As I cleaned up from another teenage get-together, I scanned the room. Half-filled water bottles, crumpled napkins, smudges and sprinkles on everything, and everywhere. What’s a dad to do on a Friday night in the frosty suburbs?
On a perpetual diet of greens and protein shakes, I avoided the temptation of dragging my finger across a velvety cupcake or shoving a boatload of pretzel Goldfish into my mouth. I kept moving, piling the take-out boxes on the counter, ready for the mad dash to the trash cans and back.
But as I opened the trash cabinet, my eyes came face to face with my final hurdle before going to bed. A single slice of uneaten pizza calling me from a plate strategically balanced on the rim of the trash bin. I froze in place, balancing cardboard boxes in one hand and a primal desire to grab that slice with the other.
Suddenly, a voice from above… salvation.
“Can you turn the dishwasher on before you come up?”
“Sure. Just taking out the trash.”
“Great. And don’t eat before you come up. You’ve been so good.”
It was the food police, the woman with eyes that could see, hear and smell my intentions from up the stairs and across the house. The slight rustling of Reynold’s Wrap being surgically opened. The Tupperware whispery burp. The muted crunch of Ritz Crackers. The too-obvious garbled answers I gave as I gnawed on leftover steak. Wonder Woman had nothing on my wife.
As I began to say goodbye and good riddance to that midnight snack, my cholesterol-laden spine grew a backbone. Diet or no diet, I paid for that pizza. If I wanted it, I should have it. Wasn’t I the king of my castle, the man of the family, the big kahuna? Even if I got divorced right now, I was entitled to at least 50% of that slice. But how to chew without clues, crumbs or commotion…
But as I fixated on my prey with carb-deprived eyes, my legs and mind turned to jelly (which would be quite nice right now with peanut butter). I was caught between what was right in front of me and what was wrong for my middle-aged heart. And so the debate began… with the low-calorie angel food cake on one shoulder and the calorie-laden devil food cake on the other.
Angel: “It’s time… for you to take out the trash and go to bed. Tomorrow is another day… another day filled with heavenly burpees and lunges, squats and medicine balls. Almond milk by the ounce… Time for dreams of a 34” waist and fields of blueberries.”
Devil: “It’s time… time for that slice of pizza. Look at that crust… so crunchy. Celery doesn’t crunch like that… and you can always do a few more crunches in the gym tomorrow. Plus, your grandfather was Italian… pizza is in your genes. Forget how your blue jeans fit and grab that slice.”
Angel: “Don’t listen to that shmaltzy Neapolitan long song of pasta days gone by. Think of the Armani suit waiting for you once you lose your weight. Think GQ, not DQ. Free yourself from the fire-roasted plum tomatoes of Hell.”
Devil: “Tomatoes… hmmm, how about potatoes… mashed, fried, baked? Aren’t you tired of cloudy protein shakes and promises of inches gone by? Live for the present… and what a slice of heaven this pizza would bring to your salivary glands. Pizza today, pizza tomorrow, pizza forever!”
It seemed the rich chocolate, frosted devilish cake on my shoulder was winning. I reached over, my hands inches from the now-cold slice of heaven.
Angel: “I leave you with one final thought… it’s suburban Connecticut pizza, not Original Ray’s or Original, Original Rays, or Original, Original, Original Rays! At least get in the car… we can be in Manhattan in less than an hour!”
A bolt of weight lightening hit me like a ton of brick-oven pizzas. The angel food cake was right, even if it had appealed to my most basic food instincts… a bad tasting meal is not worth an extra pound of flesh. Any true food aficionado knows that much!
I took a deep breath with tied-up garbage bags and pizza boxes in hand. And I remembered… when dieting, one can easily be caught between the Devil Dog and the Deep Blue Sea Salt Tortilla Chips.
Brian Rutter is a hard-working husband, dad and hypoallergenic dog owner who continues to make his way through the weeds and tweeds in suburban Connecticut. A seasoned marketing professional, Brian writes about the trials and tribulations of being a middle-aged man. His work has appeared in The Washington Post as well as other publications. He also was a featured dad on The Today Show talking about fatherhood. You can follow his musings at www.theburbman.com