With the weather like itís been Ė miserably hot for a while, then rainy every day Ė I have had nothing to motivate me and, consequently, spend most of my time sitting around.

I dropped 20 pounds in the month or two that I was building my pirogue, and hoped to keep it off and maybe lose a little more by paddling it around fishing. You know, they make rowing machines for exercise, right?

Well, no, not in 100 degree weather or with 100 percent humidity pouring out of the skies. Pirogues do not float well full of water.

So Iím gaining weight again, a condition I have been battling more and more since I quit smoking FOURTEEN MONTHS AGO! (Thank you, thank you very much!)

The last time I talked about this, I mentioned in this column that itís difficult to be one of only two guys on the full-time staff of the Banner, the other being the publisher who has the authority and rank to stay in his office and avoid all the brouhaha outside involving the large numbers of female employees.

I am not so fortunate. I mentioned several months ago that, while standing at the printer in the advertising room and complaining about growing larger and the ad rep nearby said, "Yeah, join the club."

Therein lies the inherent danger in working with a buncha women who complain to each other all the time about their weight, and are perfectly within their rights to say to each other, "You are starting to look like an offshore platform, girl," without raising ire. As a guy, your rights would appear to be similar, since they included you in "the club" with that statement. But no.

Luckily Iím smarter than to say something back in an example like that, such as, "Yeah, I noticed that we need more 36-inch doors around the place." No, I got more sense than that, cher. They may say youíre a member of the club, but say something like that and you find out why women really wear those glue-on, razor-sharp fake fingernails.

So I keep my mouth shut about gaining weight around here and try to eat more healthy at lunch. We all go to lunch together here, too. Me and the other four girls. Itís a newspaper thing, been that way at every one Iíve ever worked for: Newspaper people tend to hang together, because typically, nobody else wants to. But itís impossible to be macho when youíre surrounded by four giggling females.

I thought it would be more difficult to diet with a buncha guys, but I think itíd be easier. I figured it might be difficult to not be macho and order a big greasy burger and fries with the guys, opting for a wimpy salad instead. But guys are actually more accepting of such things. Girls, who complain all day about their resemblance to Buicks turn around and go to lunch for Ė you guessed it Ė greasy hamburgers and fries. Oh, now and then, sure they put on airs and have a salad, sacrificing their true cravings for the sake of puttiní on airs. I know better. Iím one of the girls, you see. An insider, and I tell you, they just do it now and then to say, "Iíve been eating salads," and not be lying. Challenge them on it, and you learn about those glued-on nails again.

Guys are different. A guy will order a salad and say, "Doc said I gotta watch my cholesterol," when actually heís trying to get back into his summer jeans. Guys will switch to light beer because itís "less filling. I can drink more at the camp." But really heís worried about tipping the boat too far to one side while fishing.

A guy will say heís been "working out" and girls think, wow, weightlifting, what a man, but in fact, heís walking the treadmill and dreaming of Miller time. A guy that is truly health-conscious jogs or something, not "works out." "Working out" is just a thinly disguised way of saying, "Iím eating salads."

The girls nowÖIíve never seen such vindictiveness. Let some other woman pass by the table who is just slightly smaller than any of them and has in some way, shape or form given them some reason Ė any reason Ė to dislike the aforementioned passerby:

"Well. How do you like that?"

"I know. Isnít she just Miss Thang?"

"Sh-ee. Sheís a thang all right!"

"I know!"

At which point they all fall into a giggling fit like you recall from Joanieís slumber parties on Happy Days. Itís enough to make a man start eating lunch by himself, you know?

I was sitting with the Banner crew in Politoís one day and there were a couple guys in another booth with Wildlife and Fisheries. I try to be a Dudeman around law enforcement types, because I really admire and envy what they all do. Iím too dumb, blind and stupid to be a law officer, but I always wished I could have. So Iím trying my best to appear Dudemanly and the girls get this giggling fit thing going, theyíre all turning red in the face and having a hard time breathing, and I am wondering if the two agents can see that my lip is bleeding from biting it to keep from giggling myself.

So I finally get somewhere with a buncha the guys, and weíre talking fishing and hunting and Iím not the least bit worried about anything girly, and Iím feeling like I am, a Dudeman after all. Then I realize I got a light beer in my hand, and Iím having jambalaya and gumbo for supper and Mississippi mud pie for desert. And I say the girls donít make sense?

Well, weíre all pals and the Banner gang remains the best gang around, bar none. I do my best to fit in, short of gluing on fake fingernails, even in self-defense.