With the first waft of Autumn chill, my mind turns to New Year's. Each year, it arrives with the requisite river of cheap California bubbly and forced televised whooppery courtesy of the still ticking Dick Clark, perenially the patron saint of Grecian Formula. And once again, tens of millions of we not-so-wee anymore Americans will resolve to melt away the recently-acquired holiday poundage, with everything from Dr. Atkins to Weight Watchers, from Suzanne Sommers to simple starvation, from the Grapefruit Diet to the prima ballerina binge and purge.
In most years, I am among the lean-seeking legions. I am studiously counting and cutting down on the carbs, chocolates, chips and animal fats. I am architecting a Gold's Gym-quality exercise regime with the precision of the pre-Terminator/Guvenator Schwarzenegger.
But it is always a massive struggle to get back to pre-Thanksgiving trim. For all the years I have accomplished it, I have never used the same plan to get this to-do done. On a good year, I'll be back in my wardrobe's slimmer slacks by Valentine's Day. In the average annum, just in time for a Halloween monsoon of Zagnuts and Three Musketeers.
But this is a year destined to see "colossal progress" according to Jacqueline Stallone, the Nostradamos of The Weekly World News. And like Dr. Hoffman and his L.S.D. or Mom Nesmith and her Whiteout, I have inadvertently stumbled upon a history making advancement, one that will forever reconfigure the attitudes and waistlines of millions. It will make the yearly chore of post holiday pig-out dieting a true no-brainer, and send Dr. Dean Ornish, Richard Simmons, Body by Jake and all other caloric gurus into the permanent twilight.
My miracle weight-loss technique? Getting dumped around the holidays!
But before the how and why of this new pound-peeling revelation, some words on the personal drama that generated it.
My own tale of inadvertent trim began on December 22 a couple of years back when my talented and seemingly devoted 40-something painter girlfriend returned from a two-month artists' residency in an unnamed equatorial land, one where the bananas are sweet and the culos are even more tasty.
To make a long, clichéd story as easily digestible as a Lean Cuisine entree, the artist gal said that the experience had "completely disoriented" and "changed her," in ways that she was yet to fully understand. She was only sure of one thing; she didn't want me around right now and probably forever, Christmas or no Christmas, New Year's Eve be damned. She needed to be "alone," with no emotional attachments that would compromise her skyward careering in the world of artist residencies and cheap wine drunken openings. There was only room for her vision, whims, drawings and, perhaps, masturbating to Harry Connick's Christmas special, without the burden that even a well-meaning boyfriend would add.
The problem for my simple mind? This reasoning held no water. In the past two years since our relationship ignited over Nerve.com (I know what you're thinking) and a common interest in the oeuvre of George Batailles, I had jumped through the proverbial hoop of flaming poo to support her career -- as I loved her and her work, and craved being along for a successful ride for her, as I have experienced my own level of success on the plains of hype bidness and a dangerous tad of critical acclaim in the sonic arts. And our passions, of mind and body, was frequent and satisfying on every level.
This all-in-black clad anti-cad had dutifully gone to all the weekly openings, had marveled at learning about great new-to-me artists that were way beyond the Impressionists' Greatest Hits. And, more often than not, and nearly impossibly, I had kept my lid on as we wadded through the overwhelming glut of putrid art openings in the five boroughs, and oftimes the tiresome woes and pretentious ramblings of compatriots with far less talent and human nicety than she, ones who disguised their competitive jealousy to her face but likely not to her back. I came running to her studio when she was breaking down from the stress and creative struggle pre-opening, in art galleries and of red-inked credit card bills. I lent a fresh eye, a shoulder to lean on and things warm to hold, coddle and canoodle when the battle was getting the best of her.
This blind flying frequent flyer had even traveled 7,000 miles round trip to visit her at the residency in said warm weather country, and paid for us both to fly to her first-ever solo show in Toronto, during the waning days of the SARS epidemic. In my professional guise as flackmeister, I used my skills and contacts to get her press, from features on her work to her own boldface name mentions in in the tabs, a "dab of the ol' 15 minutes" at the droogies would say.
Bottom line, I also completely understood and accepted all the feelings, the reasoning and motivations, and the ultimate banana split of the collective "we." To quote Sting, the original eight-hour yogic cocksman, "if you love someone, set them free." And if I may add another meaningful Stingism that perfectly encapsulates my monkey mind of this pained moment, "duh-do-do-do, duh, dah, dah, dah is all I want to say to you."
Of course, I should've prefaced all of this by saying I heard none of this until three days after Christmas.
The three days from her return of December 22 to Christmas were filled with cell phone static - brief, prematurely broken daily calls accented by a cornucopia of queer reasons why she didn't have the time or inclination to see me, to discuss her feelings or why she didn't want to spend Xmas with me or my little kids, or exchange the presents me, my 7 and 11 year old bought.
The shoe finally dropped, in some hazy form, 72 hours after Christmas. We were supposed to meet in person, but it was not to be. She was doing everything to avoid setting up a time to see me in the flesh, so I decided to take the advice of a woman friend and just "take power position" (yeah, right!) and not meet with her. So, like the overstressed guy in a Chinese take-out, I went on autopilot and took her order to disengage via cell phone reception of sub-Third World quality. Two years of being together, nearly every day and warm wonderful night, and I didn't even get to ask if she wanted one final egg roll in the hay pie.
But as the sex bard Henry Miller once said, "wisdom born of desperation."
And as I sat there on New Year's Day, I was fat with sadness... and about ten pounds lighter. I was slipping into my threads jeans and loving it like a 'tween mall rat. And I felt deep sorry for the legions of engorged, hung over bastards who were beginning their march to Svelte City with frozen jogs past my icy window.
Like I said earlier, forget the exercise and calorie counting boys and girls. I can tell you that only a broken heart delivered around the time that Santa forces his rum-soaked ass down the chimney truly rocks when it comes taking off those holiday pounds.
Need some science? Well, here are but a few facts about the happy/sad state of weight loss begat by a not-so-artful Xmas dumping.
You're Too Nauseous To Eat
Forget the Ephedrine and Dexedrine, Diego. Nothing kills an appetite like a belly full of busted corazon, served up cold, on or near Christmas morning or New Year's Day. After my rapid egress from the womb of love, I couldn't even look at a holiday bird and trimmings, the steaming platters of fish, the heaping bowls of pasta. And frankly some edibles, especially pastries like canoles and cream puffs, reminded me too much of the sweet nookie I was not going to be getting from my beloved any more. And when I was near the onion dip, all I could do was draw a cupid heart and arrows, with our names together in the center, just like old times. Potato chips? I played Foley artist with them - picked them up on by one, broke them, listened to the crunch and pretended it was my heart. The holiday fruitcake? No way I could enjoy that. I just wanted to write her a love poem, rubber band it to the sugar plum cinder block and hurl it through her bedroom window.
You're Too Sad To Party & Go Anywhere
Having your heart smashed on or around Xmas is a great way to avoid social venues where massive quantities of food are not only offered, but literally shoved down your gullet before your feet leave the welcome mat. A holiday break-up is like a doctor's letter from Doctor Love himself: you're excused from everything - Xmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day bashes. No parties means no food and beverage calories, and a quicker return to the slim status quo.
Increased Heart Rate/Metabolic Overload
Four out of five Dear Johns will tell you that a broken hearts run at a greatly increased RPM, revolutions per (I want my) mommy! Perhaps it comes from the anticipation over the let's get back together phone call that won't ever come? Maybe it's just the thoughts of murderous revenge making your blood boil with the so-called "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" effect? It could be your body just trying to end it all by going into hyper-fibulation and cardiac auto-destruct. Maybe it's just the excess coffee, the only thing that you can hold down in your stomach that will get you moving after your three-hours of fitless nightly tossing and turning.
The Many Sides of Broken Heart Aerobics
You may not realize it, but getting your heart broken launches you on a frenzy of small, compulsive activities that really burn away the calories. You can't even count the number of times a day that you get up off the couch and walk to the phone to call your ex, then come to your senses and slam the phone before the answering service kicks in. And if your telephone rings, you dash to it because you think she broke down and is finally calling you to beg you to take her back. And who is it? Just another telemarketer trying to sell you a romantic Valentine's getaway for two to Club Med.
There are also the many times you walk to the trashcan to throw out the presents you bought her, the ones she has no interest in picking up, as she has fully disengaged and not even given a thought to reciprocating. Again, you commit to the act - you take the stroll, but then you change your mind and put them right back under the Christmas tree. Then you repeat it, again and again. And if it's a big present, the lift and walk does even more, a bigger burn that also maximizes the firming of the delts, pecs and lats.
It's also a scientific fact that brokenhearted assholes really crave TV channel surfing, especially the extra-strength treacle of the holiday season not to mention the New Year's Day Rose Bowl. There's plenty of tear-jerking classic holiday film fare to tune to to turn on the water works and give your sad puppy dogface a stimulating burn. There are also action movie marathons to fuel your revenge fantasies, as you hop around the house and give her favorite pillow your best Steven Segal. This year, perhaps there's even a classic "Real Housewives" marathon on Bravo to make you hate all the gay male friends whose counsel might've (but probably didn't) play a role in this fateful decision. Most of all, that relentless remote control punching burns mega-calories.
And never to be underestimated in the world of broken hearted aerobics is the time you spend trolling the Internet for replacements, responding to personal ads with long-winded testimonies to our wonderfulness, furiously IMing the anonymous hordes. The 85 word-per-minute clacking of the keys to keep pace with your howling hurting soul, racing libido and escalating digital dating is sure to keep you in the trim. And in these safe sex days, trolling the Net often leads directly to phone sex - furious rubbing, breathing and exorcising of pent-up frustrations and even more calories right from the comfort of your Lazy-Boy.
You're Smoking Again?
Who's behind all the broken hearts this holiday season? Perhaps it's the Marlboro Man or Mr. Kool? Nothing sends you to the corner bodega quicker for a $13 a pack appointment with death then a holiday season dumpsky, delivered hard, fast and cold as a snowball to the kisser. It's no secret that remorseful chain smoking churns up the metabolism, fries your taste buds and removes the need for any food - slicing off the body dough quick as a Guillotine.
The Rare Chosen People Bonus
Enough of this talk about Kris Cringle and the Baby Jesus as the new Tony Little and Billy "Tao Bo" Banks. When it comes to holiday diets, this is one area where Judaism surely pays dividends, as Chanukah precedes Xmas. The Judaic holiday dumpee should think of it as a Weight Watchers-like Quik-Start, an opportunity for nine nights of intensive weight loss before the broken hearted gentiles join the diet horde.
Once again, this is just a peek at the facts, the science and the kind of personal drama that makes a holiday season a sure-fire winner in New Year's diet parade.
Those who really want to stay in the trim next holiday season should make their big resolution now -- To fall deeply in love today so they can be resounded dumped and start slimming as the sleigh bells start sounding.
Follow Sal Cataldi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/salvatorism