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Posts Tagged ‘Madonna’

Great guns! The latest arms race

In aging, beauty, behavior, culture, Health, life, Style, women, work on August 7, 2012 at 12:34 am
Concert de Madonna à Paris Bercy, Août 2006

Concert de Madonna à Paris Bercy, Août 2006 (Photo credit: johanlb) See what I mean?

“Guns”, i.e. the upper part of the arm, where the triceps and biceps, when toned, make a clearly defined curve. I’d never heard that word until a few days ago.

When Katie Couric, the first woman in the U.S. to become a network television anchor, spoke at a New York City conference I attended last week, BlogHer, the 5,000 women attending, (most in their 20s and 30s),  sent in their questions for the on-stage interviewer to ask her.

I was excited!

I expected smart stuff from these hip, young bloggers, like:

What do you think will happen in Syria?

What story has moved you the most?

What do you think of this year’s Presidential race?

What’s your best advice to a young journalist?

Silly moi!

Instead, one of them was: “Great guns! How’d you get them?”

Yes, her upper arms, for a woman of 55, were strong, smooth and toned.

But, seriously, can we not, possibly stop focusing on what a woman’s body looks like?

My favorite part of the Harry Potter films is the invisibility cloak.

If I were granted a super-power, this is absolutely the one I’d choose. I’m damn grateful my culture doesn’t force me into a chador, seeing the world only through a tiny mesh screen, but I’m so weary of the 24/7 yammering about how thin/smooth/hairless/flawless my body must be in order to be attractive to others, both men and women.

I saw a woman on the train into Manhattan that morning, like so many I see where I live, in an affluent suburb north of New York City. She wore a tight athletic vest and workout pants, lean as a whippet, defiantly hip-less. Easily in her 50s, possibly beyond, her eyes and stance had an intensity I find really unsettling.

You can smell the desperation to be better than, the angry determination to rule their flesh, to beat back the softness, roundness or dimpling that betrays their body at its true age, 55 or 62 or 47.

So their weirdly ropy guns —  Madonna has them — have created a whole new arms race, with flesh-as-metaphor: I’m fitter/better-toned/stronger/healthier/prettier/more disciplined than you.

As a 55-year-old feminist, a former nationally ranked athlete whose sport — saber fencing — left me covered in small bruises people assumed meant I was a battered wife — I find this sad, and ironic.

I’ve known elite athletes whose bodies didn’t even look like this.

Jocks of all ages, male and female, have a sort of walk I find insanely sexy — a rolling, relaxed gait that shouts, quietly, how comfortable they are in their bodies. They know they’re strong and fast and flexible. They don’t need to prove anything.

I love being strong. I can still hit to the outfield. I value my muscles and what they do for me. I’ve always had big thighs, and use them happily for hiking out of a sailboat or hiking the Grand Canyon (four hours down, eight hours up.)

But, with age, my body is changing, softening, drooping. Thanks to my new hip replacement, I now have a shiny six-inch scar on my left hip. No bathing suit can possibly cover it.

I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror for the first few months, so shocking was this new permanent part of my body. Now I bear it proudly, running and dancing and climbing stairs as I once did, with breathless ease.

I wish our minds were as valued as our bodies.

I wish our arms were valued most for their willingness to embrace, to comfort, to soothe. To wave a banner or placard of protest. To plant and hoe and paint and execute a lovely port de bras.

I wish women — and men — would cherish our bodies, above all, for their strength, flexibility and power.

(We do this for every Olympic athlete.)

Do you?

No Kids? No Problem

In behavior, parenting, women on November 8, 2010 at 1:08 am
Cover of "I Love You, Mommy (Little Golde...

Cover of I Love You, Mommy (Little Golden Book)

Here’s another salvo in the mommy wars, from writer Erica Jong, in this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal:

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you know that we have endured an orgy of motherphilia for at least the last two decades. Movie stars proudly display their baby bumps, and the shiny magazines at the checkout counter never tire of describing the joys of celebrity parenthood. Bearing and rearing children has come to be seen as life’s greatest good. Never mind that there are now enough abandoned children on the planet to make breeding unnecessary. Professional narcissists like Angelina Jolie and Madonna want their own little replicas in addition to the African and Asian children that they collect to advertise their open-mindedness. Nannies are seldom photographed in these carefully arranged family scenes. We are to assume that all this baby-minding is painless, easy and cheap.

And a great recent essay on not ever wanting to be a mother, by Nanette Varian, in More magazine:

It’s not as if we “intentionals” are so rare. According to U.S. Census data, the percentage of women ages 40 to 44 who’ve never given birth has doubled over the past 30 years or so, and studies have finally begun to separate the nonparents-by-chance from the nonparents-by-choice, an important acknowledgment that, yes, some of us actually did want it this way. When the National Center for Health Statistics broke out the voluntary non-moms in 2002, it found that among women ages 35 to 44 who had never given birth, 7 percent (1.5 million) had chosen that route. And that 7 percent is making itself heard. In the past few years, there have been many cultural expressions of this choice: books, websites, blogs, newsgroups, Facebook pages, even entertainments like “Breeder Bingo” cards and drinking games (mark a box or down a shot every time someone chides you with a platitude like “It’s different when they’re your own!”).

As I face my progeny-free middle and older age, it’s comforting to see I’m not the only one waving good-bye, dry eyed, as the baby train leaves the station for good. But who are the other women on the platform with me?

I have no kids and, except for a brief period at the point at which the idea was largely moot — without $10,000-a-pop IVF interventions or international adoption — never wavered from that stance.

The insane fetishization of mothering/parenting/mommyhood is such a powerful way to (re)focus attention away from the larger political and economic forces that still make motherhood, for many women, exhausting, expensive and overwhelming. Peer pressure only adds to this.

Have I regretted not having kids? No.

Do I occasionally wish I had someone with my genes and values in the world, someone who would have whispered “I love you, Mommy” and hugged me fiercely? It’s not that simple.

Watching my friends negotiate motherhood has been instructive; for every woman who loves it, another struggles with wildly unequal childcare duties, career conflicts and children who bring as many intense, life-long challenges as joy, whether mild autism or severe mental illness, to name only two.

Many adult kids are now unemployed, some even flat broke and homeless, those who can even now moving back home with their children. The cycle now never ends. Independence is ever more elusive.

Motherhood has become proxy for caring, mentoring, giving of yourself, as if women without kids are incapable of this.

One new friend, a woman in her 40s who lives in Europe, has been called a bitch — to her face! – because she does not have kids (which she had very much hoped for.) Only raising children offers incontrovertible proof to the world (whose business it is because…?) you’re not selfish.

Hah! As if.

I grew up as the only child of a divorcee with chronic health issues and with very few friends in her town. I have never felt free of her needs. As I type this, she is in a hospital bed far away recovering from a broken hip. I’ve flown cross-continent twice for her various cancer surgeries, happily.

But now it never stops….and most of her poor health is self-inflicted.

That’s been quite enough stress for me, thanks.

No kids?

No problem.

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