When I was growing up, my mom was the prettiest, funniest, smartest mother around. Full stop, yo!
That being said (here it comes, Mom), she also had a love of shortcuts and antics. For example, the many, many crash diets and exercise fads she adored.
First, we had Calories for Christ, in which Mom only ate once a day all through Lent. She named it herself, so don’t yell at me. Jesus, Mom surmised, would want this. Did this have anything to do with actual religious fasting? No. It had to do with being the prettiest mom in church on Easter Sunday (though catching Mrs. Bertuglia with her fabulous hats…always a challenge). Under the bemused gaze of our Lord and Savior, Mom would skip breakfast and lunch, maybe slipping in a Slim-Fast if she felt lightheaded, then eat a hearty dinner. Did it work? No. Did she do it every year? Yes. (Mom, you were always the prettiest mom in church.)
The Inflatable Pants. Wear these rubbery, inflated pants, the ad said, and you’ll magically drop pounds without even trying! Mom was a thousand percent in. As we Higlets sat eating our Twinkies, Mom donned a pair of bizarre pants and waddled around the kitchen. She knew we wouldn’t narc on her…after all, this wasn’t that unusual. However, when my dad came home early, bounding up the steps with flowers in his hand, Mom panicked. She couldn’t deflate the pants fast enough, so she bolted the bathroom with a fork and stabbed at her thighs so my effortlessly lean father wouldn’t bear witness to her efforts. In this, she was successful. He never found out.
The ropes system. Five pieces of rope, a pulley, a doorknob…what could go wrong? Everything, that’s what. Whoever developed this exercise device also worked for the Spanish Inquisition. The idea was that you’d lie on the floor, an appendage in a loop at the end of each rope, then lift and lower your limbs, using the pulley. Why couldn’t you just lift and lower without the complex ropes system? Well, you could, and actually, that would’ve been a lot more effective, but where’s the fun in that? There’s no threat of accidental strangulation, no lost time in untangling the ropes, no Irish setter thinking it was a toy and shaking it until it was dead, then dragging it out into the woods to bury it.
The Shake It Off. No, not the Taylor Swift song. The thing in my mom’s friend’s bedroom. Yes, Mom, I remember, though I was only three or four. #emotionalscars. You stood in the belt. It shook your fat off. That was the idea, anyway. Did it work? Of course not! Was it scary to see Mommy shaking till her teeth chattered as Cynthia egged her on? Yes!
The upside of watching my mom cheerfully experiment with these wackadoodle things was A) a career writing humor; B) a preternatural ability to avoid such scams; and C) lots and lots of laughs at family parties, because Mom was never shy about sharing the tales from her shenanigans (with everyone except Dad, of course). Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! You are still the prettiest mom around. And the funniest. And the best.