Aren’t we all trying to live healthier lifestyles? I know I am, if only to live long enough to one day witness the look on the face of a certain, “global warming is a joke” friend when he sees that his favorite fishing hole has been replaced with sand dunes.
That’s why I recently dragged my sorry butt back to the gym. Started lifting weights to dodge that osteoporosis bullet. As for vitamins, apparently it’s “One-a-Day” and not “One-a-Month.” Okay, fine. So I'm popping pills: multivitamins, calcium tablets and Primrose capsules. I’m swilling Flax seed oil and choking on Omega 3 horse pills with the same gusto once reserved for squirting Hershey syrup straight from the bottle into my gaping pie hole.
I’m buying low-fat this and non-fat that, even resorting to reduced-fat ice cream, which is such an oxymoron it makes my eyes spin, but actually, it isn’t so bad. Probably only because my rapidly depleting brain cells can’t recall the orgasmic delights of my old flame, Ben & Jerry’s. I tried a low-fat boxed brownie mix made with vanilla yogurt instead of butter and alleluia, the batter was delicious! I lapped the spoon like a starved street dog, although I was disappointed to find that the baked results ended up tasting like chocolate liver. I even sampled a sugar-free version of my favorite chocolate syrup (not to mention any names, but it starts with an "H" and ends with a "Y"), hoping it would complement my reduced-fat ice cream. I kicked back my head in delicious anticipation of the chocolate elixir and squeezed the bottle’s contents into my watering mouth.
And promptly spat it out. Eeww. Eewwww. Eewwwww. It was nothing short of sheer blasphemy to associate an ingredient as beloved as chocolate with this toxic waste. I was so disgusted and disappointed, after rinsing out my mouth with the nearest liquid available, which happened to be Palmolive dish soap, I drove to Safeway to return the swill. And along the way, made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s and bought a bottle of "Midnight Moo." Yes, I know it’s the real-deal chocolate syrup and hence probably bad for me, but hey, it’s organic and I’m a chocoholic and it doesn’t burn a hole in my tongue and taste like freakin’ battery acid, so cut me a break, please? I’m trying here, really.
Which explains the prunes. Let me explain: At the office where I work, junk food is as commonplace as oxygen. It’s just there, ever-present, alluring, tempting, inviting. Come hither, it beckons. Let me melt in your mouth, not in your hands. And I succumb to its evil pleasures and polish off an entire three-pound bag of M&Ms with the same automation required of blinking and breathing. It’s a robotic bend-elbow-bring-hand-to-mouth movement that I perform unconsciously. Type type, handful of M&Ms, type, type, another handful, type, type. Get the picture?
Ah, but now that I’m older and wiser and alleluia, see the light, I realize that candy is Satan and fiber is our Savior. And surprisingly, I’ve discovered that dried prunes aren’t all that bad. They’re sweet, they’re chewy…what’s not to like?
And I’m no fool. I figure, why not put replace the bowl of M&Ms with the bag of prunes? Think of all the Satanic sugar I’ll avoid, thus sparing havoc on my cholesterol levels, kidneys, heart, colon, teeth, blood pressure, liver, yadda, yadda, yadda. So I pushed the bowl of M&Ms far away, and placed the bag of dried prunes within arm’s reach. After all, prunes are loaded with antioxidants, fiber and all sorts of good compounds. Just looking at them, I was feeling healthier already. It must really be true that with age comes wisdom, because in my younger, foolish days, I would have never swapped M&Ms for prunes.
So the day began: type, type. Prune. Type, type. Prune. At the end of the day, I reached for one last prune.
And found the bag was empty.
I swiveled from side to side to give my light-fingered coworkers the evil eye. Who had pilfered my prunes? But then I remembered that everybody was off-site today. Well, it’s a small bag, I figured. I couldn’t have eaten that many. I read the label.
There were 24 prunes.
But c’mon. Prunes have an ill-deserved rep. We don’t ridicule raisins, dis’ dates or titter at figs. Why should I succumb to lowbrow humor and allow myself to be concerned about the rumored aftereffects of eating a couple prunes? Or couple dozen?
That seemingly innocuous question was answered during my drive home…you might have heard of my commute: it was tapped as the sixth worst commute in the Bay Area…the infamous afternoon drive on Highway 92 eastbound. There I was, sitting in a parking lot of a freeway. Tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, moving five feet every five minutes, growling whenever someone cut in front of me (“Hey nimrod, it’s called a turn signal!”), listening to KFOG play Talking Heads Burning Down the House for the bazillionth time that day--when suddenly, there it was. A strange sound. What was that?
I listened hard.
Turned off the radio. Sat in silence, straining my ears…and there it was again.
Gurgle. Gurgle. Gurglegurglegurgle.
It was my stomach.
You know how a clap of thunder detonates with that skin-tingling reverberation that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end just seconds before lightening strikes?
I started sweating like President Bush at a Dixie Chicks concert. Suddenly, the red sea of brake lights before me became much threatening than just my usual afternoon annoyance. I realized, with a sickening dread, that 24 prunes were, indeed, nothing to scoff at.
And thus began my encounter with the real weapons of mass destruction. Coupled with the daunting awareness that a healthy lifestyle might not guarantee a long life.
But it will guarantee a life that feels long.