How I Became A Slot Queen

The holidays are upon us once again. I spent my Christmas with my cousins in Short Hills, at their luxurious home. My cousin is an attorney. Her husband sells Italian sports cars to Arabian clients. Between the both of them, they have boatloads of cash, and spend it lavishly on their two little girls. Each does not know want, and gets everything they want in the world.

While we were eating our Christmas feast, someone asked about a photo on their dining room wall. It was of myself and my cousin down in Atlantic City. We’re standing there, outside the casino, dumbfounded by the lights and sights of the strip.

That was our first trip to AC, back in March of 1996. We went to see The Moody Blues at the Circus Maximus Theatre at the Ceasars Hotel and Casino. Both of us were huge Moody Blues fans and were psyched to see them live for the first time. Neither of us had ever been to AC, as our families were strictly against gambling. It’s true that we come from religious Protestants, but our family was judgmental Protestant, nevertheless.

Gambling was for degenerates. Atlantic City was for losers. But here we were, young and wild, out for the weekend in AC, with no supervision. We arrived early. We ate dinner, but I can’t remember where. The show was amazing. Afterwards, we decided that it couldn’t hurt to enter a casino and just go for a short walk. We ended up at Trump Plaza after walking up and down the boardwalk a few times.

Neither of us knew the first thing about gambling. We were awed by the lights and sounds, overwhelmed, really. The people seemed old, seedy, and well outside of our usual social circles. Just as we were about to end our five minute tour of the place, a greasy-haired man of about fifty, with tinted glasses five sizes too big, walked up to us. He commented on my cousin’s eyes, and then proceeded to compliment me on my own. He guessed we were sisters. We laughed and explained we were cousins.

Neither of us were really very interested in carrying on this conversation. But the short, balding man continued. He explained that he was a widower, and he came to AC every month, and has been doing so for the last twenty years. He was clearly trying to be friendly, but my cousin and I were nonplussed. He asked which games we enjoyed. My cousin quickly responded that we were in AC for the Moody Blues show.

He couldn’t believe it was out first time there. He correctly guessed our ages within two years, and managed to get it right that my cousin was a law student, and I was pursuing nursing. I began to get freaked out, thinking he was some kind of psychic stalker. But then something weird happened. I’ll remember it to this day. He said to me, looking right through me, “You are a gem. You’re probably going to make a million dollars, easy. If nursing doesn’t work out for you, don’t sweat it, kid.”

I was flabbergasted. I had been thinking in the weeks prior that nursing might not be my thing. I had recently started working as a real estate agent, and was in the midst of a post-breakup crisis. I did not know what to say. He continued, “So here’s my wisdom, earned over sixty seven years of life in New Jersey: Follow what makes you happy. That’s it.” My cousin balked. “67?!” she exclaimed. “You look really good for someone that age.” He didn’t flinch. Instead, he silently reached into his sports jacket pocket and pulled out a handful of chips.

“Here’s a few chips to get you girls started. Gambling is a waste of time, but since you’re here, why not waste some time?” He smiled, and this time he reminded me not of a sleazy gambler, but of my now-deceased grandfather. We were shocked. I had never experienced a stranger exhibit so much generosity, and my upbringing, while religious, made me slightly suspicious of anyone with their hand out. Now here we were and some random old man was gifting us with what looked like about a thousand dollars in chips.

He smiled, winked, and walked into the crowd, the din so loud that my mind was reeling. My cousin and I just looked at each other. OK; it wasn’t quite a thousand dollars, but each of us had been gifted with $350 in chips. How very strange. For some reason, I had tears in my eyes. My cousin was the first to speak, “What in the world was that all about?” I shrugged my shoulders. I just didn’t know what to say. I was still thinking about what he had said about my future, trying to process it all.

Neither of us spoke again, and we walked together through the casino, armed with enough chips to try a bit of everything. Blackjack was fun. But we lost. Poker was confusing. We lost again. Roulette was cool, but we lost yet again. Then we got to the slot machines. I was down to my last fifty dollars, and I settled in next to a gaudy machine that kept flashing red and blue lights, like a police car. An elderly lady had just left, cursing the casino, and the machine was open.

My cousin had already exhauster her funds. “This is why we were taught never to gamble. What a waste!” she lamented. But then something odd happened. I won. And not just a little bit. The chips kept coming out. In all, I won $4000 dollars. I was speechless. I had overdrawn my credit card the month before, and was $3000 over-limit. I needed that money, because having to ask my parents to pay would be humiliating, because they wouldn’t respect me for mismanaging my funds.

We left the casino after that. Walking back to our hotel, neither of us spoke. I was too stunned for speech. I had redeemed my chips and had a neat stack of fresh hundreds in my purse. My mind was blown. Right then and there, I decided that nursing wasn’t my thing, and that real estate was more what I considered a worthy way to spend my time. I knew my parents would balk at wasting their money on a good education, but I had decided.

I didn’t return to AC again for another three years. But since that time, I’ve gone more times than I could count. I even rented a limo to drive me down a few times. One time I opted for a vintage Bentley. Life is strange. We are directionless; I could not have predicted the events unfolding as they did, but apparently some random old man could. Maybe it was not so random after all.

How I started in real estate. Mostly by accident.

It was now twenty years ago. Actually, nineteen if you’re going to be exact. I had just finished my four year degree in nursing, of all things. (I know..it’s strange to think I could have been pulling bedpans and crying about overtime all these years!) I didn’t really know what to do with myself after high school. But in my family, college was a must. And, my parents were paying my tuition. And so, I embarked on my academic journey at Rutgers, not really a super-expensive school, but pretty reputable, nevertheless.

The four years flew by. During that time, I dated quite a bit. While a larger woman, more than a few men have commented on my beautiful baby blue eyes. And I must say, though larger, I do have quite a feminine figure. I was quick with a comeback, and between my sass and wit, and my mammary assets, I was approached quite a bit by the guys on campus. So much so that I was the one doing the choosing, which wasn’t half bad.

Cheesy Real Estate Signs by Andrew Wiseman by CC

In all that time, I had two serious relationships. The first was Jerry. He was a year younger, and a few inches shorter. What he lacked in height he made up for with his infectious sense of humor. Thankfully,that’s all he had that was infectious, because we were alone all the time with no supervision, and at nineteen, there aren’t that many options of what to do or where to go for entertainment. The relationship ended when I met Harvey. Harvey was in graduate school at Rutgers studying engineering, and he came from a family with money. Plus, being older, our entertainment options included more than just hanging out in the back seat of a fifteen year old car.

The breakup with Jerry wasn’t anything to speak of. He started an intensive program in teaching which included working as a student teacher, and he had no time, between lesson plans and classes. Soon, the days we spent apart went from one, to two, to eventually a whole week. The same happened with talking on the phone. This was before the days of texting, so we would leave each other messages on our answering machines. But eventually that stopped. So, the relationship died a natural death. Then came along Harvey, very tall, very rich, and very much into the nightlife.

While studying engineering, Harvey worked as a real estate agent. I know it sounds like a lot, but even with that full plate, we were together six nights out of the week. So, it was an easy choice to move on after Jerry. After all, which takes more time, studying to be an engineer or a high school history teacher? Plus, I couldn’t imagine myself wed to a teacher. But an engineer, that was far more prestigious. Harvey brought me down to his real estate office a few times. The owner, a bald older Italian guy with round gold-rimmed glasses, kept telling me that I should come work for him.

Each time I would politely decline, but after my four years were over, still not quite enthused to seek work in a hospital, I finally said yes that summer. During my month of training, Harvey quit. He had been accepted to a program at CalTech, and he was moving in two weeks. He didn’t say much. He didn’t offer to bring me along. I felt like he knew that I would say no anyway, as I was sort of close with my family and had many girlfriends (in the 1990s platonic sense). And so, on the day my training finished, I celebrated by myself. Harvey had already been gone over a month, and I didn’t feel like dating.

Looking back, I realize I was in love. I also realize he probably didn’t feel the same way. As they say, one door opens as another closes. And, that’s precisely what happened. My scholastic career was done; I had zero intention of going to graduate school. But my real estate career started booming, right from my first week out on my own. I was given some horrible properties to move, and somehow, each was being sold in record time. Even a warehouse in Linden that had been on the market for five years. It only took me three buyers and a few steak dinners to get it sold.

And so that’s how my real estate career began. Totally by accident. It’s also how my full-figure which many men had called voluptuous, started growing to the point where no man would say anything to me about my shape. If they had, and they were honest, they’d have had to tell me I was shapeless. I began drinking to cope with the loneliness. All the while, I sold more and more, bought my first small home in Nutley, and was on my way to becoming the top seller in my office, then my state, then among the best in the region.

All the while, there was an emptiness inside that money and success could not fill. Neither could pies and cakes, cookies and confectioneries, all of which I enjoyed like there was no tomorrow. I was depressed, but I did not know it. And, my recent success began isolating me from my friends and family, all of whom were of relatively modest means. That’s when I began going to AC. Like most everything in my life, the way I became a slot queen was mostly by accident. I’ll explain that in another blog.

Massage And the Larger Woman

I am large. Not like so big that I need specially designed doorways and a car where the backseat is where I sit to drive. No; I’m not that big. And, I’m not making fun of girls who are. Back before I accepted myself as I am, I tried everything to lose weight. I went to Weight Watchers, 12 Step programs, group hypnosis back in the 90s. And let me tell you, that’s where I learned that I am not as big as I thought. There actually were women there who couldn’t get out of bed without a hand. That both made me feel a little better about myself, though in doing so I felt guilty I must admit because I also felt sorry for those very large women. But I also realized that guilt about weight doesn’t work, because if there was a guilt meter in that room, it would have exploded.

Whales by Isaac Kohane by CC

I was lucky enough to make friends with a real estate salesperson who was into yoga. She loaned me a book called Richard Hittleman’s Introduction to Yoga. From there, I explored on my own. Now, I don’t want you to think I am Hindu now; I was raised Presbyterian, and I’m 100% European, German, Irish, and English. But I did soak up the knowledge, and the understanding that our bodies, our minds, and our emotions are what we make of them. And, most importantly, I began practicing yoga daily. This worked. I lost 120 pounds over the course of three years. And, I’ve kept the weight off for twelve years and in the process I’ve gotten to know myself a lot better.

My friend also introduced me to massage. Honestly, I had never had a session of massage before. I felt too ashamed of my shape and my size, and how my body looked with no clothes on. I would have been mortified for any woman or man to see me with nothing on but a sheet. After going to yoga classes and seeing many large women rocking their voluptuous figures, I started to feel differently. And then my friend told me about how massage worked as a great complement to the yoga she had also introduced me to. Now, she is not a big women, not even average. But she had been abused and had to learn to have confidence.

I asked her how she was able to get undressed in front of a massage therapist. She patiently explained that that’s not how it works, and that the masseuse leaves the room while you disrobe and get under the sheets. I did not know this. As a real estate agent, I sometimes experienced massive amounts of stress. I had to walk around in high heels to show homes, drive miles and miles around New Jersey, and my shoulders were always tight because selling can get stressful. It’s out of your control. Yoga helped me to let go and stop worrying. But the stress in my body remained.

One day my friend gave me an envelope. She told me it was a gift for being such a good friend to her, such a good listener. I didn’t even know I had been. I was just being myself. Inside, I found a thoughtful card with a smaller card from a massage company inside. It was for a one hour session of in-home massage. I felt both elated and exited, while at the same time scared and nervous. She explained that she had been using that company for years, and the therapists provided amazing massage for women. Best of all, she further explained, it was a mobile service, and I didn’t have to go to the spa.

A week late, I had booked. It was a Friday night, and I remember it was flurrying outside. I made the appointment for nine PM. As 8:30 rolled around, I was about to cancel. I picked up the phone. Put it down. Picked it up again. Put it down again. Picked it up and called. I explained that I didn’t think I could make it. The girl at the other end of the line sounded sad, she explained that Karen had come out in the snow just for me! She said Karen was on her way, but if I wanted to cancel, that would be fine. I changed my mind, and decided to go through with it.

Whale by Sarah Fallah by CC

Needless to say, after one session,I was hooked. Since that time, I’ve had a massage every week, or sometimes every two weeks. But never longer between massages than that. I find that there’s nothing quite like it, and I feel like a new woman after the session. And, I’ve had about fourteen different therapists. A little less than half have been men. I was really wary of this at first, but no female therapists were available, and so I decided to give it a try. I found that it doesn’t matter. Once I;m on the table and the massage begins, it really isn’t an issue. Some of the guys have been hot, I must admit. Others were not. One was old enough to be my father. But that didn’t matter at all. What mattered was how well they performed the massage.

Now, six years later, I don’t care at all who massages me. It could be a man or a woman. I still have not set foot in a day spa, and I never intend to. It’s just not my scene. While I am more confident, I do realize that because I am larger, some people stare. And so, I just don’t see a reason for subjecting myself to that. Not today. Not any day. And plus, I like my apartment. And my house. I could never feel as comfortable at a spa. And, I like the company I use. I know there are newer and bigger companies out there now, as in-home massage on demand has really taken off. But I’m not about to switch.

I’ve had great results, and each and every therapist has been caring, skilled, and on-time. Well,except for one girl, who was always late. She was also among the best therapists. An absentminded young blonde woman who was working her way through nursing school, she delivered the best deep tissue massages I’ve had. So, I overlooked the fact that she was never less than a half hour late, simply because she was so good at what she did. And, she was a sweet woman who always tried her best to make me feel comfortable. I’m so happy my friend decided to get me a massage session as a gift. If she hadn’t, I am sure I’d have never gotten a single massage.

Why “The Healthy Whale?”

When I had to come up with a name for my blog, I knew what I wanted. I love the sand and the sea. The beach is where you can find me on any sunny summer day. I love being a socialite at the top New York City nightclubs, often splurging and letting the crowd have a drink on me. In case you didn’t know, a person who pays for drinks all around is called a whale. The first time someone called me that,I’m sure they were teasing because they could call me a whale and get away with it. I did not know, and I have to admit I was offended.

I also play the slots. Big time. I’m at Atlantic City and Vegas so much, they comp my room before I even get there. I’m one of those lucky winners who gets the red carpet treatment. And usually comes through (slightly) ahead. No; I don’t have a method (how could you for slots?) and that;’s not what ,my blog is going to be about. But I do mention this because someone like be, a big spender at the casinos, is also called a whale.

And, I also drive a “whale”, a gigantic 1985 Cadillac Coup de Ville, garage kept, bought from the original owner, a kindly old man from Seabright. The Caddy is in mint condition, custom painted hot pink with gold flecked paint (I had it re-painted when I bought it), with under 30,000 original miles. So the whale thing fits in multiple ways.

Lastly, I’m a larger woman, and I’ve been called a whale in a derogatory manner since middle school. I felt that this was my way of owning the name, as well as owning those who felt it was okay to call me names, in hopes that I would curl up into a ball and wither and die. Instead, I’ve made a killing in real estate, have my own cosmetics brand due to be out next year in South America, and enjoy the company of tons of friends. Sorry; I didn’t turn out like so many of my peers had hoped.

When I visit my small New Jersey town I grew up in, I see those same faces, now thirty years older, wrinkled, miserable, and angry that life didn’t deal them any victories. I can’t help but smile. While also a yogini, I know that it’s not right, but then I think of how many days I spend sittinjg alone on the school bus, in the schoolyard, and in the cafeteria and I realize it’s just karma. Those guys and girls are now the ones shifting their eyes when they see me; word has long ago gotten around town that I am a multi-millionaire with ten rental homes, an apartment in Jersey City with a view of the New York skyline, and a beautiful home in Livingston. So there.

But I did not make this blog to gloat. Rather, I wanted the world to see that even a larger woman can pursue health. People’s bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. Mine just happens to be super-sized. Even in elementary school, I was big. But it wasn’t so bad as you might think. All the women in my family were “big boned”, from my great-grandmother to my mom and her sisters, to my own sisters and half-sisters. You might say we come from a very large gene pool. So growing up, I was told that I looked “healthy” by the women in my family, and I was accepted.

If truth be told, I’m not really materialistic. I donate 30% of my income to charity. I don’t brag about my wealth. But I don’t hide it either. And so, when I’m at the top hot-spots in NYC, I’m known as “the lady with the bright blue eyes and gold-flecked pink caddy” and I always express my generosity. I’ve learned that you can’t buy friends, but I’ve also learned that greed is evil. I’d rather share my good fortune with strangers than try to go back to my home town to impress. When I fill up at the local Mobil station back in my home town, the attendant is extra nice. He knows I’ve made it, one of the few to escape the small town doldrums. He also knows I’m going to tip him $50 if he cleans my windshield and provides service with a smile.

Dear friends, if you stick with me and read my future blogs, you’ll see that fat and fit are not mutually exclusive. I don’t care about what you think of my figure; I do yoga every day, I’ve lost 120 pounds, and I’m happy with who I am. I didn’t lose the weight to impress anyone. I realized I was just not at my ideal size. There’s more to it. I juice every day. I eat a large salad with every meal. I fast until lunch. No; it’s not in an attempt to lose more weight. It’s just because that’s how I stay well.

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