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A Matter of Scale

Island Life

It used to be they were just bathroom scales because you kept them in the bathroom- hopefully somewhere behind a stack of towels or in the cabinet under the sink and buried beneath the toilet bowl cleaner and half-used bottles of conditioner. It was there to tell the truth when the mirror(s) didn’t speak loud enough, and it was kept hidden because- as the movie saying goes- "You Can’t Handle the Truth". I had seemingly solved both of those problems by only having smallish, chest high mirrors in the bathrooms, and had no bathroom scale at all. This was of course because I felt that I really didn’t need one. As my personal failsafe warning system of creeping oversize detection, there was the ever reliable (or so I thought) pants test. As long as the pants fit and the belt didn’t need to be exchanged for a larger one, things were just fine in the delusional land of weight control. There was also the back-up telltale of relative fitness. Yes, I could still get in the pool and swim 3000 yards in a more than reasonable amount of time; I could still get on a bike and ride thirty miles with relative ease; and climbing stairs was not a problem. But then there was that trip to the coast and the motel room with all the fuller length mirrors and the burning question that they evoked: who is that fat guy and why is he here?

I knew there was more to me than I wanted to meet the eye. Whenever I slipped out of my comfortable, loose fitting drapings and into my cycling Lycra, there was this disturbing overabundance to my midsection that could no longer be denied- or hidden. We won’t talk about the even more unavoidable overexposure of the pool. This was all given a pass and overlooked because I could still go the distance, and in going the distance I was in turn supposed to soon see the larger person in the mirror go away, or rather, in reverse blowfish fashion, turn into a smaller shadow-casting facsimile of my former self. This did not happen, and I know why. A fairly simple accounting of food in and energy out was being ignored- by me. There was that, and there was the perhaps more important factor- a lack of incentive. There was no big race I was training for and I didn’t really want there to be. I was happy to be in what seemed to be good enough shape. As it was, I was just mostly wanting the change without really working for it. That was a good part of the reason for buying the bathroom scale.

Actually, what it says on the box is "analog scale"- perhaps that is a shaming marketing gimmick, I don’t know. By attaching the word analog it somehow, maybe in some people’s minds, makes it a lesser product, so instead you in turn buy the more expensive and modern, digital one. As opposed to this mere analogy of a scale, the ideal digital scale of the future (with the future being now) has its crisp readout numbers in liquid crystal or glowing LED. But what I wanted was not to be shown my poundage in tenths or hundredths, but to have a needle spin around a dial only to stop and point accusingly at a black and white numerical representation of some factor of ten or twenty or the less significant hash marks in between. I didn’t want it to be battery or plug-in dependent- why should it be? The scale I wanted should just be there, ever vigilant and ready to indicate how one’s personal mass relates to the gravitational pull of the earth. I was also hoping that a ready awareness of one’s weight would lend a certain gravitas to the pursuit of being a lesser person in the bare essentials of a physical sense. Again, as they say- be careful of what you ask for.

On my way to get a scale I stopped at the pet food store to make sure the dogs ate for a few more weeks. One of the games I play in weight land happens when I pick up an object of noticeable heft and the immediate question comes to mind- what if I weighed this much more? Today it was the thirty pounds of dog food slung over my shoulder that had me imagining a more self-burdened existence. This bag of kibble took on another meaning when I got home. I took the scale out of the box, stepped on board and watched the needle swing up and over the top and stop at the hash mark that was five clicks beyond 200. I looked over at the dog food bag which I had stood on one end so that the bits had settled downward and caused a bulge and expansion in its middle, and then I looked down at myself and puzzled at where this extra thirty pounds was on me, and what I was going to have to do to lose it. In sitting down to write this I was thinking about the analogies and metaphors for our times that could be drawn here along with contemplating the difference between wanting change and changing, but I thought I’d see how I did with unburdening myself of my own kibbles and bits before making suggestions for bigger things.