One thing I can’t abide is being late for an appointment. Just knowing that I have to be somewhere starts me worrying about potential tardiness hours in advance of the event.

I frequently arrive early, which forces me to sit in the car and contemplate those immutable character flaws that led me to spend hours in self-imposed vehicular limbo. I sometimes run rushed errands to fill the time, but am so distracted that I end up buying hideous or wholly inappropriate items that I have to return the next time I am early for an appointment nearby.

But lately I’ve been running late as a result of my inability, at age 54, to dress myself. I’ve put on a few extra pounds — not enough to qualify for “The Biggest Loser,” but enough to make contemplation of my closet an invitation to journey deep into the abyss and its many layers of self-loathing.

The garment-selection process must now account for back fat, side rolls and muffin tops, while taking precautions against spontaneous unbuttoned-bosom explosions. Picking pants poses the eternal questions: “Is breathing necessary?” and “If I bend over, will everyone see my big-girl underpants?”

All this is manageable in winter, through strategic application of gut-sucking jeans and fat-camouflaging black sweaters. But spring brings lighter colors and wispy fabrics, plus the sensation of just how much tighter my shorts are now than when I wore them last year.

Why, you might ask, don’t I simply purchase a new wardrobe?

First, I am trying to write for a living while my retail website gains traction, which tells you all you need to know about the state of my finances.

Second, this would mean admitting that I will remain at this weight for some time, while I prefer to remain in denial.

And third, shopping for clothing when you feel fat is akin to watching an all-day Lifetime-movie marathon in terms of potential for inducing suicidal thoughts.

So assume for the moment that I’ve found a buttonable big shirt, under which I’m wearing a tank top equipped with what is known as a shelf-bra: a primitive chest-binding apparatus designed to restrain and flatten the breasts while simultaneously shoving them sideways so they point in opposite directions. And pretend that I’m dressed from the waist down and appropriately shod, and have flung myself behind the wheel of my vehicle and am now rushing to some imminent engagement.

I will shortly be reminded that: Oh yes, I live in the Napa Valley, land of slow-moving vehicles operated by slightly intoxicated drivers hell-bent on impeding progress. Visitors here not only want to drink wine, they want to drink in the sights as well, and they sip and savor each one, often pausing mid-lane to photograph as many vineyards, wineries and mustard fields as their digital camera memory cards can muster. And in the off-season, I’m often stranded behind some local’s glacially paced obstruction, like a tractor, an enormous sedan steered by a tiny senior, or a fleet of farmworkers who hope that by driving supernaturally slowly they might actually be rendered invisible.

Taking 30 minutes to travel 2 miles, I’ve had time to develop some theories. For example: The more liberal the bumper stickers, the slower the driver. Find yourself marooned behind a Nader for President–, Free Tibet–, No Nuke–stickered Volkswagen, and you’d better call your next two appointments and cancel. And it’s not like these tofu-loving lollygaggers are model Zen-motorists. If you honk or try to pass them on the road, many vegan-eating, Stevia-sweetened-soy-shake-sipping, gluten-free carob-cake eaters are seriously snappish, no doubt the result of deficient levels of calming chemicals in their diets.

I have been forced off the road several times by Hummers, but figure that anyone who drives a tank in a residential neighborhood must be troubled by deep feelings of inadequacy; they deserve my pity, not scorn. I’ve heard that Mercedes drivers are considered the worst, but haven’t noticed it, possibly because I drive a Mercedes SUV myself. In my defense, I’ve owned the gas-guzzler since 2003, during which time I’ve racked up a total of 30,000 miles, so I figure it’s environmentally sound policy for me to keep this fuel-inefficient vehicle out of the hands of others who might actually have somewhere to go.

But I had a point … what was it? Ah yes, running late is a bummer. Because it’s not only rude to the folks waiting for you, it also serves as a reminder that you can’t control everything. Try as you might, it’s hard to guard against dim-witted motorists, slow-moving tourists and fast-spreading thighs. And that’s a realization to which I am coming unfashionably late.

(Laura Rafaty is a national award–winning columnist, a resident of St. Helena, a Tony-nominated producer, author, attorney, and retailer as She will be appearing biweekly on KVON Radio 1440AM during Jeff Schechtman’s afternoon show to discuss the columns and other random thoughts. Read more at