Indie Book Prom is happy to welcome Everly Scott to the blog. She’s here to share about her book, Sugar and Other Luxuries. If this book sounds like something you would be interested in reading, please find buy links below and pick up a copy or two.
Katherine Humphries is a day away from turning twenty-six, and ready for her empty love life to change, so she does what any curvy twenty something living in Los Angeles would do: she goes to the gym.
As a recovering perfectionist who hasn’t been on a date in five years, finding love (especially at the gym) is harder than she thought. Faced with beginning her twenty-sixth year of life insecure and living in the home of Hollywood where men and women either ignore or insult her curvy existence, Katherine decides to make dating her bitch. She’s not changing her curvy body. She won’t put down the dessert. And she isn’t going to apologize for any of it.
Her first night out ends nothing like she’d planned. When a flirty and rugged New Yorker asks for her phone number, Katherine freezes. She’s ready to give up before heartbreak happens. That is, until she meets the polyamorous, fairy-godmother-wanna-be, Hunter. The self proclaimed Queen of Pleasure coaches Katherine on badass dating etiquette. Hunter’s first rule? Don’t fall in love. The second rule? Perfection doesn’t exist.
But when a bet with a sexy and sensitive music teacher changes her perspective on the dating game, Katherine learns that breaking badass rule #1 before loving every inch of herself might spell trouble.
Sugar & Other Luxuries can be purchased from Amazon
Everly Scott loves Italian food, yummy candles, and love stories. She recently made the switch from teaching college writing to hogging all of the writing time for herself. But, when she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads and her website, or learning how to powerlift, kind of.
I spent the first half of my twenties accusing myself of being a feminist fraud for wanting a boyfriend who thought I was perfect. I had been a good girl, a maniacal, career-focused, intellectually stimulated woman who leaned-in, took a seat at the table, and made my voice so heard I had become hoarse. But none of that seemed to matter in the Los Angeles dating world.
Looking for love had led me into the defined biceps of guys who thought I might turn into an acceptable companion if, and only if I changed something about myself. If I lost fifteen pounds. If I didn’t say “fuck” so much. If I made more money. Less money. Had a smaller nose. Didn’t always want to eat pasta. If I didn’t have a belly.
At some point between learning how to flirt in high school chemistry class and stumbling furiously toward the eve of my twenty-sixth birthday, I had given up. Stopped dating completely. Packed away the dresses, heels, and the innuendo. Vowed to focus on myself. Sharing a chocolate chip cookie sundae with a guy who wouldn’t be afraid to caress an arm, thigh, or hip bigger than a size two, five, or eight only happened in my imagination.
A male sundae-lover definitely didn’t exist in a Los Angeles gym.
I went to the gym once.
My childhood best frenemy, Jenna, convinced me that the gym helped women burn energy, melt fat, and meet men. The entire experience mirrored meditation, she’d told me. “Don’t complain about being fat. Complain about things you can’t change.”
I went alone, without telling her that I had decided to test out her theory. Bad idea.
With my phone, tiny polka dotted towel, and headphones in hand, I entered the world of adult, organized, physical activity. It smelled like stale water.
I flashed my electronic guest pass at the laser scanner, kept my focus towards the back of the big square room, and moved quickly past the cardio machines, knowing that if I tried to run or elliptical or spin bike myself, I’d be exposing my newbie status. A tsunami of terror hit me, hard. I had no idea what to do in a place like this. I quickly looked for a place to fit in, a place to disguise myself. A group of women crowded around one weight machine like it was a pan of brownies and they had PMS. It seemed like the magic potion. It was the Miss Universe of the gym, and if they had to have it, so did I.
Jenna’s directions echoed in my mind. “Stretch first. You don’t want to pull a muscle. Touch your toes or something.” So I leaned against the wall and touched my toes. Except touching my toes was more like leaning my elbows against my bent, trembling knees. I bent over a little farther, and the back of my thighs burned. A couple of bones crackled, but I had a good view of the magical machine.
“Totally worth it,” I whispered to myself, rubbing my hamstrings. A woman in a full face of makeup, with boob-length blonde hair taught me how to use the contraption without knowing it. I continued touching my knees.
Step 1: adjust the weight on the machine. Step 2: pull the level that makes the thigh pads fly apart. Step 3: sit down. Step 4: clench thighs together. Step 5: Repeat. A lot.
It seemed easy enough. The blonde sitting on the machine made it look like thigh clenching was a way of life. Real women learn to walk, talk, read, and thigh clench. So when she was done, and the crowd of women had busied themselves with other gym work like butt extenders, and arm pumpers, I approached my machine like we had an intimate relationship.
“Looking good,” I said, patting the seat.
I adjusted my weight and assumed my clenching capacity would be 50 pounds. I didn’t want to look like a complete wimp. I pulled the lever, sat down, and tried to squeeze my thighs together. Nothing moved. The more I tried to pull my knees toward each other the more everything stayed in place. At that moment, I understood why the weight lifting men grunted. I closed my eyes and pressed my knees against the pads. A grumble vibrated inside of my stomach.
Roar like you’re a queen. Queen of the fucking jungle, I thought.
My best attempt at roaring resulted in a throat clearing sound, a thankfully silent fart, and yet again, a complete lack of movement.
I lowered the weight down to twenty-five pounds and did two of rapid squeezes. The weights slammed together, alerting everyone within ten feet of me that I worked hard. I pumped iron. Made my body fat cry.
A woman with a bright orange towel draped around her neck walked back and forth in front of me. Sighing and pacing. Her orange shoes squeaked each time she spun to walk in the opposite direction. She was hunting me. Staring. My knees hovered in mid-thrust, incapable of meeting in the center, already too shocked by this new range of motion. Orange bang and I had been subjected to watching my shameful attempts at exercise long enough. My inner thighs tingled, and damp sweat bubbled under my butt. I would sacrifice my time on the clencher before Orange Bang threw me to the floor in an exercise-induced rage. I rubbed my inner thighs before getting up.
“She’s all yours,” I said.
Orange Bang looked at me, her head now between her legs because she could actually touch her toes, and mouthed thanks. She wiped down the seat before she took her turn.
I stood in the middle of the gym, scanning to find my next work out option. A thick film of steam covered the floor to ceiling windows of the gym. Bathroom mirrors after a hot shower had nothing on these shining beauties. Men were everywhere. And only one of them had a belly that hung over his shorts. He was diligently at work, doing squats all the way across the length of the gym floor. Squat. Step. Squat. Step. I was relatively inexperienced when it came to exercise protocol and gym etiquette, but I was pretty sure squats could be done in one location. A trainer, dressed in the gym’s collared uniform shirt, stood in the corner scribbling on a clipboard. The squatter smiled through open teeth, and kept his eyes glued to the clipboard – his finish line.
A man, who could have been a football player, or model, or a professional Hulk impersonator, fumbled with the weight control on a machine that looked like a horse and carriage. Right next to me. He set his desired weight, somewhere way at the bottom of the weight stack, and then jumped into the empty space fit for a human’s body – the horse section of the horse and carriage. He rested in a squatting position, his legs bent at an awkward angle. It already looked painful to me, and he hadn’t moved yet. He placed the handles on his shoulders, and unbent his knees, until they were completely straight. He let out a guttural sound that, to me, suggest he tore something. I squinted, but couldn’t look away.
He pressed his chin into his chest, took a deep breath, and bent down again.
This was it. My next victim. It seemed simple enough, as long as I stuck with what I had found to be my twenty-five pound limit. The man, finished with his grunting and growling, stepped out of the machine, and looked my way. “You next?” he asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
“Yeah. I do these all the time,” I said, not moving from my spot in-between the thigh clencher and the horse and carriage.
“I’ve got a couple sets left. Let’s rotate.” He patted the machine, raised his eyebrows, and then poured water into his mouth from a water bottle he held a foot away from his face.
I had no idea what he was talking about. Rotating sets sounded more like baking cakes than exercising. Instead of being clueless and admitting it, I was clueless and nodding. “Yep,” I said. “Rotations.” I cracked my fingers on my right hand one by one.
I assumed he would simply move on to the bigger and better things this place had to offer, maybe returning to the horse and carriage when he was done with a different machine.
Pulling the levers down to rest on my shoulders turned out to be impossible. I leaned against the back of the machine looking for switches or hooks or buttons that would make it do what I’d seen happen for the Hulk a few seconds ago. I refused to read the instructions. No one at the gym read the instructions on anything since I got there, and I wasn’t going to be the first one.
You are a lion, I thought. A lion goddess. Jenna will be jealous because you will look like a fucking lion goddess. And then I roared at myself. Out loud. While the levers of the machine were still in the air and I, stood there, obviously not lifting weights.
“Get off for a second. I’ll adjust it for you,” the hulky-man said. And then he laughed softly.
My face felt like it had caught on fire. I had been discovered. “Why are you still here?” My undercover mission was prematurely aborted. I got off the machine. “You didn’t happen to hear any roaring, did you? Cause, if you did, I think it was that lady over there with the orange towel.” He shook his head.
“If you did these all the time,” he said, “you’d probably know that you gotta pull this handle back here. It raises the height and loosens the shoulder rest.” He rattled the metal, pulled what had to be fifteen different handles, and slapped the machine. “We’ll just have to adjust it again when it’s my turn.”
“Thanks,” I said. I needed to make a quick recovery if I was going to survive this encounter with any dignity. “I meant, I come here a lot, but I never use this machine,” I said.
He dropped the weight from twenty-five to ten. I adjusted the underwire in my sports bra.
“You know, if you want to lose weight quickly you have to focus on your diet more than exercise,” he said, as if he were talking through me.
I got off the machine, made some excuse about having to use the bathroom, and walked to the water fountain near the entrance. We were separated by half a wall, a couple of mirrored pillars, and hundreds of sweaty people, but what he said felt like it lodged itself in between my ribs. Jenna had been so wrong. No one designated wanna-be Hulk as the king of the gym universe. He didn’t know if I was there to lose weight. He didn’t know what I ate on a regular basis, if I was actually healthy or not. He didn’t know anything about me, and yet, out of his mouth came an ice cold dagger.
But neither the Hulk or Jenna could know that the gym had gotten under my skin. So I stuck around. I played with a strange arm contraption, choked back tears of embarrassment, waved some free weights in the air, and accidentally hit the max speed button on my archenemy the treadmill before I ran out of the gym basically screaming.
When I came home sticky and red skinned, I looked in my own mirror for an entire hour. Sat and stared. It seemed like I had grown larger than I was when I left for the gym. I removed my faded white shirt and saw rolls of flesh that had in no way been taught a lesson by an ab-ripper. Without the support of my sports bra, my breasts were sagging and young, a complexity I still can’t understand. And under my yoga pants there were seas and valleys, mountains, craters, and hills that were either created by nearly twenty-six years of a delicious diet, or a poor genetic makeup. I sat for the entire hour, inspecting my body, centimeter by centimeter, wondering how anyone could unveil me, explore me, and touch me without seeing this history of a rebellious body. At the end of the hour, I was naked and alone and unchanged.
I texted Jenna.
Me 7:05 PM: Liar! Meditation does not exist at the gym. There are no magical fixes. I have boobs and thighs and arm bulges and cheeks and I hated the entire experience. Keeping my body the same. Thanks.
Jenna 7:10 PM: Hahaha, you actually went? Okay chubs. If you say so.
I knew my best frenemy was an asshole, but the longer I sat in front of the mirror, the more I solidified my belief that someone out there could love a stomach that wasn’t the countertop, washboard, six pack, bikini ready bombshell type. Jenna had to be wrong. Somewhere, there’s a single guy who would love a woman even though she despised the gym. He would probably have three sisters and would adore his mother. He might eat large portions of healthy lettuce wraps and protein shakes when in public, but at home would nurture gnocchi in pesto creams, butter sauces, and béchamel toppings. He’d indulge in garlic breads and steaks and brownies and ice cream cakes. When entertaining a lady, he would not stare at her disapprovingly if she went back to the kitchen for a second taste. And he certainly would not recommend that she accompany him on his next trip to the gym.
I wasn’t so desperate for designated exercise time that I was willing to justify paying hundreds of dollars a month to attend the sweatiest, most judgmental place on earth at four in the morning on a Thursday. I didn’t want to go running at four in the morning on a Thursday either. And doing crunches to an online workout video wasn’t my idea of an enthralling way to spend a Friday night. I wouldn’t have wasted a Monday night on that. I’d rather paint, or browse make up blogs, or learn how to play an instrument. Anything other than the gym, honestly.
I hoped that I could find a man willing love the naked woman sprawled exhausted and overwhelmingly bootylicious on the floor of her bedroom. I had only encountered the opposite of him. Then again, I didn’t bother to spend time in many different places – I went to my makeup studio, I went to the mall, to the bank, to buy groceries, the park– but surely the most enticing and rare of the male species must have gone to places like these too. If he did, he must have been hiding from me.
I was absolutely against the online dating world – if not for any larger reason than that upon meeting my initially two-dimensional friend, he might have found that my picture didn’t accurately portray who I was in person. Maybe he would expect my body to be similar to a nutritionist or a gymnast instead of a hardcore foodie or a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur. I was always in the mood for a good, thin crust, fresh mozzarella covered pizza. Anyway, the body-type mix up was possible despite video chatting and selfie-sending. Honestly, no one ever looks like themselves on Skype.
And so, on the eve of my twenty-sixth birthday, in a gym induced state of fatigue, I threw both middle fingers in the air. Fuck Jenna, Orange Bang, the Hulk, and the gym.
“Victory,” I screamed. I stood in front of the mirror, middle fingers still up, swaying, spinning, and posing for no one but myself.
After many years of contemplation and in the face of all the things that men and women might have considered my cosmetic deal breakers, I decided to find new public places to spend some time, places that embraced bodies like mine. A place where I could find my person. My tribe. I committed to participating in a new social activity every weekend, even if I was uncomfortable or terrified. Promised myself I would stay for at least an hour. Pinky swore I would talk to or maybe even flirt with at least one guy during that time. One place, one hour, and a couple of weekends to find the love of my life. Or maybe to find a couple of men who showed potential. At least, that was the plan.