January 2010. Seven months and a few days after the birth of my youngest daughter. I began to scrub at the remains of a popsicle that had melted on the countertop, trickled down the side of the cabinet, and pooled in a sticky lake on the floor. As I bent down to wipe it, I felt my lumpy belly squish over the top of my yoga pants, causing a wave of self-pity to wash over me.
It wasn’t the first time I had pondered the three big questions that most women ask the universe, but it was the first time that I felt completely desperate to find the answers.
No. Not those questions. My deeply held religious convictions had already answered those. Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? I had those answers. This life is a test. How will I react to the melted popsicles in my life? Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt anyone or do anything illegal. I will wipe it up with patience. I will endure to the end. My problem cut much deeper than that. Why do I have to look like a hot mess while I am constantly cleaning one up?
Why is everyone in better shape than me? Why is everyone prettier than me? Why is everyone more popular than me? These confidence-sucking, life-long questions finally drove me that day to seek the source of all feminine wisdom. The keeper of all self-improvement secrets. The Mecca of body image makeovers. I dried my eyes, assumed a meditative position on the couch, pressed a button, and waited for her to appear. Oprah.
My heart swelled. Some guy was filling up an industrial size bowl of salad. This is it! The answer I have been seeking. I turned up the volume. Ok, so he was talking about longevity, not weight-loss, but he said something about calorie restriction. That means weight-loss, right? He was saying that his giant vat of salad contained very few calories. The longer I listened, the more convinced I became that salad was the answer. An enormous salad for lunch. Every day.
About a month later, I had gagged down close to 20 salads and it was working! Almost 10 pounds worth. I was feeling more trim and I was starting to fit into some of my non-stretchy pants. Real clothes made me feel not quite so ugly if not approaching pretty. Oprah’s salad episode had been the solution to two of my three questions. And that’s when the invitation came in the mail. The ladies from church were having their monthly salad luncheon. Bring your favorite topping. This wasn’t the first time I had been invited, but it was the first time I considered going.
Could salad possibly make me popular too? I decided to find out. The day came and I ran a brush through my ponytail and even wiped the spit-up off of my shoulder before packing up the baby, my toddler, my preschooler, and a bowl of frozen peas. They may not exactly be my favorite topping, but they were what I had at that moment.
Entering the hostess’s home was the beginning of a transformative experience. I put my peas on the counter next to the greens provided by the hostess and the shredded cheese, sunflower seeds, and broccoli that had already arrived. Then I found a seat next to one of the beautiful, perfect church ladies. We talked. It was so nice. More ladies arrived—blondes, brunettes, short, tall, all shapes and sizes. The counter filled up with tomatoes, diced ham, cucumbers, colorful peppers, hard-boiled eggs, and the Marilyn Monroe of all toppings—croutons. I built myself a delicious salad, taking some of each of the toppings. It was colorful, beautiful, and delicious. I loved salad that day.
Since then, it has become clear that salad is always the answer to my womanly problems. Feeling ugly? No friends? Bloated? Eat a salad and do it with other women. Invite some ladies into your life and invite them to bring a topping. Don’t compare toppings, don’t criticize toppings, and feel free to bring whatever you have available at the moment. Just come. Add to the beauty of the salad and then partake of its deliciousness.