HO HO– OH NO
By: Lauren Anderson
When I was about 11, my loving grandparents gave me an exercise video for Christmas. I remember opening the present (one of many… they always spoiled us rotten) and my face falling, and quickly trying to fix my mortification by feigning surprise and delight.
It was a Denise Austin movie, and it was by all turns—hilarious. But at the time, I couldn’t laugh. In fact, it was all I could do to hold back tears. My sister, who was popular and gorgeous and ALREADY had a boyfriend, was getting cool sweaters and jewelry. But not me. No sir. I got a workout tape.
My mind started racing. I was solidly in the prime of my puberty. Going from an average kid to a “big” kid within what seemed like moments. Suddenly I was a good 30 pounds bigger than the other kids in my class (the boys too), about to embark on my penultimate growth spurt, and I needed a bra.
To put it bluntly, it sucked.
And then there was my grandma. Always beautiful. Always put together. And always slim. One of those rare breeds of women who never seemed to be hungry, and actually craved beets. Who knows if that was the truth of it. But if it wasn’t, she absolutely never let on. I loved her and she thought I hung the moon. But we looked nothing alike.
When my grandparents left, leaving a mountain of gifts in their wake, I sat in the living room going through my spoils and my mom came in and sat down.
“Do you like what you got from Grandma and Grandpa?” She asked, helping me fold my new scarf.
“Yeah… for the most part.” I hesitated. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. “But why did they get me a workout tape? Do they think I’m fat or something?”
My mom looked at me, horrified. She was so upset that I was upset.
“No! Of course not. They got you that tape because you told me you wanted one. So when they asked what you wanted, that’s what I told them.”
OH MY GAWD.
I totally forgot I had told my mom that. But it all came flashing back. One of my friend’s moms had a workout tape, and we did it at a sleepover. It was fun! When I got home the next day I told my mom I wanted one too.
Jeez. I was so embarrassed. My grandparents were literally giving me something I asked for, but I had forgotten I’d asked for it. Instead, I jumped to the worst possible conclusion, and hurt my own damn feelings.
I immediately used my grandparents gift as evidence of what I already thought about myself. That I wasn’t good enough. I was gross and weird, and not okay. And EVERYONE thought that, even my doting grandparents. So you better fix it fast girly, or you’ll be unlovable for the rest of your life.
I remember a huge swell of relief washing over me when my mom explained the present away. And even though it made perfect sense, it was too late– the damage was done. Gifts related to health and fitness became an instant bummer. (Save the occasional gift certificate for a massage. I will ALWAYS except one of those. Hint hint.)
I also vowed to never ever ever give a gift that could be mis-construed like that. It’s too squidgy. It could be interpreted too many ways. Even if a loved one begged for something related to health, (think fitbit/ sports bra/ water bottle/ you name it.) I would avoid it. Better safe than sorry.
Until this year.
In my defense, I’ve done a lot of changing this past year. My relationship to fitness has VASTLY transformed. I’ve learned so much, and it has all been positive. I repeat, it has all been positive.
Yes, I’ve hard days, and dark days, and injured days, etc. But the feeling? The overall experience? Overwhelmingly positive. And for those of you that have been following along this blog know that’s the case. And trust me, no one is more shocked about this than me.
So when my mom’s birthday rolled around mid December, I convinced my sister to go in a 2 month class pass for her to do some Tai Chi. She’s been talking about wanting to try it for over a year now, but has never gone through with it. And let me tell you, she LOVED it. She was overjoyed.
I was on a high. Maybe I was wrong… maybe the gift of fitness and body stuff was truly the greatest gift of all? But I let it go to my head.
Because when I was looking for a little extra something-something to add to my Dad and Step Mom’s Christmas gifts this year, I had more body love on the brain.
Not because I have any sort of agenda or opinion on my parent’s fitness. Because I DO NOT. I repeat, I DO NOT. In fact, I am adamant about that, because I don’t want them to have an opinion or agenda about my body either. Because I believe that your body and how you choose to keep it is your own business.
But because nowadays, fitness and body love on the brain is a regular thing. It’s not something I’m gonna do someday– it’s something I’m doing. I’ve finally activated that idea. Even though I am still young in my relationship, I can feel it alive in me, and I’m alive in it. Halle-freakin-lujah.
And I’ve been learning so much. So I thought I would spread the love! Spread the good word! Because of the workout tape fiasco, I knew better than to get too in depth. I thought of some of the easy and fun points of self care that I’ve picked up along the way. (Snaps proverbial fingers.) YES! That’s it!
Dry brushes! Dry brushes for everyone!
What’s that you say? Well, I learned from taking the Essential You class at Solcana Wellness that brushing your skin with a dry brush once (or twice) a day can have wonderful benefits on your lymphatic system. Helping with digestion, and removing toxins. Improving and invigorating the skin, and elevating the mood. Done and done. I do it daily now, and I really can tell the difference!
Then I got them each a face mask, because c’mon… it’s a face mask! If you’ve never tried one, do it. You face will thank you. If you have, you know what I’m talking about.
Then I found some little hand grips that you can squeeze. Which can help with everyday functions like opening jars, and holding things. But it can also help destress. And of course my favorite benefit, which might be implied, but say it with me– GRIP STRENGTH!!!
The rest of the gifts went over well enough, but when it got to the self-care packages, I could see my parents faces tighten and strain to try and fathom what they had just received. After I explained what each thing was, my parents mustered a thank you because they’re gracious people, but I knew better. And it was confirmed when my Step Mom gave me a “Well, that’s interesting.” at the end.
Basically, that’s the kiss of death when gift-giving. If you grew up in Minnesota like me, you know that “That’s interesting” is a Minnesotan way of saying, “I don’t like it, but I’m too polite to say so.”
Oh no! Had I just Denise Austin’d my parents without meaning to? Or were they like, “Great, another thing I should be doing, that I won’t ever do.” Or worse still, “Even my own daughter thinks I need to improve.”
I’m a pretty decent gift-giver, and all of my parents have been wildly supportive on my journey this past year. So why did the gift to my mom go over so well, but the ones to my dad and step mom fail?
Well, I’m sure the answers to that question are as varied and specific as our own personal pathway to fitness. If I was trying to guess, I’d say that one gift was asked for, and one was unsolicited. Just like my exercise tape. I was mortified when I thought my grandparents thought I needed that tape. But when I was reminded that it’s something I wanted, something I asked for, it changed everything.
My mom wanted Tai Chi class, but my dad and step mom never asked to be dry brushed.
Ahhh, I think I might get it now.
Makes sense right? Because before I was ready to embark on my journey, if someone had tried to force fitness on me, even something as small as a hand grip, I would’ve shut it down. And I’m reminded that body love and body maintenance is a really personal thing. We come at it in very different ways, and have very different needs and expectations. One person’s paradise, is another person’s lonely island.
One person’s invigorating-dry-brush-routine is another person’s weird-thing-Lauren-wants-me-to-try.
So where does that leave us dear readers? What have we concluded?
I think if you have found something that brings you joy in this cruel world, then it is a glorious thing to want to share it. But when it comes to fitness/body/health stuff, it’s safest to be invited to share first.
My only hope is that if my parents ever do come to decide they want to try it, (I know they read this, so fingers crossed!) at their own time and with their own specific intention, that they’ll be thankful they’ve already got the brush. Happy Holidays.