View online edition


Sixth Decade

Our columnist enters a new era as she ponders her mom‘s French and a doc‘s dieting advice.

by Fran LoBiondo

Fran LoBiondoWe are now 10 days into the summer of 2019. And I am officially three days into my sixth decade on this Earth.

Now, calm down, there is nothing to fear from living long. Nothing except a shorter memory span. Or a certain clumsiness caused by imbalance. Or, despite my efforts to eat well and exercise, a certain avoir du poid blooming like zinnias around my foreshortened waistline.

My mother used the term avoir du poid as an elegant way of saying “heftiness,” “substantiality,” or “fat.”

When I was a girl of a tender age, Mom took me shopping in a posh store as a treat for my junior-high graduation. At the time, I had a certain ponderousness to my figure, and while I was trying on some jeans, I heard Mom joke to the attendant, sotto voce (quietly, so as not to be heard): “She has as much as me, but it flops a lot less.”

Well, her voce wasn’t sotto enough, and I heard her loud and clear. It was years before we shopped together again.

We did shop together for state occasions, such as the first wedding in our family and the first one Mom had to attend alone since my father died. My sister and I went out with her hunting for the perfect Mother of the Groom dress and she tried on many. She didn’t have strong preferences as to color, material or length, but she did have one unbreakable rule: “Nothing that sits on my hips and shines.”

She always had a good sense of style, and she learned an important lesson on looking good from her brother-in-law, my Uncle Tommy.

“How do you like my new dress?” she asked him once, not really expecting a cogent answer. Tommy shocked her.

“Well, it’s a nice dress, but it doesn’t do anything for you.”

Mom quoted that line to us every time we were dressing for a special occasion. “A dress has to do something faw you,” she’d say in her New Yawk accent.

* * *

Usually I enjoy this time of the year, but I find myself a little less energized now than in summers past. I used to suffer from seasonal depression, slogging through winter and waking up in spring. Now I feel tired all year long.
I spoke to my doctor, who is a vegan or non-glutenoid or some flavor of eater and every time I visit her, she points out how my complaints are related to my weight and diet. This is because I have high cholesterol numbers and I complain to her about being tired all the time.

Here is her advice:

Avoid sugar, pasta, rice, bread, beans, corn, potatoes, cereal (including oatmeal), and fruit.

“Gadzooks!” I blurted, looking over her list. “This takes away everything I enjoy except bagels!”

“You can’t eat bagels, either.”

“I’d rather die!”

“I didn’t say it was easy.”

Not just for me, but I’m cooking for three to five people who all have different preferences. Taking away nine of the staples I count on is just a scandal and an outrage.

“You will substitute the old stuff with new and exciting foods and you’ll feel so much better!”

Oy vey. Had I seen this day coming, would I have fought cancer so hard?

I’m kidding. Of course, I am ever grateful for making it this far and I would give up these nine forbidden foods until the end of time if it meant seeing my children safely grown.

But I do hope there’s free bagels and baklava in heaven.

And speaking of doctor visits, I went to a skin surgeon for a pre-surgery conference, and lo, my dermatologist sent a report of my visit, marking my squamous cell lesion as being located on my right side, whereas I was told that it is on my left.

I await the outcome of that decision. But nobody’s coming at me with a scalpel until it’s clear where the target is. I already have enough scars on my face to stand in for Al Pacino.

So many questions. Like, why am I so inept as a gardener while my daughter has started several pots of morning glories without a single empty one? I love morning glories, especially blue ones, but I gave up on them because varmints took every last sprout and left me crying.

Right now I’m having some success with basil, but I did not plant it, I bought it.

We’ll see what July brings us, shall we?

Life Sentences