Must we go on like this?

SHERWOOD KIRALY

Five days a week I climb artificial stairs and row an artificial boat

in the garage for about a half hour. I don't generate any electricity

with this energy, or grind wheat or do anything else constructive,

but if I don't do it I become Det. Sipowicz.

I don't exercise enough to love it. There are joggers, I'm told,

who reach a kind of ecstasy by running through the pain. But the flip

side of ecstasy is the coronary, and the men in my family tend to

keel over about my age, so I don't go for the burn; I just sweat a

bit and then stop.

Indoor workouts allow you to watch TV, but you have to choose your

programming carefully; it takes a strong show to make exercise

palatable. Running up imaginary stairs while watching mediocre

sitcoms is probably what they make you do in hell.

I started doing this for my health, and I suppose it helps,

although it doesn't make me any younger, or taller, or even thinner.

The reason I keep exercising, and fighting my appetite, is other

people. It's so they won't say, "What happened to you?"

I particularly don't want Patti Jo to say that, of course. She was

flexible on the personal appearance issue when we got married, but

you can't expect her to tolerate too steep a decline from an iffy

level. Besides, she runs. I can't give up if she won't.

We talk about giving up together, sometimes. We once heard an

attractive 40-ish woman, a film costume designer, ask plaintively,

"Is it all right for me to let myself go yet?" A poignant question,

once you reach a certain age.

Life gets much of its appeal from food, and food gets most of its

appeal from fat. I know what I'm missing when I miss it; I wasn't

born every minute. I don't think light mayonnaise tastes as good as

real mayonnaise, and I Can Believe It's Not Butter.

It's time for me to get heavier. When I was young, I was thin --

in fact I was pitiful. But it's natural to put on a little weight as

you age ... at least, it's natural outside California. Here we punish

ourselves like actors in order to look acceptable by local standards.

A person who would look normal out of state is an eyesore here. I got

chubby a few years ago and I was asked to leave town -- well, not

verbally, but I could see the request in people's eyes. Fortunately I

got a stressful job, lost my appetite and dropped a few pounds.

But someday Patti Jo and I are going to stop running, and climbing

and rowing. We'll go east and live with the normies. Or maybe we'll

stay in Laguna and defy the local look. Yeah. And we'll have some

butter, and some sauce, and some butter sauce, and dare to be round.

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