Plum-Colored Corduroys

by Joan Axelrod-Contrada

I hooked my thumbs into the waistband of my favorite plum-colored corduroys and yanked with all my might.

“Come on,” I muttered, determined to show who wore the pants in the family.

The cords cooperated reluctantly as I shimmied like a go-go dancer to get them over my thighs. So far, so good, but they clung to my hips, then refused to budge.

Maybe a shoe-horn would help. Too bad I didn’t have one.

Ten pounds of emotional eating had left me with a fall wardrobe a size too small. How could I resist a late-night binge of chocolate and peanut butter when my husband, Fred, was deteriorating, inch by inch, of a degenerative neurological disease? How could I say no to warm dinner rolls and dessert when he could barely talk? Truth is, I needed comfort wherever I could find it.

I gritted my teeth and worked doggedly to avoid the dreaded rip, rip, rip of the fabric. Slowly, I wiggled the pants over my hips. but a gulf the size of the Grand Canyon separated the two sides of the fly. I could hear the pants moan “We’re spread too thin” like I was some ruthless sweatshop boss making them work overtime.

I sucked in my stomach, and, through sheer grit (and the durability of modern-day textiles), zipped up the fly. The fabric buckled, leaving horizontal lines like rutted tire tracks along the front of my legs. My stomach bulged like an overstuffed sausage. Fortunately, I found a tunic top to hide the evidence. Tada.

That afternoon, I went grocery shopping and loaded my cart with enough greens to feed an army of rabbits. In the checkout line, I gazed at the tabloids. “Lose 24 Pounds This Week!” one of the headlines blared. Right, my sarcastic self snorted. Something inside me tossed the magazine on the conveyer belt anyway. I refused to go up a clothes size. No way would I let Fred’s monster of a disease get me, too.

When I got home, I read the article in the tabloid about former firefighter Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet. I ordered the Engine 2 book from Amazon and began eating tons of high-volume, low calorie foods that filled me up. My new guru, supposedly named after Rip Van Winkle, was on a mission to prove that vegetables can be manly.

I gradually lost five pounds my first month without feeling deprived – at home anyway. Going out to eat was a different story. I yearned for my favorite pan-fried filet of sole at Paul & Elizabeth’s and the Cobb salad at Sylvester’s. So, I developed my own system of flexitarianism. Vegan at home. Omnivore everywhere else. On a recent trip to New Orleans, I sampled char-broiled oysters loaded with butter, a definite no-no on Engine 2.

My plum-colored cords fit better these days. They don’t exactly swim on me, but they no longer complain bitterly when I pull them up. Finally. I was learning how to wear the pants in the family.”

""Joan Axelrod-Contrada is a former correspondent for The Boston Globe and the author of 20 books for children. She is also the founder and editor of WriteAngles Journal. She can be reached at

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