1. Begin by swearing you’ll never have an affair. You’re just not the type. You’re happily married and you sneer at spouses who indulge in extramarital affairs. Sleazy, sex crazed and pathetic are adjectives that come to mind. What’s worse are the bored housewives who have affairs with personal trainers they pick up at gyms. Nothing can be so cliché — like something out of Soap, that TV soap opera that spoofed soap operas. That’s right, a married woman having an affair with a personal trainer is so pathetic that even daytime soap operas wouldn’t stoop that low.
2. Don’t sign up at your neighborhood gym because you feel fat. It’s two days after Christmas and everyone is bloated and waddling about like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Don’t try on your jeans you bought freshman year in college. Don’t try to zip your mini skirt you bought senior year in high school. Don’t wear your puffy down coat that just exaggerates your girth and makes you pray your neighbor in the elevator will not ask when you are due. Do listen to your husband, who tells you that you look fine, beautiful, and thin. Don’t tell him he has to say that because he’s married to you. Don’t tell him that you’re amazed he stuck around when that drunk hairdresser in San Francisco cut your hair so short that certain types of women became very friendly to you in certain parts of San Francisco. Don’t tell him: “You’re stuck with me even if I contract leprosy and my disintegrating nose resembles a grated carrot.”
3. Don’t start your first day at the gym by wearing an oversized T-shirt that you haven’t worn since your eighth month of pregnancy. Be amazed that there is no one else at the gym who is even two pounds overweight. Everyone, particularly the men, are beautiful. Wonder where the fat and ugly people go to work out — Jack LaLanne?
4. When you nearly drop a five-pound weight on the foot of the skinny woman next to you, don’t be tempted to ask for a trainer. Even when you put the speed of the Stairmaster so fast that you feel like Road Runner in that manic cartoon or Lucy Ricardo from the chocolate candy episode. Even when three people who are working out come up to you and let you know that they are seriously worried that you are injuring yourself in an irreparable way that may need immediate medical attention.
5. When you finally do ask for a trainer, make sure that they don’t give you the obnoxious one, Mark, who constantly chews spearmint gum and interrupts your workout to make you watch a Britney Spears music video. “Now that’s hot,” Mark will say as he gives a disdainful glance at your clump of clay which somehow he must mold. Begin to grow suspicious that Mark chews so much gum because he is an avid smoker. Wonder why a gym would hire a chronic smoker as a personal trainer. Also wonder why such a trainer refuses to wear deodorant, and always has amoeba shaped perspiration stains beneath his armpits.
6. Don’t be too happy when Mark is finally fired for having sex with the coat check attendant in the spa. Don’t feel gleeful when the club manager apologizes and offers you a 10 percent discount when you sign up for your next personal trainer. There won’t be another personal trainer. You should hang up your towel and take Water Aerobics at the YMCA with your Mother’s bridge group. Go. Flee. There is still time.
7. Don’t begin to watch other personal trainers to see which one would work best for you. And don’t start watching Liam, the tall blonde one from Ireland. All of his clients are gorgeous skinny woman who wear too much jewelry and makeup when they work out. Realize that Liam, who seems to be training his female clients every minute of the day, doesn’t have the time for you. And anyway, you would never make the cutoff. Be convinced that there is a detailed application form to be filled out before one can work out with Liam, with a required photograph, preferably one that features you in some sort of swimwear.
8. Don’t beg the gym manager for just one appointment with Liam. Don’t be surprised when the gym manager tells you that Liam has absolutely no more room in his schedule for extra clients. “Why don’t you try Suzy?” she asks. When you ask who Suzy is, the gym manager points to a hefty person with tattoos who is lifting a two hundred pound barbell. Don’t tell the manager that you can’t believe this man is a woman. Be polite when you inform the gym manager that you don’t think you are compatible with Suzy.
9. Do forget about Liam. Realize that as in high school, you just didn’t make the grade. That the women Liam trains are the same girls who wouldn’t invite you to their Sweet Sixteen parties. Don’t care, and don’t admit that you do care, way too much, for a married woman.
10. Do try to laugh with your husband when he tells you that the gym is just a waste of money, that you have turned into a narcissistic sybarite and even though you are convinced you have lost two pounds, he tells you that you look exactly the same.
11. Don’t spend way too much time at the gym watching Liam and his clients, wondering what the hell you can do to be able to be a member of Liam’s club. Bribe the club manager? Bribe Liam? Get a facelift? A boob job? Walk directly in front of Liam and don’t feel too ashamed when he doesn’t even seem to register your presence. Would it be better if you fainted in front of him? Surely all personal trainers are registered in CPR. Stop having fantasies with Liam trying to resuscitate you mouth to mouth. Don’t look at him in his tight white t-shirt. Don’t try to imagine what he looks without the t-shirt, his tight black nylon shorts. If possible, don’t look at Liam at all. Look at your wedding ring instead.
12. Don’t practically fall to your knees when the gym manager tells you that Liam is willing to work out with you for one session. Don’t mind that Liam is doing this because the club manager realizes that Mark was a complete jerk and you might demand all your money back,. Don’t mind that you must meet Liam at a ridiculous time, 3:00 in the afternoon, when you should be picking up your child. Don’t beg your child’s best friend’s mother to pick up your child instead. Remind yourself that you are a mother first. Remind yourself that Liam doesn’t look exactly like Ryan O’Neal, who you always loved, first in Paper Moon and then Barry Lydnon. Don’t even believe that Liam might actually be better looking than Ryan O’Neal, perhaps better looking than any man you have ever seen in your life. Remind yourself, oh, please remind yourself, that you are married. You are married, middle-aged, and have one child. Say it again. And again.
13. Don’t be too obvious when after all your lusting and hoping, the man of your dreams is not only standing above you but has his hands on your thighs. He is trying to direct you in what is called a leg press when all you want pressed against you are his hands. Take a deep breath and try to slow your heartbeat. Don’t notice that this afternoon, for some reason, your wedding ring feels too tight. Don’t notice that Liam’s hands feel so warm against your bare skin, that his eyes are bluer than you could have possibly imagined, and his Irish accent, well, adorable. It’s almost unimaginable that someone could be so good-looking. And here you are, at 3:15, when you should be picking up your daughter and talking about her day and chatting with the other mothers and waving to the teacher and instead, instead… you are fantasizing about what would happen if Liam’s hands traveled further than your thigh. That you are trying to remember in the gym locker room which trainer was featured in the discussion you couldn’t help but eavesdrop on where the phrase “dynamite lover with the equipment to match” was featured. You know that there are some personal trainers who sleep with their clients. Newsweek told you so in an article about the new infidelity among married women. You have one friend, although divorced, who had a brief yet hot fling with her personal trainer. Trainers know how to please women because that’s all they do all day, explore women’s bodies. Even better, not only can they sleep with you but they can also make you slender. Stop, stop having these thoughts when Liam is stretching your legs so wide that you feel you could be featured in a Hustler spread. Stop wondering why you never see male trainers stretch their male clients in this particular way. When your session is finished, when you are sweaty and dazed and your skin still aches from his touch, don’t ask when you can see Liam again, like the class loser begging the prom queen for a date.
14. Don’t snap at your husband that it’s none of his business when he asks you how your new trainer is working out. And don’t let your heart break when you later see Liam at the gym café; say hello to him, see the blank look on his face and realize he doesn’t know who the hell you are.
15. Don’t make another appointment with Liam, this time determined to make him know who the hell you are. Don’t wear a tight shirt and your bra with extra support. And although it’s a 3:00 in the afternoon again and you have to depend yet on the kindness of yet another mother, nothing short of a tsunami hitting the Upper West Side can make you cancel this appointment.
16. Don’t be your wittiest, most charming self. You know how to do this very well. You can flirt and laugh and compliment and usually, at least in college, this worked. Try not to remember that you are forty-three-years-old and that perhaps you are going through what the text books call a mid-life crisis. Repeat all the reasons why a middle-aged and married woman should not act so outrageously towards a man perhaps half her age. Feel relieved when you discover that Liam is actually much older than he looks, a few years younger than you. This still doesn’t excuse your crush. Make some lame remark that a poll was taken at the gym and he won best looking personal trainer on the entire island of Manhattan. Don’t be surprised when Liam thinks you’re serious and thanks you for telling him about this honor. Try to decide why an Irish accent can sound so sexy from a personal trainer and sound so menacing from a priest. Be happy, no ecstatic, when Liam asks you when you would like to come in and train again. And yes, he has an eleven o’clock opening that can be all yours. Try not to jump up and down as if you had just won a prize. And try not to snap at your husband when he asks with a nasty grit to his voice when you’re going to grow out of this “self-indulgent” gym phase.
17. Realize you are thinking way too much about Liam when you are not in the gym. You are thinking about him when you are examining strawberries at the Fairway supermarket as an old lady nearly runs you over with her cart. You are still dreaming about him as you nearly forget to take out your hundred dollars at the Chase Bank ATM, and there, on Columbus Avenue, you see a tall blonde man jog by and although it isn’t Liam, he looks enough like Liam to make your throat ache. Try not to think about him when you are in bed with your husband. Really try.
18. You are working out with Liam and now you notice other women at the gym staring at you in envy. You have Liam’s attention and for now, that’s enough. Don’t wear a tight shirt with your best bra, and don’t spray Calvin Klein’s Obsession perfume at your temples, wrists and the back of your knees. You are wearing mascara, eyeliner, rouge, foundation, mascara, powder, in short, more makeup than you have worn in over a year. You are not wearing expensive jewelry, at least not yet. You have turned into a stereotype of a very desperate housewife. And although you know you shouldn’t, you must ask Liam if he has a girlfriend. He politely declines to answer with a smug smile. Not girlfriends, you think to yourself, but lovers. You tell him that his Irish accent is adorable. There are so many more things adorable about him but at least you stop there. At dinner that night, your husband will wave his hand in front of your face and ask if you are part of the living world. Your daughter will tell you that you look like Sleepy, the dwarf in Snow White. You notice you’re beginning to drink more wine than usual. Your body aches from working out, but it’s a wonderful ache, almost as if you just experienced energetic sex. You are beginning to understand that you are associating the word sex and Liam much more than you could have ever imagined. Don’t keep repeating the words “extramarital affair” until they stop sounding alien to you. Not even hostile, but almost friendly.
19. Don’t start talking about sex with your trainer. You relay the conversation you heard in the locker about the trainer with the nice sized equipment. You share the story about the personal trainer in Westchester who slept with five women at the same gym and was only discovered when the same five women enrolled in a Pilates class and started chatting. You mention the Newsweek article about how married women are having as many extramarital affairs as men, and some are having these affairs with their personal gym trainers. You know that you seem to be talking way too much about personal trainers and extramarital affairs. You couldn’t be more obvious than if you scrawled in magic marker over your forehead: SLEEP WITH ME NOW!!!!. You wonder why you are not thinking about your husband at all. And of course you’re wondering why Liam responds to all this with only a smile.
20. Your husband knows that something is going on. He doesn’t come right out and forbid you, but he lets you know that you have changed since you began working out. You are now a vain and shallow person who cares only about reducing inches from your waist. He would prefer if you stop going to the gym so much. But you can’t.
21. Don’t become a stalker. Stop walking in and out of the gym café, hoping Liam will be there drinking coffee. Resist talking to other trainers about Liam, try to find out personal information. The massage therapist tells you that he once had a girlfriend at the gym but they had a nasty break up and she had to transfer to another facility cross town. At odd hours of the day you will call his phone machine, just to hear the lovely lilt of his accent. One time your husband will catch you listening to the receiver with a dreamy expression on your face. “Who is that?” he asks, and you only reply, wrong number.
22. Do realize that you are in deep trouble. In vain, you look up information on the Internet: “crush on personal trainer,” “obsession with personal trainer,” and “extramarital affairs with personal trainers.” All you can find are pornographic movie titles. When you look at your sleeping husband you want to confess, but realize there is nothing to confess. Nothing.
23. One day you see your personal trainer out of his black gym uniform. He is wearing a bright green shirt with a giant three leaf clover with the slogan BEER DRINKERS GIVE GOOD HEAD. You can’t believe it’s Liam. He’s wearing stone washed jeans that you haven’t seen since 1989 and a garish green wind breaker with solid white stripes up and down the sleeves. The sight is so unbearable you must close your eyes and when you open them again, he is gone, hopefully just a mirage.
24. Don’t get jealous of his clients. You don’t like the petite blonde who is always massaging his arm muscles. You don’t like the tall brunette who kisses him on the cheek. And you really don’t like the redhead who, every time she lifts a weight, strains her back so that her breasts stick up like a Vargas pin up girl. Not to mention that time she showed up wearing a black thong beneath white spandex tights. And then there is the punk rock chick with the Blondie haircut who on occasion pats Liam’s butt. She looks about nineteen and that is why she gets away with it. If you ever had the nerve to pat Liam’s butt, you would look like a dirty old woman. You’re beginning to time how long he spends with each client, to see if he spends five minutes more with the buxom redhead than you. Punk rock chick, to your relief, gets a little less time, perhaps because she can do the exercises so well. Your jealously leads you to go up the to Punk Rock chick in the locker, who of course is completely nude, and has the same kind of perky breasts as a Barbie Doll’s, the kind of breasts even before you had a baby you could never achieve. “How long have you been working out with Liam?” you ask, trying to sound nonchalant. “Oh years,” the punk rock chick answers as you can’t help but notice that she is not a natural blonde. “I was with Liam when he was at Crunch and followed him here.” The news shocks you. Liam not only has a past, but a following of groupies. You are furious that you can never get to know all those women he trained at his last gym. There are only so many you can keep track of and interrogate one at a time. You feel sick to your stomach and in the bathroom, you try not to throw up. You wonder if you should consult a mental health specialist. Or voluntarily check into Bellevue. Or confess all to your husband, and cancel your gym membership immediately. Even when you were in high school, you never experienced such a ridiculous longing crush. When you finally leave the toilet, you see Blondie shaving her legs by the shower, and are relieved to see that she does have some cellulite on her thighs.
25. When you train with Liam again, don’t discuss in great detail every boyfriend you ever dated. Don’t begin with Brian Murphy in 6th grade and ten boyfriends later, conclude with Keith Marshall, who happens to be a famous actor in his own TV series. Try to understand why you don’t ever mention your husband. You are hoping that this list will impress him. That you are not such a loser after all. Try to get the nerve to ask him if he owns a green t-shirt that reads BEER DRINKERS GIVE BETTER HEAD but then decide not to pursue this topic. Don’t complain about a backache, and when he rubs your shoulders as you lie on the massage table really try to stop trembling. Thank whatever power you believe in that he has stopped rubbing you before you were about to lose all control. Don’t be tempted to ask Liam if he would like to go out for a drink after work one day. Don’t. Really don’t.
26. Don’t telephone your best friend and try to confess about your infatuation. She will listen to you for a few seconds and then say, “Don’t be stupid, you’re not the type of woman who has an affair. Did I tell you about Marlene Simon? Yes, she’s succumbed to Botox. Just look at her forehead.” Don’t fret because your best friend has pretty much told you that you do not look like the type of woman who not only is incapable of indulging in extramarital sex, but is incapable of enjoying sex at all. You are not Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. You look like the kind of woman who plans her daughter’s birthday party at the American Girl Place and considers a sexy dress to be an above the knee skirt from L.L. Bean. Depressed, you try to confess something to your mother. “I’m having a kind of problem,” you begin to tell her. “Don’t complain to me about problems, ” your mother retorts. “Do you know what my hairdresser did to me last Friday?”
“No, ” you answer. “What did Pierre do to you?” You are the kind of woman who unfortunately knows the name of her mother’s hairdresser. You are not the femme fatale that Liam will succumb to as he falls to his knees in an intoxicated stupor. “He quit the salon, that’s what he did. After fifteen years he has the nerve to move to Amsterdam with his male lover. Now who is going to know how to mix my hair color. Pierre is so particular with his Clairol shades…”
Realize that even if you had an affair with your personal trainer, no one would be interested. Except your husband.
27. Don’t even think about indulging in these sexual fantasies about Liam, your personal trainer:
He invites you to the spa because he is training to be a masseuse. He asks you to undress and change into a robe. As he begins to massage your back, you feel your muscles relax and yet your stomach begins to tighten. He is kneading your shoulder blades and you can’t help but moan. You complain it’s too hot, and Liam asks if you would be more comfortable without your robe. You shrug it off, and ask if you can lie on your back. Your breasts seem to leap into his hands, and as he cups your nipple you let out a low moan that ripples from your crotch to your throat. You moan again as he places your right nipple in his mouth, and with his left hand massages the dimple in your thigh. You beg him to take off your underpants, which are soaking wet. His nimble fingers reach for your clitoris, and your hands grapple for the drawstrings of his athletic shorts. Or…..
You are taking a shower in the locker room. When you reach out for your towel, a hand reaches out for your wrist. Liam takes you in his arms and lifts you against the wall where he smothers you with kisses. You are so light and as he raises your hips to enter you, you don’t mind that your head knocks against the wall as he rips into you again and again Or….
Don’t have any more sexual fantasies, especially on the Number 1 train, when there are so many people pressed against you. Don’t have them as you wait to pick up your daughter after school, wondering if any other mothers are capable of such disgusting scenarios that play over and over in your mind like a broken VCR player. And don’t have them when Liam is instructing you to use the thigh press which means of course he has to touch your thigh.
28. Don’t almost confess to your husband about your infatuation. He already knows. Your daughter is at your neighbor’s and you eat dinner in almost complete silence, nearly finishing the bottle of Chardonnay on your own, a wine you don’t even like. Your husband is almost like a stranger to you. You can’t remember which brand of toothpaste he uses, but you know that Liam only wears Reebok sneakers, drinks Gatorade, and eats sushi every Monday night at the Japanese restaurant across the street from your apartment building. On one Monday night, don’t walk by the Japanese restaurant craning your neck in the front window to see if Liam has company and if his companion is female. Don’t actually walk in, pretending to take out food, and see Liam in the back with another male trainer. Sigh with relief, and then, dart quickly out, not because you are scared Liam might see you, but because you spot your husband coming out of the 96th Street subway station.
29. Your husband demands to know what the hell is going on. You are like a different person since you joined that damn gym. Don’t tell him the truth. Claim that you don’t know what he’s talking about and he’s just jealous since you’ve gotten in so much better shape. Try to blame it on him, that’s he feels insecure about the few extra pounds, the new gray hairs around his temples. Don’t shrink when puts his arms around you. And whatever you do, don’t think of Liam when your husband pulls you down onto the bed.
30. In an effort to save your marriage, save yourself, don’t go to the gym the following week. Leave a message on Liam’s telephone machine (damn, why doesn’t he ever pick up the telephone) pretending you are sick. Try to do something useful when you’re not at the gym, volunteering at the school book sale, cleaning out your closet, donating old clothes to Goodwill. Don’t admit feeling fidgety, bored, unhappy and trapped. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror and finding one gray hair, a pimple on your chin, a new crease above your left eye. Try running in the park when you feel fat, and don’t immediately step into dog shit. Don’t find yourself later at Victoria’s Secret, trying on see-through black nightgowns and décolletage brassieres that you intend not for your husband to see but your personal trainer. Wonder how many other women in Victoria’s Secret are also shopping for illicit purposes. Don’t bump into your mother’s best friend, Edith Shapiro, who is buying a nightgown for her daughter who is getting married next week. Don’t sit there for fifteen minutes in front of the crotchless panties section as Edith tells you about her daughter’s wedding at Trump Place, her daughter’s Vera Wang wedding dress, her daughter’s spectacular honeymoon at The Four Seasons in Maui. Hope she doesn’t notice the black lace thong that you are clutching in your sweaty left palm. When Edith Shapiro asks you how Richard is doing, don’t for several seconds have trouble recollecting that Richard is the name of your husband.
31. Don’t return to your gym, your personal trainer, and don’t let your knees buckle as Liam gives you a swift embrace and tells you that he missed you. As he embraces you resist the temptation to deliver a triumphant grin to the punk rock chick on the Stairmaster. Perform all your exercises perfectly and ask if you could be nominated for most improved client of the year. When Liam tells you yes, don’t ask if you could celebrate with Margaritas across the street at Rosa Mexicano’s. Resist the temptation to wave your fist in the air and holler, “Yes!!!” when Liam answers yes. Briefly worry about your husband, who is working at home today. Is there any reason why he would be going to Rosa Mexicano’s at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon? Naaaah…….no way.
32. In the gym locker room, shower, brush your teeth, ask to borrow a lipstick, reapply deodorant, and then brush your teeth again. Don’t try to feel too gushy when your foremost rival, the redhead, walks up to you and says, “Wow, Liam really can perform miracles. You’re looking great.” Arrive at Rosa Mexicano’s first and ask for a dark secluded table in the back. Don’t order a margarita immediately, and drink it down in thirty seconds. Don’t order a second margarita two minutes later. Try to focus on the floor tiles that are beginning to move in a wave like pattern. Wonder why Liam is late. Stare at the clock above the wall, which also is moving in a wave like pattern. Just before you are about to order your third margarita Liam walks in, not wearing his garish green BEER DRINKERS GIVE BETTER HEAD t-shirt but a perfectly respectable GAP shirt in the same shade of blue that matches the color of his eyes. You can’t believe you have him all for yourself, that there are no other women vying for his attention, that gorgeous Liam is yours, all yours.
To your surprise, Liam also orders a margarita even though you know he has other clients to train. He begins to complain about the gym, how the equipment is growing out of date and the owners are too cheap to buy new machines. You don’t want to hear about the gym when you’re not in the gym and instead try to change the conversation to more personal matters. Without any preparation at all, you blurt out: “Have you ever had an affair with a married woman?” Liam blinks as if there is a flashing light in his eyes.
“No,” he answers.
Instead of continuing the conversation, you lean over and kiss Liam on the lips. Don’t blame the two Margaritas for this act. Don’t wince when you realize that Liam does not kiss you back. His mouth is stiff, his lips cool. You have probably just made the worst mistake in your entire life.
“I’m sorry,” you mumble as you stumble out of the booth. Realize that Liam is not following you. Realize what you must look like as the almost comatose bar flies swivel around on their stools to stare at you with undisguised pity. You are a middle-aged Mom who, two hours before she is going to pick up her daughter, is drunk and has just made a pathetic pass at a younger man. You feel guilty and dirty without the benefit of actually having extramarital sex. You truly believe you have sunk to the very bottom of the very murky and muddy pond that is now your life. You run out of the door and while wincing in the street sunlight you see your husband, strolling on Broadway. Realize that this uncanny coincidence is not uncommon. That the time when you skipped school in 11th grade and went to Bloomingdales the first person you saw was your mother, trying on mascara at the Estee Lauder counter. This is a pattern in your life; always getting caught.
“Gina?” your husband asks, staring at you and then sniffing. “Have you been drinking? Did you just leave that restaurant ? Who were you with?” It doesn’t help that Liam walks out the restaurant door at the same time, zipping up his jacket that announces the gym’s name in bold letters. You husband looks at you, and then looks at Liam, and with a grim sneer, walks away. Don’t look at Liam who won’t look at you anyway. Don’t run after your husband, calling out his name as he descends quickly into the subway. Do call your daughter’s best friend’s mother and beg her yet again to pick up your daughter. She can tell this time by the slur and desperation in your voice that you are in no shape to be a Mom, and offers to take your daughter home for dinner. Sob in gratitude, and when you hang up the telephone, sob in humiliation.
33. Don’t let your husband lock the bathroom door when he returns, and don’t keep swearing that absolutely nothing happened since he will never believe you. He will not answer your pleas behind the locked door, and there are only so many times that you can say that all you felt for Liam was a stupid adolescent crush that is typical of a midlife crisis. Use the word midlife crisis several times because it sounds so square and neat, an answer to all your problems. Don’t let you husband unlock the bathroom door, grab his coat, and head downtown where he will meet his few single male friends at a bar and drink three martinis in a row. Don’t consider calling your mother who will only further complain about Pierre, or your best friend who will again insist you are the not the type of woman who could not only have an affair, but isn’t worthy of an affair. Briefly wonder what Liam is thinking and doing right now, and realize that you must never think about Liam again. Whatever was, or almost was, is completely over. Whatever lust or longing must burn itself out until there is nothing within you but gray cold ashes. Don’t stop to think what would have happened if Liam actually kissed you back. That night, your drunk husband stumbles in and passes out on the couch. Thankfully your daughter is sleeping over at her best friend’s house and will never have to recount this night to her therapist twenty years later. Don’t be tempted to actually telephone Liam’s number and try to explain to him what happened. Don’t throw the telephone against the wall when you only receive a busy signal. Don’t imagine that Liam is telephoning Punk Rock chick or his redhead. Do realize from this moment on, you realize that your life, your marriage, you above all, must change.
34. Don’t even walk by the gym again for another six months. Not only did you resign, you avoid the street where the gym is located at all costs, even changing pharmacies and your favorite Chinese restaurant. You have reconciled with your husband on the condition that you will never go to the gym again and thus never be tempted. You are now volunteering full time, teaching English to immigrants as well as acting as a parent representative at your daughter’s school. Your daughter is happy to have you returned from the land of the living dead. “You’re not Sleepy anymore,” she announces. “You’re more like Happy.” But do you like being compared to the dwarf you always secretly thought to be somewhat mentally challenged? You’re happy that your marriage is now intact, your family intact, and even if you are now a few pounds overweight — what of it? Who cares about a middle-aged Mom anyway? Still, there are times when you miss Liam. Not Liam in person, but the thought of Liam, the longing, the lust. In a way, you have turned back the years until you were yet again a 10th grader pining hopelessly for the very married physical education teacher. You finally understand that you didn’t want to lose weight with Liam but instead lose years, shed the obligations and boredom of motherhood and feel yet again the madness and sadness of first love.
Now that it’s over, you don’t want to think about don’ts anymore. You want to realize what you must do, and what you will do.