TO GAIN IS GOOD
gain (gān) – vi. 1. to make progress, improve or advance, as in health or career 2. to acquire wealth or profit 3. to increase in weight, gravity, or substance 4. to increase in speed 5. to win competitive advantage 6. to move forward in time 7. to mature or age
To gain is good. We gain confidence as we grow, status and health as we prosper, and – so we hope -- wisdom as we age. A gain of intimacy is essential for love, of toughness for survival. By definition, gaining is a source of pleasure and progress. Why, then, do so many women (and, increasingly, men) confound the meaning of this simple, satisfying word with shame and dread? Weight is the obvious culprit, but misleading since those who fear gaining the most often have the least weight to lose. It’s not really fat they fear, either, despite what they may say. It’s all those positive, powerful gains that fulfill their deeper hungers. Some tell themselves they don’t deserve a lover who can make them laugh. Others fear any promotion that involves responsibility. Still others instinctively distrust anyone who befriends them. The greatest fear, however, is that gaining will expose some shameful inner truth. It’s not about the numbers on the scale. Deep down, we all know that...
...As I met with the men and women whose stories fill these pages and we compared our oddly parallel experiences and idiosyncrasies, a funny thing happened: our lives seemed to fall into the perspective we had long been seeking. Anxieties that we’d thought shameful – terror of argument, wall-flower shyness, or fear of orgasm, to name just a few – turned out to be problems most of us shared and that had singularly unshameful, often biochemical causes. Experiences that once seemed insurmountable – parental violence, childhood molestation, deep and chronic depression – helped to explain not only who we were as individuals but why as a group we behaved in so many of the same ways. And as we connected all these dots, some of our most persistent tendencies – to manically clean each pot in the kitchen or color code our closets, to time our workout sessions to the second or lie awake berating ourselves for errors in conversation that no one else even noticed – finally began to seem absurd. When I asked Chicago homemaker Lucy Romanello, who had been anorexic for four years, how her husband felt about her ongoing compulsion to vacuum, she earnestly defended herself: “Well, I try not to clean right out from under him!” When I laughed it took her by surprise, but a moment later she saw the humor, as well as the lesson glimmering in her remark. The time had come to stop this charade of self-control. We all had so much to gain.
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