Fifty Shades of Greek Goddess.

A marble lady nonchalantly strutting her stuff (and showing her butt) for the public in Nîmes, France.

A marble lady nonchalantly strutting her stuff (and showing her butt) for the public in Nîmes, France.

It was a normal evening in the Mars family household on Mount Olympus. The twins were fighting on the floor as Rhea Silvia reached for the bottle of grappa and topped up her glass.

“For the love of Venus, put that down, boys. What a pair of animals; anyone would think you’d been brought up by wolves… No, Rommy darling, it’s not a cheese slicer. It’s called a lyre, and it’s a present from Aunty Aphrodite. Put it down, please – she’ll be harping on about it for years if you break it”.

“Lyre, lyre, pants on fire!” The twins dissolved into hysterical laughter. Rhea rolled her eyeballs and downed her glass in three large gulps. Wiping her mouth on her forearm, she thought back to the romantic pre-partum era. It had seemed a good idea at the time to seduce the God of War, but she had suddenly woken up to the hard reality of life in a villa with six snotty toddlers and an award-winning muffin top, only to discover that Mars had a worrying penchant for going into battle wearing her rara skirts.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a deep, virile voice booming “Hi, honey, I’m home!” and the sound of the front door slamming shut. Rhea Silvia languidly draped her naked body across the sofa and set her features in what she hoped to be a sultry pout. “Gerroff! Daddy’s home!” she hissed through clenched teeth as she tried to shake off the two whining, naked infants fastened to her ankles.

Mars stomped across the carpet, his armour glistening in the light of the lava lamp, and threw his sword on the sofa. “By Jupiter, what a day!” His eyes roved over her feminine curves, surveying the galb of her calves, her plump thighs and dimpled rear before hungrily devouring the sight of the flab riding sidecar on her hips and finally coming to rest on her generous belly roll. The corners of his mouth twitched into a smirk. “Didn’t have time to get dressed this morning, then?” he enquired, eyebrows arched in mock surprise. Rhea ran a hand slowly through her hair and peered demurely out from behind her fringe. “Is that a Mars Bar in your pocket, or are you pleased to see me?” she murmured as he approached.

You may have guessed from the above text that MM has been wandering around a museum looking at the antique equivalent of eye candy again. I am a sucker for museums and art galleries, and am particularly fond of mummies, paintings and sculpted marble bottoms. Whilst bespectacled art boffins strike poses with notebooks and reverentially peruse the paintings for unique perspectives, technical brush strokes and ingenuous lighting techniques, MM is quietly writing alternative titles and scenarios in her head for every work of art she sees. The tale above is one such example – incidentally, Rhea Silvia’s real story turned out to be much sadder than mine. Here is the painting that inspired MM’s ‘Fifty Shades of Greek Goddess », actually called « Le Retour de Mars » by Nicolas-René Jollain, (1732-1804), and found at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Nîmes.

A very bad photo of "Le retour de Mars" by Nicolas-René Jollain.

A very bad photo of “Le retour de Mars” by Nicolas-René Jollain.

When I see paintings of women, I am struck by the candid and honest portrayal of the female physique, and by the models’ evident pride to be the way mother nature intended them to be, rather than the cocktail-stick morphology many women try to attain today through draconian diets and exercise plans. These paintings graced the walls of men and women who spent hours admiring what they perceived as opulent beauty. What would they have made of the photo-shopped, latex knicker-toting toothpicks in the Pirelli calendar? Or the miserable, emaciated models that mince down the designer catwalk as makeshift human coathangers for clothing, applauded by rows of high-society fashionistas who can spend a fortune attempting to look like they’ve never eaten a decent meal in their lives? The women staring out of those paintings are calm and proud of their curves, yet many women today look in the mirror and heave a sigh of frustration when they see the same thing. Curves used to be a sign of wealth, health and abundance of food, yet today, more means less, and many of our female role models are no more than skin and bones as they throw money into cellulite treatment, liposuction and miracle diets.

I made this realisation before Christmas, when my muffin top suddenly mutated and morphed into something similar to Mrs Mars’ belly. In what appears to be an overnight putsch, Muffin Top was superceded by a new, terrible enemy: Sinister Soufflé, the dark and dangerous lardlord of the middle-aged darknesses, who had risen overnight and was waiting for me the next morning, unapologetically drooping over the top of my pyjamas like a rabid blancmange.

Yup, this would be it. Muffin top has mutated into Sinister Soufflé.  Photo source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMaker_Faire_San_Mateo_2008_0022.JPG

Yup, this would be it. Muffin top has mutated into Sinister Soufflé.
Photo credit: Dvortygirl. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMaker_Faire_San_Mateo_2008_0022.JPG

Sinister Soufflé’s evil counterpart, Tefla the scales, had been silenced many months earlier by a dead battery. Her last attempts to charm me into replacing it were touching – every time I stepped onto her glass surface, she flashed up a chirpy « Lo », which I immediately interpreted as meaning that that my weight was nothing worry about. Since then she had been gathering dust below the laundry basket.

Tefla was kitted out with a new battery, and as I looked at the double zero awaiting me, the pit of my stomach reacted just like it does at the sight of the online banking screen after Christmas. You know you have to do it, but you also know you’re going to feel awful.

I will not go into the facts and figures; suffice to say that Tefla and a tape measure confirmed that I had far too much flab. After having exhausted all the possible excuses, ranging from food allergies to being possessed by evil spirits intent on avenging an unknown enemy I had drunk under the table in a previous life, I was left with the conclusion that I had noone and nothing to blame but myself.

That was when I stopped and wondered what was going on beneath the roll of belly fat. Mrs Mars may have been curvaceous and opulent, but she was also happily oblivious to the mecanics going on below her skin, and probably thought that Gluteus Maximus was no more than a legionary with a huge appetite. Pinching Sinister Soufflé, I imagined Larry the liver, who gritted his teeth and processed my lorryload of peanuts and generous serving of wine every evening without fail, and Marcel the Muscle, who was softening up by the minute from lack of exercise. Imagining my blood swooshing through veins that were perhaps slowly clogging up with cholesterol, I realised that what was important wasn’t getting rid of the muffin top, but simply being healthy. This provided a whole new slant on the body fat issue: Muffin Top and the sidekicks riding sidecar on my hips were a symptom, not the condition. That meant forgetting the word “diet”, which I negatively associate with deprivation and frustration, and focussing on getting healthy. If it (-and I-) worked out, I’d feel good (cue James Brown) and a trimmer figure would hopefully be a pleasant by-product.

If I wanted to stop the trend, I had to stop filling my face with rosé and peanuts every evening, and take more exercise – until ten weeks ago, the only crunch I approved of was wrapped in paper and could be polished off in five minutes flat. So I struck alcohol and the associated nibbles off my daily menu for a month, and added a daily 5K walk in the countryside with a delighted Smelly Dog and grumpy Mrs Playmo. Dry January became dry February, then dry March. My walks in the country are slowly becoming more jog than walk. That pair of jeans I had kept at the back of the cupboard “just in case” is no longer too small, and Tefla has just confirmed an eleven pound loss. Most importantly, I feel good (na-na-na-na-na-na-nah). Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find a clean toga and a lyre before PF rolls in from work.

Advertisements

My body is my temple.

This morning, I actually stopped in my tracks and contemplated my reflection for the first time in weeks. I was not really surprised to see my mother’s face staring back at me. Her genetic pool took over proceedings just before I hit forty, and Little My’s demand for me to let my hair grow has aided and abetted my destiny in its cunning plan to make me into a carbon copy of my mother.

Turning sideways for the ventral mugshot, I attempted to suck in my post-baby belly. It would have been more at home in the local butcher’s window alongside my chunky thighs, currently jousting for a traditional farmhouse sausage award.

I turned my back on the mirror and stepped on to the scales for reassurance. Tefla, the evil electronic demon of the bathroom, almost cackled out loud as she announced my weight. The same as when I was at University. So how come I’m two jeans sizes bigger?

I spent a while thinking this over in the shower, and by the time I’d hacked my way through the undergrowth on my legs, I had come up with what I saw as a logical and comfortingly irreversible explanation: gravity. Yes, that was it: forced downwards by the earth’s magnetic field, the padding on my upper body had simply lost its grasp on my skeleton and ended up on my stomach and behind, meaning I had the same weight but a new anatomy. I’d just swapped bosom and size ten jeans for a big butt and no boobs. Hey, world, meet a new concept:  fat transhumance.

As I towelled dry, I chewed over the term « my body is my temple ». This phrase conjures up images of self-indulgent body-builders and fitness freaks religiously veneering their own reflections and wearing out the mirror with self-admiration.

I would agree that my body is a temple – in severe need of renovation. Cracks are appearing in my weathered façade. After the perilous subsidence of the pelvic floor, other parts of the edifice slowly but inevitably started crumbling downwards, resulting in the tender beginnings of jowls, bingo wings and a sagging butt. Even my bust has begun an imperceptible migratory bid for my belly button, moving slowly but surely south. I had already jokingly explained this to Bigfoot after he sneered at my bra size in comparison to that of his chosen counterpart: I informed him that my 95B has simply stretched a little but that it can still happily fill my Wonderbra when tightly furled up like a jam roly-poly. I was concerned to see that he actually believed me.

flat stomach

flat stomach (Photo credit: emanuela franchini)

I freely admit to having problems identifying with the health and fitness crowd. I  admire their self-satisfaction, pride, self-discipline and boundless motivation to take care of themselves.  Like over-zealous believers, their health becomes their religion, and by some strange process, running 10km in the baking heat and depriving themselves of calories somehow becomes a pleasure. The only thing I could run would be the risk of viciously attacking the first poor innocent unfortunate enough to crack open a packet of salted peanuts within a 2-mile radius. Not only do these people not miss beer and peanuts, they don’t even like them to start with. I have six-packs in my fridge, whereas the only six-packs they have are tautly lined up along their abdomens, and get worked out on a regular basis.

Exercise is not only a different world, it’s a completely different planet for me. I am in awe when I see the pert-bottomed lycra brigade pounding their way through the countryside, their cheeks flushed and their poney-tails flapping back and forth as Katy Perry cheers them on through the iPods velcro-ed to their eardrums. I did try once, with a gym-teacher friend. She kept up a steady stream of health-related patter throughout our « short » run – 5 km of sheer hell during which I established that having a conversation whilst running full pelt around the Alsace vineyards was about easy as singing barbershop whilst you give birth.

Pulling on my baggy jeans, I drew the conclusion that I need a factory reset button to get a kick out of getting in shape. What do I enjoy more: the possibility of maybe fitting into that pair of jeans one day, or drinking my evening beer in the garden and nibbling peanuts as the cicadas sing?

I loaded my baguette with butter and strawberry jam in the cluttered kitchen, repeating to myself that I am in the driver’s seat. At least I will be – once I’ve booted my instinct out of the side window. For the moment, she’s the pilot. She steers me directly to the apéritif before dinner and the cookies afterwards, to the car keys rather than my trainers, to my blog rather than to the energetic cleaning of the house, and to reassuring pictures of curvaceous 1950’s sex-symbols rather than those of today’s anemic, anorexic top-models.

motivation-001

motivation-001 (Photo credit: whitehatblackbox)

I am therefore now on the look-out for Motivation, a reliable pal I lost from sight twenty-two years ago after successfully losing two stone. She then moved in with someone else, and was unfortunately replaced by a far-flung cousin called Self-Indulgence, who has been cramping my style (and my clothing) ever since. Motivation, if you’re out there somewhere, it’d be great to get together for a few months. But don’t call me, I’ll call you.