I am a woman trapped in a writer's body.

It's well known that the most difficult step in forging a career as a writer is the simple act of applying one's butt to the chair on a daily basis. So I guess I figured that if my butt was really, really huge...And if that excuse isn't good enough, I can tell myself I just had this baby...eighteen years ago.

After years of good intentions, it was a car accident that finally drove me to the gym. The pain in my back, shoulder, and neck made it impossible for me to sit at the keyboard, and for me, a day without writing is like a day without red blood cells. Having spent a number of years in the cancer treatment mill, I have a strong aversion to clinical settings, so the doc suggested I engage a strength trainer to help me rebuild. I found the perfect guy at LA Fitness -- he used to be a US Marine and is now in medical school -- and started working with him about seven weeks ago.

First and most important result: he addressed the pain I'd been able to mask but not actually heal with mass quantities of drugs. Got me moving again. That was huge. I can actually type for a number of hours without weeping, and my left arm no longer feels like a porcupine on a mop handle. I can sleep at night. Also huge.

Second lovely side benefit of all our hard work: I've gone from a size 18 to a size 14. Before I left for Florida last week, I actually bought a pair of jeans in the store where normal women buy normal jeans for their normal asses, instead of Lane Bryant, and that's not saying anything against Lane Bryant or the women who shop there, but girls, c'mon -- being fat is not fun. Image is something we never want to think about as writers, but the fact is, it does matter. A lot. I am going to feel a whole lot different about myself next time I take the stage.

For the last year or so, I've been walking around in the baggy jeans my son abandoned when he outgrew his baby fat. Yeah. Walkin' around in my son's fat pants. That was me. But I am writing this in an adorable Isaac Mizrahi top and twill capri pants, optimistically eyeing a size 12, and feeling nothing like a traitor to feminism or art or anything real. It is possible to care about one's appearance without being vain or superficial. And in truth, it's probably more honest to step out and say, Praise God and Ann-Margret, I enjoy being a girl!

(Above: "Seated Nude II" by Chen Bi Cong.)


Yeah, Joni! You go, girl!

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