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.
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.
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.