I was preparing three low calorie non-carb meals a day. Max ate them between grumbles and backsliding. I felt like the Greek king Sisyphus who was punished by the gods by having to push a boulder up a hill just to have it roll back. I felt like I, too, was being punished by the gods and Max was my boulder. Call me Sisyphus Saltwater.
On the third day of the diet as I was preparing another salad for lunch at the kitchen counter, Max said, “How much more salad do I have to eat?”
“It’s a very nice salad and it’s good for you,” I said, slicing carrots. “Take it day by day.”
“I’ll give up sirloin for pate but not pate for rabbit food.”
I felt like the Greek king Sisyphus who was punished by the gods by having to push a boulder up a hill just to have it roll back.
“Pate is not a salad,” I said.
“When I write my diet book, it will be,” he said, huffing out the door.
I put my arms on the kitchen counter and laid my forehead down.
Max started reading at night after bedtime. He pussyfooted to his pool lounge chair when he thought I was asleep. I caught him one night with several wafer thin pate sandwiches wedged between the pages of a copy of Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST. Max must have skipped right over the quote in that book that says, “Hunger is good discipline.”
I went to weigh myself, the numbers on the scale said I had lost 10 pounds. I knew that was impossible since we had started the diet only four days before. When I checked the numbers, I noticed the scale had been tampered with. Now, who could have done that? Hmmmmm?
We swam laps in the pool several times a day. That was more exercise than we’d had in a long time. Max wore his Speedo. He had gotten a tattoo of a martini glass with an olive on a toothpick a couple of years ago on his 70th birthday. Then, only the olive showed above the Speedo. Now, I could see part of the martini glass, too.
Late at night, the flickering of the fridge light as the door opened and closed woke me up. I tiptoed to the kitchen. Max was slicing low fat cheese and grilled chicken, arranging them on a round flaxseed cracker spread with diet mayonnaise.
I switched the kitchen light on. “Ah-ha!” I said.
Max turned around, a guilty look on his face. Then his expression turned defiant. “For heaven’s sake, Sylvia,” he said, slamming the fridge door shut. “I’m practically starving to death. This is a healthy snack. Look!”
I had to agree. It was better than pate and Edam cheese on a croissant. I knew if I challenged Max too much, he would quit the diet altogether.
He said, hands on hips, “I’m eating because I’m under a great deal of stress!”
Stress? All we did all day, most days, was eat our diet meals, swim in the pool, read and sleep. Of course, Max was writing his memoirs and I was painting watercolors. But those were enjoyable activities.
If you really want to know, I was starving, too.
I said, pointing to his cracker, “I’ll give you a thousand pesos if you’ll make me one of those.”
We sat at the kitchen counter in our nightclothes under a dim lamp eating our flaxseed cracker sandwiches. I poured us each a small glass of wine. It was a soul-satisfying break.
Every once in a while you have to be flexible enough to bend the rules, if that helps you stay on track.
That night, realizing there is always an out, was a turning point for Max. From then on, he didn’t grumble about the meals and even helped me prepare them.
At the end of the month, we had both lost pounds – Max ten and me twelve – with no tampering on the scale.
Max turned into the diet police. When he caught me sneaking a very tiny muffin I’d brought home from the bakery, he called me on it. I wasn’t above cheating once in a while, either.
The bottom line was, we were sticking to the diet. But as a doctor once told me, “Dieting is a battle you never really win.”
And it’s a fact, when Max wears his Speedo, I can’t see the top of the martini glass anymore, only the olive.
That’s just as well.