Whenever I walk into someone's guest bathroom for the first time and see a scale sitting out -- in case their guests should want to weigh themselves during a dinner party, one assumes -- I reflect on the way I would never, ever casually step on another woman's scale, certainly not without the proper emotional preparation and definitely not after any sort of salty hors d'oeuvres.
And then, while backing slowly away from the scale and making a cross with my fingers, I become envious of the casual and easy relationship with weight I imagine other people must have.
"Let's just have a look-see," I picture them saying before hopping onto the scale -- probably with their shoes still on.
These kinds of people only ever gain or lose half a pound. They could weigh themselves immediately following Thanksgiving dinner -- with a Tupperware full of leftovers in one hand and a cinderblock in the other -- and their weight would be the same give or take half a pound.
I merely look at yams and gain 10. This is why my relationship with the scale is much more complicated.
At any given time, my own scale -- the same one I've had for about 10 years -- is in one of three places. It's either in: its usual spot in the bathroom, where I will be tempted to step on it at regular intervals like a nervous homeowner repeatedly checking the locks; in its second usual spot, on its side behind some towels when I fear the number will be discouraging and I don't want to debate weighing myself every time I see the scale; or under the bed in another room, when it's been bad and needs a timeout.
And when I do step on it, I don't do so lightly -- no pun intended. Instead I rip off every possible article of clothing and jewelry -- if I could temporarily donate a kidney I would -- and then mount the scale with the solemnity of someone entering a confessional. I close my eyes and hold my breath, say a quick prayer and then look down.
If I sound neurotic -- which I do and which I am -- it's because my weight has been up and down (usually more up than down) for many years of my life.
Though I've managed to maintain a decent weight loss for a while now, I'm convinced those 40 pounds are waiting -- plotting, really -- for the chance to snap back onto my body if I don't actively avoid them. To this end, I torture myself by thinking at all times about what I'm putting into my mouth, what I'm going to be putting into my mouth or what I already put into my mouth.
I'd recently been having one of those weeks where I thought it best to avoid the scale, as I knew it would only lead to a bad mood. Instead, I told myself, I would diet and exercise and then weigh myself in a few days. But as always happens, at a certain point I became convinced that by giving myself a break from the internal hectoring, I was allowing those pounds to creep back on and so I had to just get on the scale and live in reality, even if it's a reality where I'd gained 20 pounds in three days.
I gave myself an insane pep talk and hopped on to discover I'd lost a pound.
This was impossible.
Instead of feeling relief, I was convinced the scale was broken, and not only was it broken today, it had probably been broken for years, and who knows how long this generous scale had been blowing smoke up my butt.
I set off to find things around the house that I could weigh to test its accuracy. I started with two cartoons of milk. The scale didn't register them at all, which had me convinced it's at least two milk cartons short. I tried to weigh my six-pound puppy, but he was too squirmy. Then I remembered my fiance had some dumbbells. I placed two 10-pound weights on the scale. 19 pounds. I did this repeatedly, relieved the scale was only one pound off.
But any comfort I experienced soon gave way to panic when it occurred to me that perhaps the scale was off one pound for every 20 pounds. How would I know? I discussed the matter with my fiance who suggested, helpfully, that I just put another 20 pounds on the scale.
The good news is the scale wasn't broken. The bad news is it is now because one of the weights slipped out of my hand and crashed onto the scale, cracking the read out.
Or maybe that's the good news?