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THINGS SEEN

Robert Henri Snow in Winter (1902)

Nicholas de Stael The Football Players (1952)

Atsuko Tanaka Drawing for Electric Dress (1956)

George Segal The Old Woman at the Window (1965)

Jim Rosenquist A Lot to Like (1962)

It’s been a strange month, mostly because I spent the bulk of it chasing the dangling carrot of artistic legitimacy.  Then my birthday came, and I woke to the realization that I was halfway to eighty-four. That’s a lot of trips around the sun, not enough to make me feel old, but definitely enough to have a strong sense of who I am.  I realized that the powers that be (the ones dangling the carrot) were asking me to become a cookie cutter version of myself.   When I finally balked at at their wishes – when I put my foot down and said I’m not writing that! – I was informed that my stance was “anti-establishment”.  Anti-establishment?  I rolled the word around in my mind for a moment.  Yes.  That seemed exactly right.

So, this is about the how, and when and why, and what of seeing.It’s about how the habit of seeing activates our minds and our imaginations, and how seeing opens doors that were otherwise closed;And how when those doors open, the world seems more manageable and meaningful.

There is just something about New Jersey that breeds a certain type of life and by extension, a certain type of person. It’s as if all those murky swamps, water gaps and rivers formed a natural economy that led to the confluence of jug handles, diners and highway stink. This in turn, begat an enormous amount of interstate travel options, which caused a lot of lost travelers to just settle in New Jersey rather than spend another hour on the Turnpike or its better looking sister The Parkway. This would at least explain how New Jersey came to be the most densely populated state (with a whopping twenty percent of the population foreign born). Of course, crowded areas make for strange bedfellows, which is how it is that soccer moms and gangsters can shop at the same stores and how such disparate entities as the World’s Oldest Nudist Camp, the Medieval Times Theme Park/Dinner Theater and the International Castor Oil Association can all co-exist in perfect harmony.

There are some etiquette issues that they just never prepare you for.  Case in point: My trainer needed to go on a diet.  To be honest, I was never fully impressed with her body, but she had toned arms and her butt was very high, so I sort of figured she was fit enough to train the likes of me.  Six weeks into our relationship and I began to see results. I was leaner and stronger and in the right lighting (i.e. dim) comfortable in a bikini.  Okay, so she wasn’t Cindy Crawford, she knew how to work out and she knew how to teach me.  I decided somewhere around week nine that I was in it for the long haul. But then she went on vacation, where I can only presume (based on her visibly distended belly) she ate herself silly while lying in a prone position.  I’m talking four months pregnant belly, and I know whereof I speak;  I’ve had two kids, and the last time my gut was that big I was sporting a fetal sidekick.

But what is the proper etiquette between trainer and trainee?  Was I obliged to facilitate an intervention of sorts?  Because I couldn’t see how she was engendering any confidence in her clients with that tummy hanging out of her adorable OliveU tank.  As we continued our workouts, I gently steered the conversation into this core area.  I would ask about best tips for weight loss, or if a particular exercise could target a specific area. At one point I asked openly what one could do to lose unsightly bulge in the tummy area, to which she sighed, and muttered, “It really all boils down to diet.”

Which isn’t exactly the answer I wanted to hear because if it all boiled down to diet, why the hell was I doing lunges until my glutes exploded?!

In an effort to get a second opinion I asked a few other trainers who were looking rather fit.

“It’s all aerobic,” said one.

“You have to do the weights,” said another.

“It boils down to metabolic burn which can’t be achieved without both aerobic and weight bearing exercise.”

“What about diet? Does it all boil down to diet?” I asked.

“Well, only if you’re eating everything in sight.”

I had my answer.

The next day I returned to my gym prepared to give my trainer a piece of my mind.  I was paying top dollar and for that I expected her to be chiseled perfection.  Her job was to show me the ultimate body that I could only dream of achieving. She was the proverbial dangling carrot in front of the treadmill.  But when I entered the gym she was lying on the sofa eating yogurt covered pretzels out of a feedbag.  I turned and saw my reflection in a nearby mirror and realized all at once, that I had become more fit than my trainer. It was a scary realization. She was no longer a dangling carrot.  She was a cautionary tale.

I considered searching for a new trainer, but the truth was, the more she ate the better I looked. I had to wonder if her weight gain was part of some larger karmic scheme to get me over my last plateau (which occurred right around the time of her vacation). Maybe she got fat in order to inspire me, because as a result of her excess tonnage, I am now weighing my food and training for a 5K.  I’ve also bumped up my sessions to five times a week.  I guess in the end it has been worth it.  I’ve never looked better and she is quiet literally becoming a cash cow.

It’s a Saturday night, my kids are just back from their dad’s, and I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner when my boyfriend walks into the kitchen.

“Would you be okay if I went out tonight?” he asks.

I feel a surge of aggravation.Why is he going out? This wasn’t discussed.