"You crack me up," she said, as she poised mid-fork on a tube of polish sausage she was hoisting to her lips. She was stretched out on our daybed, a wooden tray propped on her lap, and our TV remote was in her left hand.
"I'm glad you find me amusing," I said.
"Oh, come on, sweetheart, you know I'm only teasing." She dabbed her lips with a napkin, and went on. "But you have to admit, we've seen this scenario before."
"Maybe this time, it'll be different," I said, as I continued to arrange equipment I'd need for the following morning. "Ear buds, water bottle, shorts, sports bra, tank top. All set."
"Let's count your gym memberships, shall we?" She ticked off: "There was the East Bank Club, the Lakeview YMCA, Galter Health Center, and one more. Oh, yeah, the Hollywood YMCA when you lived in Los Angeles."
"I'm happy to see your memory is in tact. At our age, shouldn't it be dimming a bit?"
She laughed again, and rose from her prone position to hop on a kitchen stool next to me. I stared at her face, so familiar; for after all, she was me. I was engaged in conversation with upper case and bold ELAINE, the one who has been my nemesis throughout my 77 years.
Instead of praising me for taking charge of my health, this skeptic appears solely to remind me of erstwhile attempts and wimpy abandonments.
"I thought I'd plotz when I saw you with all the pool stuff," she said. "Rubber fins, bathing cap and goggles! Sweetie, how many times have you attempted to swim?"
I don't know why I was trying so hard to win her over; perhaps it was because I craved applause rather than jeers. "The gym and indoor pool are an elevator ride away," I said. I wanted to sound stern, but I fear my voice was more plaintive, so I took the offensive.
"Do you have to eat sausage in front of me?" I said. "You know I'm off red meat." Then I took advantage of her vacated spot on the daybed, climbed aboard, leaned back, and waited for more of her finger wagging.
"Uh, huh, and how long do we think that will last?" With that jibe, she moved to my spot, pushed my extended legs (tauter now, I was sure of it) off our seat, and dropped down next to me. "You're still trying to get rid of this," she continued, poking a finger into my belly. "Blaming this paunch on diminishing height wasn't working for you?"
"Okay, I admit it. When I saw other women my height whose stomachs were as flat as their tushes, I realized I couldn't use my four-feet-nine as an excuse."
She was silent for a moment; perhaps thinking she was coming on too hard. But then, she was on a new tack. "Have you tallied the cost of your fitness toys, togs, and teachers? I thought we were trying to stop spending."
She must've believed I was on the canvas and down for the count, but I had enough stamina (I credit my increased cardio workouts) to punch back. "Okay, the Garmin heart rate monitor was pricey, but it counts my steps, too."
"I recall a few cheap pedometers in your life," she said. By now, she was standing next to the pile of clothing, lifting each one and shaking her head. Then she pulled out a dresser drawer. "Yoga pants? Oh, sweetheart, give me a break."
I jumped up to push her hand away from my wardrobe. "I can also wear these outside the gym and studio," I said. "Workout wear is in."
She smiled, perhaps conceding the point. "Trainer? Swim coach? Nutritionist? How can you justify those expenses?"
"Once a month," I lied. "I want to learn proper technique and healthy eating."
She took this in -- perhaps conceding I had a point -- but then turned her attention to the kitchen. "A vegetable steamer?" She pointed to a recent purchase on the stovetop. "Please don't tell me you're going to try cooking from scratch again."
I was quiet, which may have told her she had gone too far. "Okay," she said, putting an arm around my shoulder. "I'll give you three months. If you're still on the elliptical, in the pool, in the yoga studio, and eating healthily; I'll consider fading away."
"Deal," I said. With that, I gave ELAINE a hug, checked my Garmin, and trotted out the door. Before it slammed, I heard the click of the remote and the sound of a favorite TV show. I hesitated, but didn't turn back. High five!