Jan 20 • 8M

My Most Embarrassing Purchase

Newsletter 2023-01-19

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Family comedy one disaster at a time.
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All I can say is it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then again, that’s true of all bad ideas. If there’s something that appears unwise in the moment but you go through with it anyway because YOLO, you have a fearlessness and vigor for life I simply lack. Consequently, “YOLO” isn’t a particularly useful phrase because it doesn’t take into account other religions. If you come from a culture that believes in reincarnation, before you do something truly stupid and life-threatening, you need an acronym like YCBAALLF: You’ll come back as a lower life form.

My wife and I don’t have a spending limit. Don’t get me wrong: There are definitely constraints to our finances. Just wait until my kids ask us how much money we’ve saved for them for college. There’s no way we’ll ever amass enough to send all four, so we didn’t even try, which is the same approach my parents took with their seven kids and my wife’s parents took with their four. Hopefully our kids will get scholarships or become very good at robbing liquor stores. When Lola and I got married, someone advised us to get a joint account for common expenses and then much smaller side accounts for discretionary spending. Each of those personal accounts only contained five hundred dollars, and we never ended up using them. The bank noticed and added a monthly charge for “inactivity,” which is a nice way of saying they were slowly stealing our money and hoping we didn’t notice. They came close to draining both accounts before I complained and they gave us our money back. The modern financial system is a scam, and the banks make up the rules as they go. Still, the alternative is burying our money in a coffee can in the backyard. That wouldn’t be FDIC insured, and also our pigs might eat it. Leaving our money in the bank is a slightly better option.

When I closed the side accounts, Lola and I never made an agreement for how much money we could spend from the main account without consulting the other person. We both work full-time. While we don’t have send-our-kids-to-college money, we don’t have to worry about where we’ll find funds for groceries or the utility bill, either. That’s Midwest rich in my book. Neither of us ever buys anything crazy. I would get a new Xbox game every few years when the next installment in the Halo series came out, and Lola liked to hit up second-hand stores for decorative glass objects the kids will break someday. Other than that, we were extremely frugal. Then one day I discovered a growing problem: I was getting fat. Everyone knows the best way to solve that issue is to throw money at it. Just ask the multi-billion dollar diet industry.

My weight yo-yoed over the years. I was extremely lean as a collegiate runner. Once I discovered beer, I was considerably less lean as a drinker who occasionally ran. I came out of college with my weight trending in the wrong direction. My saving grace was pregnancy. Most people wouldn’t consider that an effective weight loss plan, but those people have never met my wife. Lola’s morning sickness was actually around-the-clock sickness for the first trimester. The fact that she put herself through that four times in quick succession proves just how much she loves our children and also that pregnancy amnesia is real. If she truly remembered how bad it was the previous time, she never would have let me near her again.

I timed my weight loss cycles around Lola’s pregnancies as much by necessity as choice. She couldn’t tolerate the sight or smell of an assortment of foods that changed by the hour. In one famous incident, she said she was going to make herself a plain baked potato. I could have whatever I wanted, but if it was anything other than a plain baked potato, I had to eat it on a different floor of the house. That time, she was being generous. More often, I wasn’t allowed to be indoors with an offending food. Since I wasn’t all that fond of eating in the backyard, the menu I cooked naturally got blander, which made cutting back on how much I ate easier than ever. I also had more time to myself to exercise since Lola was always sleeping. It was like she was exhausted from building an entire person or something. Beyond that, I was extremely motivated to get in shape. I wanted to look good in those pictures everyone takes of a dad holding a new baby in the delivery room, which was pretty much the only time anyone pointed a camera at me. Whenever Lola was pregnant, I slimmed down, and then, after delivery, spent the next two years porking back up. Other than the hundreds of flaws with it, it was the perfect system. As long as we kept having kids, my weight would never be a problem.

To the surprise of literally no one, that approach eventually came to an end. Lola had had just about enough of passing my genes to the next generation. I, however, failed to adjust. At the end of what would have been my normal two-year weight gain cycle, there was nothing to bring me back down. I just kept going, blissfully unaware of where I was headed. After a while, Lola tried to subtly alert me to the threat I was posing to myself and others. While she never called me overweight, she did comment that the house shook when I walked around. I was basically Shamu on a pogo stick. It wasn’t until I saw a photo of myself with my parents and siblings at Christmas that year that the magnitude of the changes dawned on me. My already large head had seemingly doubled in size. It was a wonder I could fit through doors. I had to do something fast. Naturally, I pulled out my credit card.

There was a magical, wondrous device that would solve all my problems. I knew about it because of a friend I made through Twitter. He was in incredible shape, at least according to the highly selective photos he posted online. Surely no one would use images to lie on the internet. Based solely on his recommendation, I prepared to buy something that would barely fit in our house. And all it cost was… well, we can get to that.

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