If the Good Lord had wanted us to eat sensibly this time of year, he wouldn’t have invented the cruise ship. It must have been divine compulsion that drove my family and a couple thousand of our closest friends to set sail recently on an after-Christmas cruise in the Caribbean . It’s not that we wanted to sail around the sea for a few days eating everything in sight. We certainly didn’t choose to arrive home after our gluttonous voyage weighing about the same, in tonnage, as the boat we came in on. So we must have been on a mission from God.
The human psyche is a funny thing. Despite having inhaled enough calories during the holidays to keep Paris Hilton alive into the next millennium, when presented with limitless amounts of food on board ship, we fell to eating as if we were famine victims. We ate and we ate. And when we were bloated and seemingly unable to cram in one more bite, we ate some more.
Naturally, we needed drinks to wash down all that “free” food. Fortunately, there were always smiling attendants nearby to bring us round after round of beverages that were definitely not free. Then we poured more money into the cruise line coffers by visiting the casino and the onboard shopping mall, and by that time, we’d worked up enough of an appetite to devour platefuls of food at the midnight buffet.
The next day, after a hearty breakfast, we stuffed our bodies into bathing suits and rolled on to the deck, where we sunned our globular flesh, careful not to fall overboard lest we be mistaken for well-fed sea lions. After a few hours, just when we were beginning to feel hunger pangs, the ship’s staff roused us for a hairy chest contest.
When you are cruising with thousands of your closest friends, you are bound to discover that quite a few of these friends are sporting furry chests, many of which are accompanied by bald heads and very round bellies. An astonishing number of these, er, hunks took the stage for the contest, every hair bristling with excitement. That’s when the cruise director began to look for the “lucky” woman who would be required to select the best bushy chest. Luck was certainly not a lady to me that day. I never win anything – not the lottery, not a makeover, not even at bingo. But, sure enough, I “won” the right to judge the shaggy strivers before me. Each man was encouraged to strut his stuff, wriggling and jiggling his chest and various other body parts for my enjoyment. It was almost enough to ruin my appetite. But I managed to select a winner, and then my family and I headed back to the buffet.
That night, we donned formal wear, leaving the zippers open, and went to meet the captain, a dashing and slender man who gazed upon us the way I imagine Captain Ahab must have looked at his prey, the great white whale in Moby Dick. Then – surprise, surprise – we sat down to a sumptuous dinner and shortly thereafter, we had pictures taken to commemorate our nautical adventure. When we visited the ship’s portrait gallery to order reprints of a picture of my husband and I, the young man who waited on us referred more than once to the picture of “you and your son.” Each time, I corrected him, speaking between clenched teeth and glaring at my highly amused husband – who, I must point out, is six months OLDER than I am.
My spouse foolishly took to calling me “Mom” for the rest of the cruise. Now that we are home, he’s sleeping on the couch, not only because I’m mad at him but because, for some reason, I need a larger portion of the bed.
© Jackie Papandrew 2008
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