It seemed like I was eating garbage lately. I felt unhealthy, sluggish and grumpy all the time.
But there she was in the grocery store, so beautiful, staring at me through the plastic window in the top of the cardboard box. They called her the “All-American Pie” — half apple, half cherry, and right in time for the Fourth of July.
“We gotta get her for the Fourth,” I declared to my wife and 10-year-old son. The boy was all for it.
“OK, Mr. I’m-Gonna-Eat-Healthier,” my wife replied.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I stopped her. “I merely made an observation about my recent eating habits. I wasn’t establishing a mantra to eat better.”
But my loving wife, who’d noticed my junk food intake, was genuinely concerned for my health. She told me I was getting older, that I wasn’t exercising, and that I had the diet of a 10-year-old. I’d heard a speech like that before, in October 1985, when my mom caught me finishing all my Halloween candy in one night.
“If you want company at the gym,” I said, “why don’t you just ask?”
She loved the idea. She was calling my bluff.
You see, in late ‘90s during our dating stage, I thought I’d be charming and go with her to the gym. I tried to break some crazy mileage record on the treadmill and I broke the treadmill instead. My soon-to-be wife was so embarrassed she never asked me to go with her again, and I hoped she never would.
“That’s a great idea!” she said. “You should come with me to the gym. I have a guest pass.”
“That’s a horrible idea,” I fired back. “Do you remember the treadmill incident of ’99? Everyone staring at us, gym personnel calling for back-up and lots of tools over the loudspeaker?”
The only way I’d win the argument was to give in. And make her regret the decision.
Still, I fought.
“I exercise all the time,” I told her as we entered the place. “I just did 10 push-ups last year.”
At the front counter, my wife asked how the guest pass worked.
“So I can bring him whenever I want?”
Notice she said whenever she wants?
The lady behind the counter took my name. I waited for her to find my gym rap sheet. She was sure to boot me out after reading about my run-in with previous exercise equipment.
“Alright, you’re all set. Have a great workout.”
To the treadmills I went. My wife followed.
I wasn’t breaking any mileage records. And I wasn’t breaking any machines either. I was breaking a serious sweat, and I found it hard to do what I’d been doing since I was born — I lost the ability to breathe.
“I told you you’re out of shape,” my wife said. “And the way you eat doesn’t help.”
I was too complicated to be pried open like that. One thing was certain — I could kiss that All-American Pie good bye. I was in no position to eat more junk.
We did exercise after exercise. And just when I thought it was time to go, we did more exercise.
“You know,” I said to my wife, “there’s more to life than health and energy and feeling good.”
At my lowest, my wife was at her highest.
“It’s so hard to get to the gym,” My wife said.
Good, I thought. Maybe we won’t go again.
“Having you here makes it easier for me to go.”
Just my luck.
“You’re such a good husband.”
Yeah, I can’t wait to—
Whoa, whoa, whoa, what was this? When I thought about it, I realized I am a good husband. After I got over myself, I found my purpose at the gym. From then on, I wanted to go. I wanted to help my wife.
We worked hard together. (Insert Rocky Balboa-like exercise montage here. Picture a loving couple running up the 72 stone steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, which I did in my mind on the stair-stepper. Can you hear that “You’re the Best Around” song from “The Karate Kid”?)
I was eating well, too. I felt healthy, energetic and in good spirits. All the time.
So now there’s really no reason I can’t take a little break and enjoy that All-American Pie this Fourth of July.
This story originally appeared in The Acorn Newspapers of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, CA, in July of 2014. You can find it and other stories like it from Michael Picarella at MichaelPicarellaColumn.com.