Each and every morning, I surrender myself to it just before I jump into the shower. If this simple act stopped there, it would be considered perfectly normal behavior, but there’s a secret ritual that has developed over the years that may render normalcy questionable, and certainly with this writing, it’s no longer a secret.
The ritual kicks in when, with my big toe, I tap the glass surface of the attractively designed gadget, step on lightly and wait with baited breath as digital figures start their little dance, bouncing back and forth, much like the meat scale on The Biggest Loser. The final number pops up in excessively large digital display, the only reading I am able to achieve without my glasses.
More often than not, I don’t accept the preliminary hard evidence of my imprudence. Surely the scale must need to “warm up” before it gives me an accurate weight. I step off and on the scale again, but this time, I lower my weight slowly as I lean on a shelf nearby. The result of this little trick may actually be higher than the first reading.
Convinced that the floor tiles where the scale rests must be uneven, I step off again and nudge it along the floor a few inches to another spot and try again. If I get a more favorable weight, I will stop there. If not, there may be a couple of more nudges along the floor, before I am forced to call out to my wife, “Honey, do you think the scale is off this morning? Maybe it’s the change in the weather? ”
I will resist elaborating on the fact that for a while I had two scales in the bathroom, each a different brand; I’d weigh myself on both and then accept the average weight between them.
As I write this, I’m thinking to myself, ok, now the reader knows I’m a nut job, but considering that one out of every three women and one out of every five men in this country are on a diet, surely other people’s home scales get as much a workout? No, you say? Should I write to “Dear Abby” about this?
With our distant ancestors, not fettered by body image issues spawned by the media, it was the need for measurement in commerce that created the first scale. Evidence of the earliest scales in Roman times shows that they were actually balancing systems, using two plates attached to an overhead beam fixed on a central pole, much like the smaller version held by Lady Justice. The weight of any object for trade, like gold, was measured by placing it on one plate and weight-setting stones on the other, until equilibrium was reached.
In the late 1700s, British balance maker Richard Salter invented the spring scale which measures the pressure exerted on a spring to deduce the weight of an object. Spring scales are still fairly common today, but are not as accurate as the new and sleek scales that came with the digital age.
The first automatic vending machine was a large spring scale that was imported to America from Germany in the late 1880s. People would go to a local store or arcade where they availed themselves of a coin operated weighing scale, requiring a penny to see one’s weight. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Peerless Scale company operated a scale on almost every corner and weighing in was considered an affordable novelty, even in the middle of the Depression. To feed interest in this pastime, fortunes were added to the ticket that was dispensed, then the names and pictures of movie stars who paid to have themselves promoted through this service.
By the 1940s, improvements in mechanical scale technology made smaller, inexpensive spring scales available for the home, and they stayed pretty much the same until the digital age when they advanced to digital models operated by batteries.
Today, bathroom scales come in many models and range from the inexpensive and simple to the more elaborate, supported by technology, where we can also know our Body Mass Index.
Through the years, I’ve met a few people who have told me they never get on a scale and don’t have one in their homes. Their only weight monitoring system might be to cut back on dessert when they feel their pants getting a little snug. This system is so foreign, so unfathomable to me that I can only marvel at it.
But, judging from the number of bathrooms I’ve visited as a realtor, I would say that these lucky people are in the minority and that the bathroom scale is one home gadget that is here to stay.
I can still remember our family’s first clunky scale with the dial that protruded like the front of an old Edsel. I was only about eight when it was purchased and in those days, I was interested only in seeing the numbers climb to prove that I was growing tall and strong. Today, it’s a different story, feeling as I do that, in this instance, less is more.