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@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Bring Home The Bacon (In The Future)
About a month ago or so, the emcee of the show I was doing introduced me and I took the stage, for what would be a good set and a reminder of why I love comedy so much and am sticking to it, despite fears of impending doom. People who’ve never done performance art might be surprised that despite the fact that we are talking the whole time on stage, we are tremendously astute to what’s happening in the crowd. There will be times I’m delivering jokes and most of my attention is on something else, like a weird magic trick our brains are capable of doing.
On this particular show, when I got to the stage, these three middle aged women starting talking about how skinny I was. This enraged me. And not because they were being catty—quite the opposite… they actually sounded concerned for my well being. Very maternal, you know. If they were being jealous women, it probably would have bothered me less, and I’m not sure what that says about me. Their sincerity made me want to kick their martini glasses off their tables. This is not to say they didn’t join the crowd in laughing, so it was easy to forgive them.
Look. I get it. No one wants to hear a 30 year old woman complain about struggles to GAIN weight. Even I want to punch myself in the face when I talk about it. Wait, your problem can be solved by eating cookies? Yeah, well, then that’s not really a problem, is it?
Of course, I’m a bit of a health nut. Generally speaking, I exercise on the regular and have a healthy diet. I’m already lean, so if I do happen to drop five pounds, it makes my face look super skinny and causes people to go, “um… are you okay??!” And this is what bothers me.
For about as long as I can remember I have had anxiety that is tied with stomach issues. My writing partner and I jest about this on our podcast, “Scary Monsters,” as our fear of being judged for our frequency for using the bathroom haunted us in our younger years. We have a number of sort of strange mutual shared qualities.
And so… anxiety can make me literally sick to my stomach. And depression, anxiety’s on and off again lover, can make me not feel hunger at all. A vicious cycle. Of course, these things pass, and suddenly I’ll realize how starving I am, but not before a weight loss raises red flags to people around me. Even though their concern is genuine care, it tweaks me to irritation, triggering an almost teenage mentality of wanting to run to my room and close the door, “leave me alone!” Then, once I’ve slammed the door and collapse on my bed, I wish I didn’t shut everyone out. And quite often, lack the energy or will to, will wallow in my own “spoiled” actions– struggling to find the ability to work harder due to a fractured confidence in earthquakes of what is looking like a dreamless future, broken from a heart struck by grief of a lost love. While these feel like a crushing weight, I belittle my own problems… “this is a life you signed up for… you knew damn well failure was a likely outcome… and you’re not the first person on planet Earth to not be held by someone you’re in love with. Grow the fuck up.” Thus, as any therapist or friend I confide in says, “Lori, you are way too hard on yourself.”
Alas, I got sick of people worried I may have an eating disorder. Even more so, I’m sick of feeling extremely tired. I like being thin, sure, but I absolutely hate feeling weak. Because I was trying to not burn so many calories, I cut back on my running which is also not good for my psyche. But I need to feel strong, physically. I need to be able to run for miles. I need to know I can swim in rip currents and not tire. I need to be able to lift more than I look capable of.
I lamented that I biked 20 miles the other day and I felt tired the whole time, where I once I felt I could bike near forever and never get tired, to which one of my good friends said, “I have never heard anyone complain about being tired about biking 20 miles and not just brag about it.” Haha! But like a junky who returns to their favorite source of dopamine, you go for what you used to do (this is usually how people OD) instead of working their way back up gradually. Then, I’m mad at myself for letting myself get this far out of shape to begin with.
About five years ago, I discontinued eating red meat. The main reason was my cholesterol was a whopping 287, a number that makes my doctors go, “da fuck?!” In case you don’t know, that’s crazy high. Especially for someone who’s not overweight. This also led to me mostly cutting out pork as well. It’s hard to give up certain foods at first. You crave it. The smell of it makes you swoon. But after some time, you stop craving it, and even when you see it, it doesn’t have much appeal. However, I would be lying if I said I don’t sometimes see a steak and think it’s sexy, and on some rare occasions, I’ll even go for tasting a little (I won’t eat a lot because my body is not used to it and will get sick, if you give up certain foods for a long time, you have to slowly re-introduce them back into your diet).
The most annoying thing about this, has been my family’s reaction to it. Because I have to live through it over and over every time I see them. Immediate and extended family. “Wait, since when did you stop eating red meat?” “Five years ago.” “So, you’re a vegetarian now?” “No, I just don’t eat red meat.” “What about chicken?” “I eat chicken. That’s not red meat.” “What about shrimp?” “I eat seafood. Just not red meat.” “What kind of hipster bullshit is this?” This is a conversation I’ve had multiple times with the same family members. Look, I can be a real space cadet at times… I don’t expect people to remember every detail about my stupid life, but my god, when I have to have a conversation more than twice I want to scream my face off and wave my clenched fists in the air.
Perhaps what was more surprising is when I also cut back on pork. I wasn’t quite as stringent with that. I wouldn’t order or eat pork entrées, but if there was bacon in a recipe, I probably would just eat it. But for years I went without bacon in general. This was quite shocking to my family, knowing that I loved bacon perhaps more than I loved living.
Growing up, we ate a shit ton of bacon. And in my teen years and early twenties, I probably ate bacon at least once a day… sometimes, just eating a plate of bacon in front of the TV, likely watching a sitcom with my fingers filled with bacon grease. Of course, this was a time when I ate an almost absurd amount of food and was scrawny as hell, unable to gain any weight. Seeing that I’d stop growing and finish puberty at the late age around 23, it took till about then when I realized I started to get a belly and couldn’t merely eat two giant bowls of ice cream topped with cookies every day. Time to eat healthier and work out more. At 23/24, I became a gym rat and was in tremendous shape.
My extended family whom I visit quite often where I am fed and do laundry are concerned. They urge me to visit more and try to feed me. Because I’m just not used to eating much anymore, I get full easily now. So I can’t eat a lot in one sitting. They encourage me to visit more. They are extremely supportive of my writing and comedy endeavors, but don’t want to see me starving myself. I push back that it’s not their responsibility to take care of me or buy me food, but they’ll say, “that’s what family is for.” Oh boy, if I ever sell a script, I sure do owe a lot of people dinners. This is not to say they expect reciprocity. Though I would hope I could pay it pack, or pay it forward, in some way, at some point in the future.
In trying to put some meat on me, I’m eating more unhealthy than usual. Not turning away cookies, and starting to eat bacon again. Sweet delicious, fatty bacon. And like a crack head, the mere smell of bacon once again throws my head into a spin. I want it. I need it. I love it so! As much as that craving brings a sort of ecstasy, I did like it when I didn’t feel like a crack head at the smell of bacon. Something about a triggered addiction that makes you feel like you don’t have control. Something that frightens me about cigarettes and kept me from ever trying them (besides the fact that I think they’re disgusting and kill you) is how much power they have over you. I don’t want anything to have that much power over me.
But doesn’t comedy have power over me? How I obsess about it? How I fear a future without it? How it is tied to highs and lows? And the ex-lover, a still open wound… doesn’t he have some sort of grip on me that terrifies me? Is this, in an overall blanket statement, of my underlining fear of commitment? That I don’t want to feel like I can’t live without something or someone? That my freedom is compromised if something elevates me? Too many of my comedy friends are dejected and down. So many people I know end up rationalizing their bad relationships. But aren’t there some obsessions that are healthy addictions? Surely I know people who love each other and never tired of the other’s company. I, myself, have long lasting friendships of people whom I laugh and long to see, unable to imagine a life without them. No surfers I know get sick of going to the ocean. There is this type of love and passion that isn’t just a dopamine trigger, like the smell of bacon.
My brother returned to Central America for a surf trip, the gypsy pirate he is. As his lifelong secretary, the family always turns to me about how he is doing, when will he be back… you’ll make sure he’s okay, right? I’m not sure any human can have responsibility for some else’s well being (adults, I mean)… not fully anyway, but I’ll always be there for him.
“When are you coming back? Are you ever coming back?” I half jest, but a part of me also has that urge to flee to live a very simple life on the beach. We are our best selves in the ocean. Sometimes I think I may be happiest if I lived in Maui, a quiet life, working in a book store or something. Reading and ocean dwelling, where maybe I’d find a companion who is also a lover.
“In the future,” he said, “in the future.”
I try to remind myself to write so I’m ready, in the future, if/when opportunity presents itself. And when I’m down, I remember that as sure at the winters come, so does the warm weather, I’ll be surfing once again. In the future. And then I order a side of bacon with my eggs. My cholesterol will go up. So will my weight. And I’ll get stronger. In the future.