I stalk into the laundry room and in a murderous spree, stomp to death two spiders that, unfortunately for them, chose that particular time to cross my path, and three pieces of sock lint.

The thing of it is: it's so hard.  Ater a hard day of self-denial and counting kilojoules, I sit down to relax in front of the telly.  Five seconds later I'm in the kitchen, glassy-eyed, dutifully slathering a bowl of taco chips with sour cream, cheddar cheese and salsa as per the hypnotic instructions of a toothy little Mexican 'Toon. If I have the strength of character to change the channel, the only differences I encounter are in the forms the high-caloric temptations take, from tacos to meatball Subs to peanut-buttery Oh Henry land mines.

Butter tarts leer at me from behind stacks of books at a garage sale and leap uninvited into my mouth. "Have another, they're only fifty cents and it's for a good cause...."

A nice lady in Extra Foods seduces me into a comparison of sausage recipes and before I know it, I've eaten a whole day's protein and a week's allotment of fat, all the while protesting that I can't... really... I mustn't.....  

"Just soup or a salad, I'm dieting," I tell a friend who invites me to dinner.  "Here," she says as she clears away our virtuous salad bowls, "we've been so good I though I would reward us with some strawberrry shortcake.  I know it's your favourite, especially made with REAL whipped cream."  Even as I whimper weakly that I really shouldn't, that I'm cutting back, my traitorous, chubby left hand is reaching for the spoon.

Nowhere am I safe. Last weekend, I attended the annual general meeting of the Northern Writers' Circle.  Be on time, be prepared to discuss amendments to the constitution, and please, bring a box lunch for sharing? How perfect, I thought as I packed salad and veggies and grapes for dessert, lunch away from home and no distractions or temptations.  After all, writers are known for their discipline and restrain.  Among these paragons of asceticism, my diet should be safe, right?  Wrong.

Some of us brought healthy, calorie-wise, new Canadian Food Rules box lunches.  The rest of us brought brownies.  Peanut butter Nanaimo bars.  Big coconut macaroons that conspired to be sticky AND crunchy, both at the same time.  And then handed around tumblers of ruby red cranberry liqueur that I quaffed in a single draught even as one last tiny hold-out of reason argued feebly that it wasn't a medicinal stimulant that would do wonderful things for my kidneys and bladder, it was nothing less than a potent, high-caloric alcoholic beverage that would render me even rosier than usual, giggly, and inclined to eat Nanaimo bars with both hands.

It was a debacle of heroic proportions followed by a despair-generated need for the Russian rye poultice and I went to bed that night with strange rumblings and pulsations in my nether regions and a sense of impending doom.

Lord, I really MUST get with that program...

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