Marie and Don

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Marie, and she was married to a very healthy man named Don. The two of them got married young and Marie gained a lot of weight while carrying their first child and she never really lost it. Her interests were mostly sedentary – she liked to knit and write children’s books and she loved movies. Don liked to run and hike and rock climb. Fitness was very important to him. He wanted to live a long, healthy life, and he wanted Marie to live it with him.

Don never gave Marie a hard time about her weight or her activity level, but once their kids grew up and moved out, he decided to talk to her about it. She’d gained more weight than she had before and she’d been having some health problems, and she got winded walking upstairs to their bedroom.

He told her that he thought she was beautiful no matter what, but he worried about her health and he wanted her to live to a ripe old muscular age with him. He suggested they get fit together.

“I could stand to tighten up a bit myself,” he said, drumming on his fatless abs.

Marie knew that Don was right, and that he’d gone about it as diplomatically as possible and had waited as long as he could, and that he had every right to approach her about it. If he’d been a chain smoker or a drunk, she’d have said something.

Still, even though it wasn’t reasonable of her, his comments had crushed her and she deeply resented him.

Over the next several months, Marie took long walks and hikes with Don, and then she started jogging. She lifted weights. She ate better. She stood up every hour and trotted up and down the stairs. In six months, she lost 15 pounds. She felt much better.

Except, she didn’t really feel that much better. She didn’t feel as better as all the time she was putting in should have made her feel. With the amount of time she was devoting to fitness, she should have felt like a wispy, hyperactive 20-year-old. Instead, she felt like a clear-breathing but middle-aged woman who spent the lion’s share of her day squeezing into and out of multiple sports bras, moving around pointlessly and showering a lot. She mostly felt very bored. Healthy and bored, true. But bored.

Thing was, Don really loved running in circles and hiking up hills. He genuinely enjoyed it. Whereas Marie kept waiting for the plot turn, the punch line, the satisfying conclusion.

Things went on this way for a few more years, and then Marie and Don divorced. It was pretty amicable. Soon, Marie met a sweet-tempered, fat man named Peter who had diabetes and sleep apnea and loved video games and cooking. The two of them watched movies every night and rarely left the house and were as happy as any two people can be. And Don met a carefree, rangy woman named Grace who loved skiing and windsurfing and kickboxing, and who vibrated with energy and life even while she was fast asleep. The two of them took adventure vacations together and were as happy as any two people can be.

Marie and Peter lived happily into their mid-60s, and Don and Grace lived happily well into their 90s, and none of the four of them would have done things any differently.

(Although their kids weren’t thrilled with their choices.)

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