Exercise


I cannot remember my Grandma R., my mother’s mother without recalling her rounded shoulders. She had what they used to call a “dowager’s hump”. Mom used to say that if anything about growing old could be avoided, she truly hoped acquiring a hump was one of them. However, she believed the hunchback look was hereditary (and judging by many of my cousins perhaps she is right) and that she would one day be as afflicted as her own mother.

Of course her fears turned out to be nonsense. The tendency to severe rounding of the shoulders might be inherited but it isn’t destiny. Not according to my yoga instructor and my massage therapist, both of whom harp at me constantly to “stop hunching!” A refrain my mother practiced as well as she preached incidentally.

But I write therefore I hunch. Read Full Article


Rob and I decided to snuggle up with the computer Thursday night and watch a dvd in bed, as is our wont. We have four selections from the bookmobile currently in queue. Nothing upbeat however, which earlier events of the evening screamed out the need for, so we chose the least evil – Playing God with David Duchovney, Timothy Hutton and Angelina Jolie.

To say this was a B movie would be a great injustice to B movies. Bad acting abounded. Hutton’s channeling of Jack Nicholson couldn’t even save it, and I personally found it oddly distracting to hear Jack and see Tim.

I love Hutton. Have since I first saw him in Taps when I was junior in high school. Being a Catholic school kid, I naturally loved movies where kids outthink and and outclever preening, officious adults, and Taps is the ultimate private school kid’s fantasy of takeover and take no prisoners while doing so. My soft spot for Duchovney stems from The X-Files. I loved Fox Mulder. Misfit. Misunderstood. Fighting a nebulous authoritarian entity bent on maintaining a population numbing status quo for the benefit of the elite and the powerful. It appealed to the peon public school teacher that I was at the time. That and I just love tv and movies with well-written, snappy and intelligent dialogue. Give me character depth over mindless action any day. Nuff said.

The movie dates itself though with Jolie. It had to have been one of her earliest roles because the girl had meat on her bones. Not fat however. By normal people standards – even accounting for the slightest of imaginative stretches – the woman was still thin. A form fitting red silken pants suit she wears in the final scenes, that would have made any real person look like a raw sausage,  and showed clearly that Jolie was in fine shape. Still, it was odd not to see the collarbones, sternum/ribs and emaiciated cheekbones that make her lips even larger and scarier.

The visible ribs and sternum are de rigor for “older” actresses these days. I was noticing it yet again last weekend when Rob and I were watching The Inside Man. Jodie Foster couldn’t have looked more like a female Skeletor if she’d set out to do just that. The Dachau survivor look is partly a female over-reaction to middle-age (and I do know firsthand of what I speak) and in the case of women in the spotlight like Hollywood actresses, it is the only way they can stay ahead of the pretty young things who are allowed to be a bit rounded when they first start out and still considered beautiful. The reason for this abbreation in my opinion seems a bit pedophilic on the part of the old men who run the movie business, but that is just my opinion.

Round and middle-aged just spells f-a-t to most men past twenty-five, and who sets the beauty standards? They do. Brandon over at WWTDD had a piece this past week on male preferred female body types (okay – his preferred but I am thinking that he is not the minority on this issue), and he states that skinny with big breasts is best. (Just as an aside – my body type – is not preferred except by my husband who is not a dirty old man or a silly twenty-something boy).

Sad what the pressure to conform does to most actresses, and ordinary women, eventually. I was thinking about Angelina and writing this piece when I was getting ready for my workout at the gym this morning. Today was weights, abs, stretching and then walking. A full work-out. An abbrievated one, like yesterday, because I had to hustle up to get to my daughter’s school to help with the field trip into the museum in the city, is abs, stretching and shorter walk.

So, as I was tying up my shoelaces and setting the iPod score for the morning activities – because mood is important – I notice two women getting ready, without much enthusiasm, for the exercise class that meets in the gym.

I don’t take those pseudo-aerobic post Jane Fonda classes. Took only one class like that in my life when I was in college. I needed a final P.E. credit for graduation, and it was the only class left with openings. I have never loathed exercise so much as I did those 9 weeks.

One of the women was complaining that despite not eating (it sounded as though they were both doing some sort of fast) and coming to work out, she felt bloated and sick and was sure she had gained weight. The other woman questioned her a bit  but could only offer sympathy and as I was leaving I overheard the first woman say she was tempted to just start using a laxative. Now, I didn’t catch all the conversation. They looked over at me quite a bit while they were talking and whispered a bit – afraid I was listening (I was) and waiting for me to leave. I could have interjected and offered some advice based on my own experience, but I didn’t. Both women were very overweight. I would say if not morbidly obese than darn close on the BMI scale. And I remembered when I was very heavy. I didn’t want to hear anything from thinner women about how they did it.

I assumed that all thin women were genetic lottery winners anyway, and I know now that many thinner women lie like rugs about how they got or stay thin. My own sister was the Dexatrim Princess in her teens in her fight against weight, and a lot of women simply don’t eat or use excessively amounts of exercise to maintain their “I’m just naturally thin” appearances.

Celebrities in particular are notorious for questionable weight loss and maintenance methods. The majority of the population is not gifted with thinness that requires nothing to achieve.

I walked upstairs to the weight room thinking about those women. I remembered when I was first starting to jog back in college. I was chunky. The excess flesh on my legs and belly jiggled when I ran though I couldn’t feel that movement as keenly as I do today. I didn’t have the spatial sense of myself then that I have earned through years of running and other activities. It was not easy to put on shorts and go down to the field across from the Student Union and run everyday. The Union was a lunch mecca and my P.E. class was at 12:30 in the afternoon. There were people everywhere. But running was like teaching would later turn out to be for me – in my blood. A combination of running and having to walk everywhere during my college days eventually thinned me, and I continued to tone up and thin as I added a variety of activities to my repetoire as I got older.  

Aside from pregnancy, I have really never been overweight since then, but I remember those days and I feel deeply for heavy and overweight women when I see them at the gym or out jogging or walking. Their effort is more than a physical one. While some people cannot fathom the idea that celebrities can be learned from in any way, my Jolie encounter Thursday night reminded me once again that it is all women who are damaged by the inane and arbitrary beauty standards of our society. No one is immune.