Behold the strap-ons.

I think about falling all the time. Just like athletes use visualization to perform that which most of us could never, I unintentionally use it to make an ass out of myself. And it’s all rooted in one scarring event that took place when I was 14.

It was the spring of my 8th grade year. I had just lost about 80 pounds, thanks to Gilad and Lean Cuisine. I felt normal walking into a room for the first (and what would be the last) time in my life. So imagine my teenage giddiness when I found out that I had been invited to a senior’s graduation party. A SENIOR. I was so stoked. It was sweet validation — the kind that can only be deliverd in an overpriced invitation adorned with an embossed purple mascot.

And so I slipped on my jelly shoes and went to the party. Mind you, these weren’t just typical jelly shoes. They were jelly shoes AND gladiator sandals – a fashion Frankenstein, if you will. They had two straps — one around the toes and one around the ankle. It was 1985, and they were bitchin’. These were shoes that you did not bust out on a Tuesday. No, these bad boys must be reserved for a special occasion, like a kegger or my speech club’s bi-annual trip to Chicago. And so it had been decided — I would unleash their fierceness at the graduation party. As a result of the events that would unfold, the shoes would become known as the strap-ons because 1) obviously, they strapped onto my feet with velcro, and 2) I ended up taking it up the ass for the next four years because of them.

When I arrived at the party, I immediately surveyed the room and figured out that all things cool were downstairs. And so I began my descent. Step 1 – OK, here we go. Step 2 – I wonder if there are any cute guys down there? Step 3 – My white gladiator jelly shoes are so rad. Step 4 – Wouldn’t it just suck if I stumbled and fell down these stairs? And then it happened. It seems my feet had developed a case of flop sweats. And if there are two things that don’t mix, it’s sweaty feet and plastic. For as I approached that fifth step, my sweaty hoof slipped forward as the cursed sandal stayed in place. My foot busted out of the toe strap and I tumbled down the stairs in a heap of humiliation. Upon landing, I looked up to see an entire room of coolness fall silent, all staring at my awkwardness and what had to be the original wardrobe malfunction dangling from my ankle.

How does one bounce back from an entrance like that? There was nothing I could do, sans walking in with Simon Le Bon on my arm. I honestly can’t recall what my recovery tactics entailed, but I think it involved me saying, “Whoa those stairs are slippery,” brushing myself off, and proceeding to sidle up to conversations, listening intently while nodding my head, as if my ass had not been handed to me by $15 worth of plastic and velcro.

To this day, the fear of falling in a public place has lodged itself in my mind like a permanent stutter. “What if I tripped with this tray of food in front of all these people?” “What if I took a header down these concrete steps?” And about once every six months, I somehow find a way to fulfill the prophecy. One time, I fell on the ice as I approached my car, and ended up sliding completely underneath it. I looked up and was face-to-face with my oil pan. I also fell down the stairs of my own home a few years ago, fracturing my ankle. And just the other day, I tripped over my own feet, stumbling awkwardly in front of one of my more smug co-workers. Perhaps I need an equally strong visualization to cancel out the original horror. Suggestions anyone?

Rage against The Machine.

Coming out of the elevators yesterday, I ran into this guy who used to be an internal client of mine. I barely recognized him, for he had gained like 80 pounds. Poor guy. I feel bad for anyone who is on the heavy end of their weight cycle. It was just shocking though, because this guy (a.k.a. “The Machine”) used to bike 20 miles every day before work.

With slicked-back hair and skin like tanned leather, The Machine would pull into the parking ramp every morning in his spotless white Cadillac El Dorado. Straight-up old school bad-ass. I’m guessing while the rest of us were watching “Sixteen Candles” and “Weird Science” back in high school, he was jacking off to “Wall Street.” Greed is good, brotha. Greed is good.

The Machine was known for calling 8 o’clock meetings on Fridays, to which he was always fifteen minutes early. He oozed so much confidence, people tended to stutter and stammer in his presence. And he liked that. He was one of the first in our company to volunteer to be a Six Sigma Black Belt (one to examine all company processes and make them efficient – i.e. job cuts).

Now that The Machine is fat (like me), I expect we’ll soon be chatting it up like old girlfriends, discussing our kids’ poop schedules, comparing our mother’s bracelets and ranting about the sucky bra selection at Lane Bryant.

Fat has a way of doing that – making one seem weak and therefore approachable. Maybe this deeply-rooted perception is primal. Bump into a fat person, and you’d simply ricochet off of them like you would one of those inflatable castles. Run up against a thin person, and there’s a good chance you’d be impaled by their hip bone.

But methinks the world should be more fearful of The Fat. Beneath our jolly exteriors, we’re secretly plotting a hostile takeover of the world. From our command center at Krispy Kreme’s corporate headquarters, we will issue our demands. Every store will have a drive-through, and airlines will be forced to rip out those ass-pinchers they call seats and install Lazy Boy’s.

So if I were you, I’d be nice to The Fat. I mean, we’re accustomed to instant gratification. We’re not about to wait for karma to get off its lazy ass and punish you for your evil ways. Which reminds me — perhaps I should e-mail The Machine and ask him if he’s Six Sigma’d lunch yet. I’m guessing not.

End of beauty.

Last night I got some bad news. One of my best friends — one that I met the first day of college and have been best friends with ever since — told me that she’s getting a divorce. Of ALL the marriages I know, this was the one that would make it. These two people are the smartest, funniest, nicest, most interesting people I know. They were soul mates, if ever there were. Somewhere along the line, he became an asshole and cheated on her, and decided to stay with his girlfriend. Even HIS friends won’t talk to him now.

These two met while we were all still in college, during our junior years. My friend and I were living together and living up, going out every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to the bars, like we had been doing since our freshman year. She was introduced to him through other friends, and they immediately hit it off. It was instantly serious. My best friend was no longer mine. But that was OK, since my future husband and I were also hooking up. We eventually graduated and moved on with our lives. Our outings and conversations grew more infrequent, but it never bothered us. We both had new best friends – our husbands. Our bond has always been deep enough to withstand such strain.

When my friend called last night, I thought she was going to tell me she was pregnant. When she said divorce, I actually thought she was joking. This girl is a bright light. She is the smile in so many people’s day. She is trusting, loving and loyal. The fact that her husband did this to her of all people pretty much ensures his karmic hell.

The break-up occurred in April, but the dust is just now settling. Now that she’s sure this is really happening, she’s systematically calling friends and family to tell them the news. I imagine each call is like living through it all over again. Shouldn’t HE be the person making these calls? She told me that I was the last person she called, because I was the toughest person to call. They were our twin couple — so much like my husband and I, our relationships and personalities so similar.

At the beginning of the phone call, I felt so sorry for my friend. But she is strong and positive and remarkable, and still full of light. She will move forward and find someone worthy of her. He, on the other hand, I do feel sorry for him. He has planted some bad seeds, and they’ll eventually be harvested. He was such a good guy. I still can’t believe he was capable of this.

If this could happen to this marriage, it could truly happen to any marriage. They were best friends, and this was the best of marriages. I don’t know how you re-group at age 34, and get back out there in the singles scene, biological clock ticking and all. It has to be maddening.

Hearing her talk, I just wanted to absorb all her pain, free her from the burden, if only for the duration of our call. Surely I could conjure up some magical thought or passage that would part the clouds and make her feel whole again. As deep as I dug, looking for that relief, it didn’t happen. There’s nothing I can do to make this better. And I can’t help but question my own perfect marriage. Fuck him for doing this to her, and fuck him for doing this to me.