Sitting in a hot dog shop with my best friend at the age of fifteen, we made a pledge to move in with each other when we were old and our husbands were dead (age sixty, we figured) and eat as much as we wanted, all of the time, until we died happy.
Sad to say, we’d already put in years of dieting. The short, curvy stature we shared required vigilance and self-control. Our guiltiest pleasure was to imagine overdosing on ice cream and chocolate.
I’m not sneaking up on sixty yet, but my husband can see it from here. My fifteen-year-old self would have found it unimaginable that either of us would care what we look like at our advanced age. But if anything, I’m more obsessed with staying fit as I age.
Three times a week, I walk-jog around the track near my son’s high school. Two other days, I weight train at the gym. I could tell you I exercise so often because it helps my bad back. This is true, right up until I overdo it and wind up flat on the floor for a week of recovery.
I could tell you I exercise to stay strong. I did just tell that to a friend, actually. “I need to be strong, because life is tough and you have to be strong to survive.” She looked sorry for my grim outlook on my future. But pushing myself to do one more lap, or one more chin-up, does prove to me that I’m capable of persevering when all I want to do is throw in the towel.
But the real truth is, my compulsion to exercise is motivated by sexual narcissism.
My husband and I still find each other attractive. Like a lot of good husbands, mine tells me he’d be attracted to me no matter what my weight. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, although in truth, I think most males’ desire to have sex outweighs any other consideration. (Unintentional pun duly noted.)
If I feel sexy, we’re in for a good night. Not so if I’ve spent ten minutes in front of the mirror cataloging the thousand injuries of gravity on my half-century-old body.
I don’t have an opinion about how other women wear their weight. We all should love our bodies, no matter their size and shape. We all should feel valued for more than what we look like on the outside.
Sophia, the heroine of my novel A Leap of Faith (to be published by The Wild Rose Press next year), crash diets to win the heart of a guy who’s kept her safely in the Friend Zone. Who among us hasn’t tried desperate measures for love? In the early 80’s I tried the Banana Diet: four bananas, four glasses of skim milk, four times a day. I substituted Diet Pepsi for the more nutritious milk and developed a lifelong aversion to bananas after four days of misery. I can’t even remember the boy I was trying to impress.
After 23 years together, I trust that my husband loves more about me than just my packaging. When I make a little extra effort to put myself together, he still gets a certain sparkle in his eye. I might be nearing fifty, but I’m not ready to give that up yet.
But the truth is, it’s not my looks or my weight he’s responding to. It’s my attitude.
He confessed years ago (silly man) that he can’t tell when I lose five or ten pounds. What he does notice is when I flirt with him; try out new outfits; wear pretty lingerie. Things look pretty good for him when I’m happy with the way I look.
But when I feel my body is carrying too much weight, I can’t imagine being a turn-on to him, no matter how he protests. I wouldn’t want to sleep with me, says the unhelpful critic inside my brain.
So back I go, to the gym, to the track, to the relentless struggle against gravity.
Looks like I’m going to have to wait another decade or two to live the ice cream dream of my fifteen year old self.