saturn shrugged


It’s very, very late and it’s supposed to snow like krazy tomorrow, but I thought I needed to add an addendum to the Oprah story. First off, I can’t believe I had a blog for almost four years and didn’t remember to tell the tale, for which LFMD’s Opraphilia has proven useful. I’d also like to add that Oprah herself seemed quite gracious, even though she never really met with us, there were no autographs or pictures or anything like that. Remember, this was 1994, and although her show was huge, she had not geometrically progressed to the Hera-like status she currently enjoys.

That particular show was another day at the office for her, and probably a not very satisfying one. None of us Gen X folks really stepped up to the plate, myself included, giving us months of l’esprit de l’escalier afterward. I swear to god I replayed what I WOULD have said about forty thousand times.

Some of us who were on the show remained friends for years through (the then-new technology of) email, particularly the schoolteacher Melanie, who actually did quit her job and then married a Scot and moved to Scotland, you know, where the Scots are. The European-American kayak instructor went on to instruct kayaks.

The day the show was to air, all of my friends gathered at the Purple House in Chapel Hill, and my dad had a “watching party” on the West Coast. Dotted throughout the country, several friends sat in front of the TV at the allotted time. When Oprah came on, I was horrified to learn than my show had been pre-empted for Fat Teen Week, and the only place it aired was in the Mountain Time Zone. Thank god my friend Christine in Sandy had taped it.

My dad called, my mom called, friends called, etc. until I finally had to answer my phone “I’m not on Oprah, can I help you?” The insult had been added to injury, and I’m sure a lot of folks thought I’d been lying about the whole thing.

It did air the next morning, and I was told it was repeated about ten times over the next few months. In many ways, it was a blessing nobody saw it, because when I watched the tape, I was absolutely horrified at the way I looked. Something about that year, my body had changed, and I no longer had the sharpness of my early ’20s – in fact, I thought I looked tremendously bloated, with a neck like an amphibian.

To be honest, I freaked out. I was so disgusted with my physical appearance that it was all I could think about (this was pre-Celexa, and, y’know, I was still dating). In an ironic twist of fate, my wisdom teeth erupted later that week, and I went to the oral surgeon to get them removed. Apparently, during the re-surfacing from anesthesia, I was crying inconsolably. The nurses called my mom and said, “your son is having an episode – he thinks he’s a frog.”

In the tiny molecules between the conscious and the subconscious, my image of me on television had transformed, Kafka-esque, into a frog, with a bloated neck, unable to speak, just sitting there being fat and stupid. It took me three days and about a kilo of Vicodin to get over it.

That following winter, with the help of Annie and Greg at our farm, I lost 25 pounds and began the slow turn-around of my life. Sure, there were valleys later on (’98 and ’01 were, to put it mildly, treacherous), but I had weathered my first major mid-20s/Saturn-return/nervous breakdown.

So I have Oprah to thank for that. Not many people have the opportunity to share that couch and turn limes into limeade, and for that – and my Oprah coffee mug – I’ll always be grateful.


later that year

0 thoughts on “saturn shrugged

  1. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Now you made me cry. I am all teary! Here’s a big hug across the internet! Can you feel it? It’s a big one!
    This entry reminded me of my current issues. I have started my blog for Helen, and I am disgusted by current photos of me. I have not lost my pregnancy weight from 6 YEARS AGO, and my sedentary Cubicle Life has added some more lbs. I am not one of these American women obsessed with weight. I am just dealing with the facts: I am pushing 40, I am at least 25 lbs. overweight, and this is not helping my health (mental or physical). I have a beautiful daughter, a handsome husband, and I have transformed into my own frog. I can relate to your frog story as well as your nervous breakdown story. I have many “issues”, and my weight is just one more spoke in the wheel of my discontent. Hopefully this winter, I can pull myself together like you did!
    Thanks for sharing this story. I am constantly amazed by the painful stories you are willing to share with your audience! All I can figure is that you are a very emotionally healthy person who is confident enough not to give a damn. You go, Ian! See, you are living your best life, just like Oprah would want you to!
    And, Lucy is not the only cutie cutiekins in the Blake-Williams family. You are such a Cutie Cutiekins, Ian!

  2. killian

    Yes-Yes-Yes-show us your toes!!!!!
    Seriously, thanks (a la LFMD) for the open-heartedness of your entries–it is wonderful to behold, absorb, reflect and refract. This blog makes me a better person.
    Now, for the FROG issues: ahem (the stern-yet-commpassionate throat-clearing of one who has been there and yet tries desperately NOT to sound like she walked BOTH ways to school uphill in the snow!!) LFMD, since you so willingly accept reading suggestions, I’ve got a whole LIST of them I could send, but will just put one out here for you: Minding the Body–Women Writers on body and soul–Patricia Foster, ed.
    You Are NOT a FROG. Neither is Ian. LUCY AND HELEN are amazingly lucky little girls, and the world a better place because people like you two are parents.

  3. lee

    I thought you were kinda cute, to- And I don’t even like boys!
    But seriously, how traumatic. No wonder you blocked it out for so long!
    Oprah probably didn’t air the show b/c she was embarrassed at the mean spiritedness of the whole thing. Maybe that was one of her turning points b/c I know about that time she made a decision to always give her show a positive spin. She doesn’t harp on negative things anymore and really only highlights positive things people are doing. Maybe you helped change Oprah!!

  4. CL

    Yes, it IS snowing like krazy! One of Lucy’s first snows?
    LFMD, it happens – our metabolisms aren’t what they were when we were 20s or teenagers, and it surprised me, because I’d always been thin. Now I actually have to WORK at it. What a drag…it is…getting old. Luckily I have a treadmill in my apt. so I can run in peace.
    Well, time for oatmeal.

  5. LFMD

    Thanks for the book recommendation, Killian. I will be sure to pick it up. And, I don’t think that my frog statements were articulated very well. I have never been one of these weight-conscious women. . . one of these “does my butt look fat in these jeans?” kind of ninnies. I could never understand the psychology behind eating disorders and body image issues. HOWEVER, my reality is that I am overweight and I have no reason to be. My baby is an independent little person and my husband does more than his fair share of work around the house. . . so, I have no excuse not to focus on my health and getting some exercise. I have time aplenty! More importantly, I need to realize that I am not a 20 something who can eat candy all day long. . . I want to be around for a long time for my family. And it is going to take effort to get healthy and exercise. I need to just do it.
    This whole weight thing is part of my bigger issues of doing everything half-assed, not taking care of what is really important, focus issues, anger issues, negativity, being my own worst enemy, blah blah blah. My doc calls it dysthymia. I call it the albatross around my neck.
    Anyway, I hate when I ramble! I just wanted to let Ian know that I can relate to the whole frog thing. And, yeah, show us your toes!!!

  6. LFMD

    OH, I nearly forgot about something. . . I read yesterday that the main writer for the Gilmore Girls has created a new show. . . it has Nick and Nora Charles-esque characters and witty dialogue. Of course, I thought of you and Tessa. So, my question is. . . . have I cracked the case? Is this your big Hollywood news? Are you writing for this new show? Just a shot in the dark, but I thought I’d ask.

  7. Ian

    Wow, thank you gals, but I hope this entry didn’t seem like a grab for affirmation. Now I don’t care what I look like because I’M MARRIED! HA HA HA!
    Men’s toes should be heard and not seen.

  8. Ian

    LFMD – The Gilmore Girls writers are very talented, can’t wait to see what they do with the concept. But that’s not our project, although it would be fun.

  9. kjf

    i came to this blog as a fan of your political commentary which grew to clicking on for the baby watch and then to oooohhing at the lucy photos. but i think the best part of reading your blog is when you explore your own road. thanks.

  10. JJE

    Another “cute boy” vote here. I don’t see anything awful at all in that picture. Thanks for sharing your Oprah story. My sister is member of her cult and going to a taping sometime this year. I’ve become a Martha girl lately. Mostly ’cause we’re in the process of building a house, but also because her talk show is often hilariously funny (she tries so hard to be “new” Martha, but “old” Martha keeps slipping out). There’s a drinking game waiting to unfold with her show…
    And LFMD – after some time now of reading your posts, I simply cannot – no, not in a million years – imagine you have anger or negativity issues. No way, no how. I get the sense that you’re one of the most positive, most cheerful people most of us will ever meet. Like Killian said, Helen is a lucky little girl to have a lovely mama like you.
    Speaking of the oh-so-adorable blog children (Hi, Lucy!), we need to do a holiday-themed photopalooza. I took some cute pictures of Connor for our Christmas card that I’m dying to share (after struggling with infertility for so long, one of the silly little things I most looked forward to was doing the cheezy Christmas card) and I’d love to see everyone else’s.

  11. Beth

    I second what kjf said. Also Killian’s recommendation of Minding the Body, which is super. Unfortunately, I’m one of the ninnies who worries about what her butt looks like in jeans (though I also run, and I do it because I love it, which I figure balances my psyche to some degree).
    And, hey Ian, I bought NEXT when it came out–funny, I hadn’t read it since then and never put it together that you were in it. I love convergences like that. I also got a kick out of your post-anesthesia episode. =)

  12. JJE

    Thanks for humoring me LFMD! They really are pretty corny and I”m not the best photographer, but I think these turned out kinda cute. Gotta love a pudgy baby! My husband was worried to death I was gonna electrocute the kid, but I was extra careful.
    If I did this right, the pictures are linked. I used P1010024.JPG (photo 18/27) as our Christmas card with the caption “…while visions of sugarplums danced in his head…”
    He’s probably going to die of embarrassment over these photos one day…
    Gonna head over and check out little Miss Helen’s pics…

  13. JJE

    Okay, clearly I need to take photography lessons from you! Helen is such a pretty little girl. The funny thing is the card you used was my first choice until I finally decided to go with a plain white card with a red script font.

  14. LFMD

    JJE! Connor is beautiful! So adorable! Definitely a Cutie Cutiekins! I loved all of your photos! I even saw toes in one of the pics!
    Hey, just what is that seat contraption that Connor is placed in? What a brilliant idea! They didn’t have that back in the days of my early motherhood.
    Give Connor a big hug for me and Helen. Have a nice weekend.

  15. Annie

    Ah, 1994! Ian, I’ve just got to put in my usual request for you to ‘blog out’ the story about Sage’s mother and the Halloween photo (the soon-post-Oprah proverbial last straw, according to Ian at the time).
    How vividly I remember the premix 15-bean soup bags and cans of Slim-Fast that inhabited our kitchen cabinets (along with that sweet little mouse…who probably froze…IN the kitchen cabinet) that winter, 94-95. And how truly fantabulous Ian looked with his Beatles cut and Lennon glasses, bought for inspiration (and I am reminded we haven’t yet mentioned him on the blog–tho I spent much of last night weeping to “The Ballad of John & Yoko” and “Beautiful Boy”– and I know how much xtcian karmic love beamed towards our John yesterday…)
    LFMD, thank you for mentioning fur children. I have two and would like them to be included in the photopalooza! Bald human infants will have to be featured in subsequent years–

  16. JJE

    LFMD – if you happen to check back, many thanks for the kind words!
    The seat is a Bumbo seat and it is truly the greatest invention since sliced bread.

  17. LFMD

    Bean soup and Slim-Fast? Is that how you dropped the lbs? What’s this about Sage’s mother and the Halloween photo?
    Annie, I am all about fur children! Please post your photos! Honestly, Jack the beagle is the only one who understands me some days. We adopted him when he was 8 weeks old, and he is now 9. He is truly my little buddy. And, he and Helen adore each other. They do everything together. . . he watches her play games and draw, they nap together, she dressed him up. Jack has been by my side when I was first married, when I was pregnant, when Helen was sick. . . I wish he could live forever.
    JJE — Connor is SO adorable. And the Bumbo seat! I wish I had invented it — I would be living large.

  18. Beth

    LFMD, no offense taken! I just wish I had a healthier attitude about my butt–oh well, never mind, eating is far more fun than wearing skinny jeans. And actually, I’d planned to write in my post that you might want to try running, which is great for the body and spirit, but then I took it out because I thought I sounded too much like a Nike ad. Although I guess there are worse self-motivators than “Just do it.”
    Thanks for asking after Jordan and Sebastian and Isabel (the fur babies), who are patiently weathering a kitchen renovation, so I decided not to humiliate them with the antler hats this year. =)

  19. LFMD

    Beth, from what I remember of your photos, you are stunning, so you have nothing to worry about! And, I used to be a bit runner. If I am able to drop some lbs., I think I will take it up again. The thought of starting to run at this weight is too jarring. Anyway, the fur children might just like the antlers! It will distract then from the kitchen upheaval!

  20. CL

    Beagles are the best dogs. I had one for 14 years. You never hear people say, “I got attacked by an angry beagle once.” I recommend beagles as family pets to all – if you have a place for them to run around as pups. They do tend to run.

  21. LFMD

    CL — you are a beagle lover! One more thing I like about you! : )
    And, Beth, I just call it like I see it. Back when Ian’s blog readers posted photos, I showed Helen the photos of my “internet friends.” She LOVED the photo of you and your puppy. She said, “Mama, look at that pretty lady and her big dog!” When we went to the dog park a few days afterward, she saw a dog that was the same breed as your pup. Helen exclaimed, “Look! That dog is the same as the Pretty Internet Lady’s dog!”
    Have a good weekend, Pretty Internet Lady! And Jack the beagle sends out a “woof!” to CL.


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