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In My Next Life: The Trials and Tribulations of Skinny Legs

Posted By Karen Young On June 15, 2010 @ 11:45 pm In Features,In My Next Life,spotlight | 4 Comments

BY DAVID NICHOLS

Lately I’ve been checking out other guys quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong. Things are fine between N. and me. It’s not that I’m contemplating…a lifestyle change. I’m just interested in how my physique compares to the average man on the street. Specifically, I’m concerned about my legs.

Actually, I’m not concerned about my legs. They get me where I want to go, which is basically from my house to Ventura Boulevard and back. But N. and My Beautiful Grown Daughter find them worrisome. “They’re like cute little sticks,” N. tells me. “Yeah, you could be a supermodel,” My Beautiful Grown Daughter chimes in. Great. I house her, feed her, clothe her, educate her for sixteen years and now she’s assailing my body parts. “My legs are perfectly fine,” I say. “They’re good looking. Better than most people’s.” N. turns to MBGD, ignoring my protests. She sighs. “He also thinks he’s five-foot ten.”

I knew this was coming. “I didn’t say I am five-foot ten. I said I used to be five-foot ten. Now I’m five-foot seven. People shrink as they get older.” “Honey, you’re five-foot six. I measured you, remember?” It’s true. She did. The Boy and I each have a pencil mark on the wall behind her office door. They’re nearly the same height, but I think he was standing on tip-toe. “You were never five-foot ten, my love,” she says soothingly. She sounds like Auntie Em assuring Dorothy that her visit to Oz was all a dream. “I was five-foot ten,” I insist. “It was before I ever knew you.” “It must’ve been before you ever knew me too,” says My Beautiful Grown Daughter. I start to feel like I’ve been worn down another couple of inches just during this conversation.

Understand, all this discussion about my pins, as the ’40’s wisecrackers used to call them, comes from genuine love and concern. Over the course of my late wife’s illness I lost a fair amount of weight due to stress. It’s not a method I’d recommend, even in a get-scrawny-fast-as-you-can culture like ours. I understand pole dancing works pretty well, and I’m sure it’s more fun to watch. Anyway, by the time the lovely N. came along I was definitely a fixer-upper and one of her first priorities was to put twenty pounds on me—hopefully in the right areas. Now, thanks to her delicious organic cooking and my natural indolence, the renovation’s more than half done. In fact, I’d venture to say the belly portion of the project is complete. But there’s still work to be done.

The conversation between N. and MBGD turns to another tale of the tape. “I measured his thigh,” N. tells her. “It’s smaller than mine.” MBGD shakes her head sympathetically. Personally, I don’t see a problem. N. has a beautiful figure and if there’s a discrepancy between her measurements and mine I say “Vive la difference!” But, as is often the case, there’s an unwritten lady-law I know nothing about. “Your boyfriend’s not supposed to have smaller thighs than you do,” N. tells me. My Beautiful Grown Daughter nods in agreement. “It’s depressing,” she explains. How she’d know that is beyond me. When her Handsome Folksinger Boyfriend isn’t writing catchy tunes with intelligent, sensitive lyrics he’s at the gym, lifting stupefying amounts of metal. His thighs look like they should be in the display case at Honeybaked. It occurs to me that I may have to start interacting with L.A. Fitness more than the one time a month when I send them my membership fee. But I don’t want to rush into anything. For a man with my apparently delicate constitution it could be dangerous.

This whole issue has taken on some additional urgency as the departure date for our vacation in France draws near. It seems inevitable that at some point I’ll be wearing shorts and, given how concerned the French are with aesthetics, it’s possible my exposed gams might stir up trouble. Still, I saw a glimmer of hope one night when we were watching Househunters International on HGTV. The show’s become a favorite of ours. Watching couples from one country shop for houses in a foreign land you come to realize that the phrase “They want how much for this?!” is universal. It really brings us all together in a warm, fuzzy, “We are the world and we’re broke” kind of way. In this particular episode a British couple is looking for a home on the Costa Del Sol. Nice for them, but the important thing is the male househunter is about my size and age and he’s wearing shorts. True, he’s British, not American, and he’s traipsing around Spain, not France, but hey—close enough. “Look at that guy,” I say to N. “His legs are no bigger than mine and nobody’s looking twice.” “Honey,” she says, “his legs are bigger than yours because he’s much taller than you.” “He’s not that much taller than me. He’s like…five-ten.” She glances up from her home decorating magazine. She likes to thumb through them while we watch the show. If we ever do buy a house in France she’ll be ready. “He’s way taller than five-ten,” she says. “You know you’re not a good estimator.”

She’s got me there. A few months ago she was coming with me to see MBGD’s Handsome Folksinger Boyfriend at a club in Hollywood. Knowing I’d been there before, she asked me how big it was. I told her the place probably held about three or four hundred people. Turns out their posted legal capacity’s on the shy side of two hundred. Since then nobody in the family’s willing to trust my guess about the size of anything. I don’t really care. It’s not like I’m planning to run for fire marshal or anything. Still, I’m not ready to give up. I draw N.’s attention to Brit-In-Shorts again. “Maybe he’s not really as big as he looks,” I suggest. “The television camera does that, you know.” “Honey, your legs are still skinnier than his. And TV makes you look heavier. Not taller.” “Hey, they’re shooting in Europe,” I say. “Maybe it works differently over there.” Too late. She’s gone back to planning her dream bathroom. That’s it. I’m going to have to go to the gym.

I manage to remember where the place is and present myself at the front desk. I’m hoping my membership doesn’t work like insurance, where you pay on it for years and then they raise your rates the first time you actually use it. If it does the girl behind the counter doesn’t mention it. She blows the dust off my keychain tag and checks me in. “Have a good workout,” she says. I figure if I can manage to walk out under my own power later that’ll qualify as a good workout. I head to the locker room and change into the gym clothes N. bought me to replace my Clinton-era running shorts. (Not that I ever ran anywhere during the Clinton era.) I sit down at one of the machines located next to a wall-sized mirror, wondering whether all this is really necessary. Then I catch a glimpse of myself from an unfamiliar angle. Suddenly, there’s no denying it. My legs really do have a certain stick-like appearance. I look like an Olsen twin with a five-day stubble. It’s not good. I look up at CNN on the overhead television and decide I’d better take a cue from the beleaguered BP engineers and start pumping as fast as I can.

That night N. and I are sitting on the couch watching the NBA playoffs. “So,” I tell her, “I went to the gym today and it turns out you’re right. I do have skinny legs.” “See?” she says. “I’m glad you admit it. Now you can start to put some meat on those bones.” We’re watching what will turn out to be the Lakers’ final game against Oklahoma City. The smell of victory is in the air and a raft of celebrity fans have turned out to savor it. The camera picks out Tom Cruise and Jeffrey Katzenberg sitting together. “Look at that,” I say. “Two of the shortest men in Hollywood, side by side.” The shot changes to a close-up of David Spade in the stands. “Wow,” I say. “He’s short too.” N. smiles, teasing me. “Maybe the Lakers are doing a short-guys-in-show-business promotion. You should be there, honey.” Cut to Danny DeVito. “Alright, now I’m upset,” I say. “They really are doing short guys in show business. I’m short. I’m in show business. Where was my invitation?” Then it hits me. “Wait a minute. If it’s short guy night and I wasn’t invited, that can only mean one thing.” “What’s that?” she asks. “I really am five-foot ten.” “That must be it.” She puts her arm through mine and moves closer to me. “Skinny Legs,” she whispers.

David Nichols is a TV writer/producer who has worked on such shows as “Caroline In The City”, “Grace Under Fire”, and “Evening Shade.” Until his legs fatten up he’s available for print and runway modeling.  No nudity — for the sake of everyone involved.

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