I just finished getting dressed to go ski on the first day of our recent trip to West Yellowstone. I was about ready to step out the door when my wife said, “You look good”. I stopped dead in my tracks. My wife does not frequently disburse compliments to me. In fact, it is a rare occasion that I do anything right at all. She must have noticed the slightly incredulous look on my face because she said it again, “You do look good”, as if to reassure me of what I had heard. Before I could derive much satisfaction from her words of praise she delivered the coup de grace. She said, “You do look good. You look like a slightly pudgy middle-aged guy who has more money to spend on ski gear than he has time to train”. My heart fell as my spirits deflated.
As I walked out the door, I grimly thought to myself that I had now fallen to a new low. I am not sure what part of the middle-aged, pudgy, with more money than time category I disliked the most. I think it is all of it. In spite of my delusions of fitness, time and lack of training finally caught up with me. The image I have had of myself up this point is one I have had for the last decade when I crossed the divide from twenties to thirties. No longer. That mirror was shattered. Looking good has taken on a whole new meaning and I am not sure that I like it.
I was still thinking about a pudgy middle-aged guy in tights when I put on my skis at the trailhead. As I skied past people on the trail I wondered what they saw. Was the image they saw the same image that my wife saw as I walked out of the hotel? The roots of paranoia began to grow.
About this time I skied by a friend who was teaching a clinic. His whole group was standing in a line next to the track. As I passed he cheerily said, “Looking good”. I almost stopped in my tracks for the second time of the day. Instead I forced myself to ski on. What did he mean by “looking good”? Was he simply saying hello? Or was he commenting on my technique and telling me that I was skiing well? Paranoia indeed. Did he mean that he liked my Bjorn Dahle ski tights or worse yet was he commenting on how I looked in them? If the latter is the case I am going to have to have a long talk with his wife.
I skied off confused, perplexed and paranoid. Soon I was alone skiing on the outer loops. The jumbled thoughts of earlier were soon lost to physical exertion and the joy and motion of skiing. I felt better. I saw few other skiers for the remainder of my ski and returned to hotel tired and mentally refreshed. I walked into our hotel room and glanced at the mirror on the wall. There was a slightly pudgy middle-aged guy staring back at me. He looked tired and happy. He had a smile on his face and looked pretty good, but ..
Wife’s note: I never said the pudgy part. He just inferred it from previous comments about his waistline. He did get the paranoid part right!
Copyright 2003, David Susong