Sunday 23 November 2014

'As I looked in the mirror, looking back at me was what can only be described as a pair of tits; and I don't mean moobs'

I shaved my chest recently. Relax, it was for work. And relax. Not work in the sex industry. Anyway. I shaved it. I didn't wax it. Because obviously if I waxed it I'd get ingrown hairs. Now it wasn't exactly Glendalough on my chest, but I had a respectable bit of vague thatch there. And it turns out it was more than earning its keep.

I looked at myself, bare-chested, in every way, and there was something wrong with it, something a bit weird and creepy about it. Something I couldn't quite look at. I actually felt a bit upset. I felt as if I had mutilated myself, as if I wasn't me.

And then I figured out what it was. As I looked in the mirror, looking back at me was what can only be described as a pair of tits. Don't I mean moobs? No I don't. They were moobs when they had a smattering of hair on them. Back then, they looked almost manly, not so smooth and clearly defined. Now, shaved, they are no longer moobs, they are just boobs.

The hair on my chest took me a long time to grow. There wasn't much of it, but it was covering a multitude. I don't think it's going to take quite the same amount of time to grow back, but it looks as if it's going to be a while.

And, frankly, it is too disturbing to look at these shapely bosoms every day when I shave (my face, which has better growth than my chest). So I think it's time to get rid of them. Or at least to lose some weight so they get smaller.

Luckily something else happened recently, too. I had an operation. Relax, I'll live. And relax, it was not any kind of gender realignment surgery. It was just a small thing, from too much talking.

As part of the recovery, I had to shut up for a while. The main danger was that, after four of days of not talking, my initial frustration had given way to a kind of Zen place where I was thinking I wouldn't bother resuming talking. Except that that was driving people crazy. They could not accept my silence.

Anyway, the point being that after the op I initially thought I was grand. I was back into work the next day happy as Larry, apart from the silence. But then I noticed I felt really sick after lunch, which had been a bowl of soup. Gradually over the next day or two, I realised that if I ate anything apart from one, or maybe two slices of toast, I would feel really sick. So I would just eat a slice of toast now and then. I would really enjoy the piece of toast, but that was all I needed. I reckon I even lost a few pounds.

But something more fundamental than that happened. I got to step outside my habits. I got to see everything afresh. It's as if this minor operation gave me a new lease of life. And while I know it takes time to build new habits, sometimes the hardest thing can be to step out of the old ones in the first place.

But I was handed that bit on a plate. There was an intervention that stopped me and forced me to break deeply ingrained habits. I've been reading a lot about habits recently. They're powerful stuff, whether in people, organisations or society. And they are all bound up in little rewards.

I had never really properly considered that I used food as a reward. But of course I do. Who doesn't in this country? I did it unconsciously, without ever thinking about it.

That's the power of habits, too. They happen unconsciously. They are dug right in there. I was using food as reward for a hard day at work, for when the kids were gone to bed, for getting through a day with a hangover, for anything.

Like the alcoholic, I ate when I was happy and I ate when I was sad. In other words, I was rewarding myself with food, I was also comforting myself with food.

So now, with the toast-related wasting disease, I couldn't really reward myself with food, so I had to think of other rewards. So instead of looking forward to a meal in the evening for that week, I would look forward to watching a movie, or buying a book or the new My Bloody Valentine record or whatever.

All this might seem really obvious to you, but I had never really thought about it before. Because I didn't want to. Because it would have upset my eating habits, my cosy little food-obsessed day, all revolving around the next meal, like a baby, or an animal.

You are expecting that the next bit of this is where I tell you that I have now lost three stone and I am full of energy and confidence and hopped up on self-esteem (or ignorant courage, as we call it in my family).

You are perhaps expecting me to expound a bit on mindfulness, too, the new craze of being aware of your breath and the noises around you and the present and whatnot. (Actually, I have my own take on the mindfulness craze. I call it wakefulness, but that is for another day.)

Irish Independent

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