It’s Not Halloween, Jackass

As I sit down to write this post, I realize that what I’m about to say may motivate someone to throw a brick through my window—please don’t—but it needs to be said. Philly, I love ya, but what’s with the sports jerseys, any season, any occasion?

I honestly don’t have a problem when fans wear their favorite team jerseys at the stadium or while watching a game on TV. I get it. You’re fans. It’s fun. It’s when I see a grown man in July wearing his Eagles jersey for no good reason other than it’s Tuesday. Or the moron who decides it’s OK to wear his Flyers jersey to Thanksgiving dinner, like it’s his formal wear. No, it’s not formal wear. And that’s not your name on the back. It doesn’t matter that you’ve shelled out hundreds of hard-earned dollars for the thing.

I give a pass to kids. The name on the back of their jersey may be a player they look up to, someone who inspires them. That’s fine if you’re twelve. Not so much if you’re 44. What, are you a big fan of Chase Utley? Do you want to be like him when you grow up? Do you loooooove him? Exactly. Kids also like to dress up as their favorite superhero for the same reasons they want to dress up like their favorite sports heroes. Grownups don’t do that. At least not on a Tuesday in July. When Virginia was little, we took her to Disneyland for her birthday. She was dressed to the nines in her pint-sized Cinderella costume. And every time she spotted one of the Disney princesses that roam around the park, she’d tackle them in an adorable bear hug. It’s cute when you’re three, less so as you get older. Behavior like that gets adults arrested.

There’s definitely a cut off age for costumes, Underoos, and wearing your Spider-Man pajamas in public. I say let’s extend that to sports jerseys. I know, plenty of people dress in costumes sometimes.  But at least the guys and gals who like to dress up as Klingons have the decency to wait for Comic-Con as their occasion. It’s like a social agreement. If you decide to wear a costume in public, people will stare and judge. I know that Julian Schnabel may disagree, but he probably understands he’s being self-indulgent. So unless you’re at work directing the next Diving Bell, put on a real shirt.

Last Chance Workout

The Biggest Loser is back on television. I really thought the show was done after the “winner” of last season, Rachel Frederickson, dieted and exercised down to proportions comparable to a concentration camp victim. She looked as if she had traded one eating disorder when she was 260 pounds at the start of the season for another, when she weighed in at a skeletal 105 pounds for the season finale. Trainers Jillian and Bob’s stunned reactions said it all when Rachel walked on stage for her big reveal during the finale. Josh and I, too, had to collect our jaws from off the floor when she emerged from behind the curtain. It’s kinda scary what people do to themselves for a reality show.

And this season, they’re back at it again, but this time, the show is using obese, former athletes (many of them college, Olympic, and professional athletes) as contestants rather than obese, mere mortals. I think the idea the show is playing with here is that athletes already have bodies and brains that are designed to be pushed to greater limits. They take coaching and discipline well. I anticipate that many of these contestants will see more dramatic reductions in weight and increases in muscle mass than contestants from previous seasons. Their “before” and “after” photos are going to knock our socks off.

The thing is, though, it’s the same show with the same, distorted messages about health and weight. I don’t think that an extra 100+ pounds on a person is healthy, but I also don’t know how healthy it is to lose half your body weight in the course of six months. In Rachel’s case, she lost 60% of her body weight. This season, Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney says that the show provides these former athletes a “final chance to recapture their glory days.” Really? That’s like saying your best days were in high school. Buh-bye, best days. It’s a slow slide to death from here. And the stereotypical messaging about “fat” just keeps coming. During week one, contestants emphasize how “disappointed” and “disgusting” they feel now that they’ve “let [themselves] go.” One poor guy feels he can’t be a role model to his little brother, because he’s fat. Gina, a former cheerleader, says “I feel like I hold the family back because I’m overweight.” Right, because a thin wife and mother is so much better than a fat one. Just ask Christina Crawford, Joan’s daughter.

And by the way, since May, Rachel Frederickson has gained twenty pounds. According to an article in Us Weekly, Rachel, along with The Biggest Loser national audience, also recognized that she was too light at 105 pounds and felt that gaining twenty pounds put her in a healthier weight range. But health isn’t really The Biggest Loser game, even though it’s embedded into the brand’s messaging. No, it oversimplifies health, equalizing it to numbers on a scale, and that’s not healthy for anyone.

Even Parasites Perform a Service

Early this summer, my bicycle was stolen. Some asshole broke into our backyard, took my bike first, came back, and was in the process of wheeling off with my kid’s bike when Bruce, our awesome neighbor, intervened and ordered the intruder to return it. Virginia’s bicycle was saved, mine was long gone. Josh was livid about my bike. Almost immediately, he cruised around the surrounding area, hoping to spot it and reclaim it. We’ve had success with this tactic in the past, as have other friends who’ve lost bikes to thieves. But this time, it was clear. My bicycle wasn’t coming back. And to tell the truth, I wasn’t that torn up about it. Sure, I was upset that a person felt he had the right to break into our backyard and steal our property—that sucks. But the fact my bicycle was gone? Eh…I think I’m OK with that.

Every summer I decide that this will be the year I utilize my bicycle for around-town errands like a proper city girl. I mean, Philly is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. I envision trips to Trader Joe’s and rides with VA down the path to camp every day. I’d bicycle to cafes, where I’d get some work done over an iced coffee. Our Nissan would simply sit parked at the curb and collect bird poop all summer. This scenario never happens. Philly gets pretty steamy during summertime, and bicycle riding can work up a sweat pretty quickly. I learned this early on a couple summers ago, when I decided to bicycle to a ladies lunch. The restaurant was about a mile away, and it wasn’t even that hot—80s. The ride itself was pleasant. I enjoyed the feel of the wind when it passed through my helmet, as I glided quickly through West Philly to my destination. It’s when I arrived that I started sweating. As soon as I locked up my bike, my clothes clung to my body and when I took my purse off, I had a sweat mark that matched my purse strap across my chest. The helmet, though, is the worst for sweat. When I took it off, it seemed to unlock all of my pores in my hair. I had sweat literally dripping down my face onto my plate for the entire lunch.

Besides the sweating, bicycling around town isn’t all that enjoyable for me. You need to be on high alert if you’re going to bike in the city. Cars, buses, pedestrians, trolley tracks—it can feel like they’re all out to get you. Trying to navigate where I’m going while at the same time determining if the driver yapping on her cell phone actually sees me (or instead will, in fact, make a left turn into me) can really ramp up my anxiety levels. I’d always rather walk. Walking’s slower, but when I allow enough time, I love it. I have the time to look around, people watch, absorb my surroundings. I can do things I can’t or shouldn’t on a bicycle—I can take a phone call, check email, listen to a podcast, sip a lemonade. And if I’m pressed for time? Well, that’s what bus tokens are for.

I wish I wasn’t such a bicycle wimp, but I can no longer deny it. Josh bicycles to work whenever the weather allows. For him it’s convenient and easy. Most of my friends are avid cyclists as well. That’s OK. They can all leave me in their dust. Now that I think of it, I’ve got a pair of rollerblades I haven’t used in 20 years. I don’t want anyone coming into my house and lifting my stuff, but if someone had to, the rollerblades are in the downstairs closet with the wristguards and kneepads.

Day Trippers

My brother, J.B., came to town over the holiday weekend. I always find that when out-of-town guests visit for a few days, we all get the chance to be tourists. We’ve lived in Philly for seven years, and for the first time this weekend, we had the opportunity to be utterly charmed by New Hope and Lambertville, two towns that hug the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware River.

New Hope seems to suffer from an identity crisis in some ways. Is it a sleepy little B&B getaway? A patchouli-scented hippie village? A biker hub? An overtly-friendly LGBT town? Yes it is. J.B., Virginia, and I drove up on Labor Day and landed in New Hope right around lunch time. The sidewalks teemed with tourists, but we had our pick of restaurants and cafes. Like New Hope’s tendency toward multiple personalities, the restaurants aimed to please most palates, which was a good thing for us—two adults and a kid often require a menu with variety.  After a bowl of fettuccine with clam sauce, a heart-stopping salad with steak and cheese, and a mediocre burger, the three of us were off to explore. Most of the boutique windows featured cheesy gifts like fancy soaps shaped like purple fortune cookies and women’s tunics detailed with gold trim. We passed a leather goods store, a cards and gifts store, and too many vintage clothing stores, none of which tempted us to go in. A nice walk, but I wondered how those places managed to stay alive on what appeared to be a high-rent street.

We crossed the Delaware River, stopping for a photo midway that featured Virginia and me straddling Pennsylvania and New Jersey, declaring on Facebook “Two states at once!” Lambertville was just across the river, but tonally wholly different from New Hope. The sidewalks were wider and more accommodating. Benches welcomed tired tourists with a place to sit and sip iced coffee. As a result of poor shoe choice, Virginia was working on two painful blisters, which could have cut our day short. But at Lambertville Trading Company, a quirky coffee shop, two baristas with hearts of gold came to our rescue with a few bandages to help with VA’s feet. They did the trick, and for the remainder of our afternoon, we stopped off at antique shops and a pet accessories place. We even met a couple who were out walking their pet pig.

By the end of the day, we were ready to cross back over the river for some New Hope ice-cream before getting back into the car for our hour-long drive back into Philly. I always love hosting my family when they visit, and the added bonus is that through day trips like these, we get to forget that we’re locals and embrace the opportunity to view the area with new eyes as well. Lucky us.