Some mornings I feel like I’ve joined a cult. Every morning I step on the scale, hoping to see the digital digits in decline The amount of decline, however, can vary with the time of day or what I’m wearing or even where on the scale I step as I try to disperse my weight over the greatest possible surface area. I perform my ritual dance – tap to zero, step up, step down, repeat as needed to produce desired results. Sometimes the ritual can last as many as five minutes, but most mornings my devotions are rewarded.
There are a more than a few days, however, when I creep to the altar. Like a penitent kneeling in the confessional, I slough off every possible bit of mass before stepping, naked, onto the scale. Sometimes I think I can hear it speak to me.
“You seem troubled…”
“Forgive me, it’s been three days since my last weigh-in.”
“So I see. Have you anything to confess?”
“I’m too embarrassed.”
“There’s nothing to fear. Step closer. After all, you know you can’t hide your sins from me.”
“No. Well, I have sinned. It started with this pint of Ben and Jerry’s. See, I was trying to eat local and – ”
“Everyone makes mistakes once in a while. Except for me, of course. I’m 100% accurate. Just step on and see.”
“Yes, well there were several once-in-a-whiles this weekend. It’s a bit of a blur.”
“Step on and we’ll see what your penance will be.”
I do a mental rundown of my sins in the last twenty-four hours, wondering what the penalty will be and quietly greatful the scale doesn’t come with a buzzer or alarm of any kind. I tap-to-zero and then step on the pads between the outlines I’d drawn years ago. My penance began immediately and painfully as the numbers climbed by whole numbers. I dance a little longer, but the number only increases with my rationalizations and excuses.
A few minutes later, chastened, I creep from the treads of my angry scale. But unlike an unburdened magdalen, I don’t leave the shame with my confessor. It follows me, gnawing at my faith in the possibility of another possibility. But, while my faith is shaken, fear of the numbers will bring me crawling back in another day.