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Monday, February 25, 2013

confessions from the land of yoga pants

Perhaps you've read this article about men, women, and yoga pants or any of the responses to it floating about the interwebs the last few days. It's created a lil kerfluffle, as you might ascertain from the fact that the original has over 350 comments posted if nothing else.  Well. I have things to say. But if you haven't read anything about this and you do not wish to tax your brain and/or hand clicking on my link, let me first summarize the gist of the original.  Dude cannot stop himself from looking at attractive chicks in yoga pants, dude feels at least mildly ashamed of this, dude thinks women cannot possibly be wearing yoga pants only for comfort as they claim but must instead be wearing them to make dudes like him look.

First, a confession.  I don't know if I've mentioned this on here before, but between recuperating from my surgery and then being laid off, I haven't worked at a "real" job since the beginning of October. This has led to, um, kinda giving up on dressing like an actual grownup person most of the time.  I had dinner with my former co-workers last month and one of the first things I asked a colleague who'd also been made redundant was, "Hey, Chrissie, have you totally stopped wearing real pants yet?"  Oh, we laughed. Yup, yoga pants err'day.  Fifteen or twenty or twenty five years of getting up every morning and forcing oneself into some iteration of acceptable business casual means when the blissful day comes that a girl doesn't have to, can you blame her for wanting to jettison the pants with zippers? Really?  Article Writing Dude may not believe it, but yoga pants are indeed the most comfortable garment the human race has of yet invented.

Second, yet another confession.  Despite the fact that I objectively know they are tight, form-fitting spandex, I don't feel particularly alluring in yoga pants.  I think I look good, nice, presentable, whatever, but not "oh mama."  In fact, I recently had a...let's call it a date...yeah, date...with an ex at which I showed up in yoga pants ('cause see above: real pants boycott) and I felt compelled to apologize that I hadn't made any effort to look shmexy.  Shmexy to me is dressy tight jeans, boots with a heel, a shirt or sweater that shows a smidge of cleavage.  That's what I'd wear when I purposely want someone to look, whether a specific someone or a general someone.  Yoga pants are what I wear to lift heavy shit or stretch or do housework or run to the store or give a massage or otherwise want to be able to move in comfort and forget about my clothes altogether while also looking presentable and, y'know, just fine.

Now, to my point, my rebuttal.  Article Writing Dude says that women MUST be wearing yoga pants to be looked at since if they only wanted comfort, they'd wear baggy sweats instead.  Oh, AWG, you are making one of the crucial mistakes that oh so many men make when they think they're understanding anything about why a woman does anything. (I've had this actual argument discussion with male friends in real life, male friends who are neither morons nor any more chauvinistic than the average bear.) Men seem to think that anything a woman does is related to guys. When it comes to what we wear, gentlemen, that is a very, very false assumption. Most women dress for themselves first and other women second, with men a distant third (unless of course they are specifically trying to seduce a certain someone, please a beloved partner, or just pull at da club.) So, in the case of yoga pants, I wear them for myself because they allow me to be comfortable while not feeling unattractive or sloppy; I don't hardly ever wear pj pants or baggy sweats for myself because, while comfortable, they do make me feel sloppy. Secondarily, I don't wear those pj pants or baggy sweats in public because of other women: I'm aware that looking like a complete slob instead of at least a little cute is the kind of thing that can draw negative judgment. I'd be embarrassed to run into a client, an acquaintance, a non-immediate relative while wearing baggy ass sweats in a way I wouldn't be if I were wearing yoga pants and cute sneakers.  Nothing to do with wanting menfolk to look at my crotch or my ass, thanks. Sorry, guys. It's NOT all about you all the time.

That has nothing to do with anything. Other than it's hilarious. And true.

Perhaps I should think about looking shmexy more often. Or start wearing pj pants to WalMart.  Apparently success (in loooovvvvve) requires one of those two strategies.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

in which i torture you with more nostalgia

Apparently February is trip-down-memory-lane month here at MMiNaE.  (We the management do NOT plan these themes, they just happen. Like surprise pregnancies or toenail fungus. Something like that.) Anyway! Today's post is going to travel even further back in time, back back back to the late '70s, when your humble correspondent was in high school.

I've mentioned before that I was a small, clutzy, not particularly fast child*** and that thus while I was not picked last in gym class or on the playground, I definitely was picked in the lower third. And I've mentioned that I therefore grew up not thinking of myself as an athlete in any way, shape, or form and was surprised to find in my middle age that, hey, I'm kinda good at lifting weights and sorta strong for my size.  Since realizing this, I've lamented that I didn't find this out earlier, like, say, in high school or college. It would have made my emotional relationship with my own body for the next 30+ years different, I think, and definitely would have increased my self confidence.  Nowadays when I'm in the gym I (improbably) think of myself as a little badass and that affects**** me outside the gym as well. The funny thing, though, is that I also realize that even 35 years ago, that's what I wanted to be.  I just had no way, and no encouragement, to make that a reality, at least in healthy ways.*****

During my recent closet/drawer cleaning binge, it came to my attention that I only still own three things from my high school days.  A big white piggy bank with red hearts on it that my future ex-husband bought for me for Valentine's Day 1979 at Quincy Market, back when Quincy Market was an awesome cool place to go on a date. (Ha!)  A gold and onyx ring that was not new when it was given to me and that, after many years of being worn on and off, has worn so thin in the band that I would fear to wear it now.  And a pair of 5 lb plastic weights filled with sand I bought my freshman year (?) of high school and that has survived many moves with me, living on a basement shelf unused for the almost 18 years I've lived in this house. Like the piggy bank and the ring, I've never quite been able to bring myself to get rid of them. It's strange.

I always say that my genesis for wanting muscles was Terminator 2, but obviously the existence of those 5 lb weights proves that's not strictly true. I remember buying them at the army/navy/sporting goods store where we all bought our Levis, convinced that if I just did every arm exercise I knew a hundred times every day, I would have beautiful "toned" (gag) arms. Obviously no one had told me (in gym class or in the many many articles in Seventeen or Glamour magazine that promised I would be skinny if I only did the proscribed exercises 20 minutes a day) about crucial concepts like rep schemes, progression, or rest days, and me n' my lil plastic weights were doomed to failure.

Is it time for this picture? Sure. It's never not time for this picture.

Later, the summer before junior year, I have my second distinct memory of wanting a muscular body.  I was in my boyfriend's car, stopped at a light, and a girl/young woman crossed the street in front of us.  She was wearing a racer back tank top and she had what I would now refer to as a V shape as well as beautiful shoulders.  I remember being acutely jealous that her back and shoulders looked like that, as well as thinking that you had to be born with that shape or you'd never have it. See: misinformed again.

Finally, junior year we got a Nautilus machine for the girls' locker room. In 1978, this was fancy shmancy and newfangled and no one was sniffing about how free weights were far superior, yo. No, this was cutting edge. And the reason we got it was--according to our gym teachers anyway--that seeing as the boys had gotten one for the football team to use, they had to provide one for us or someone could sue their asses because of Title IX. (I am woman, hear me roar.  The '70s were basically awesome.)  No one taught us to use it or cared whether we did, but some of the gym teachers would let us stay down in the locker room to purportedly use it instead of playing volleyball or some such shit.  In reality this meant we mostly sat around on it and chatted. But I did love to use the leg press section. Many many many light weight reps of course. Sigh.

So, yeah. If I carefully look back, I always did want to lift weights. I always was drawn to it. I just was never encouraged or taught anything useful about it. That's a pity. What gym class could have been, if only...

The reason I even started thinking about all this today is this article about being picked last in gym class.  In particular, one comment was from someone who said she was indeed always picked last in gym class but that it didn't bother her. She knew she was good at other things and felt it was almost fair for the kids who weren't good at scholastics to have something to shine at. I can see that, actually. I mean, do we rail against the cruelty of spelling bees because of how humiliating they must be for the dyslexic or poor-of-rote-memory? On the other hand, because of my own experience, I really wish gym class was about everyone finding a physical activity that they really like and are potentially good at. That's the kind of thing that will carry through a person's whole life, you know?


***who grew up to be a small, clutzy, not particularly fast adult, go figure

****or effects, possibly. I dunno, I always get that wrong.

*****I mean, learning to pee standing up between two parked cars the summer I graduated high school made me feel like a little badass too and proved useful in the years of drunken shenanigans that followed, but do we REALLY want to encourage that type of behavior?

Footnotes! Out of control since 2011!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

not found in...

What do all these women have in common?

If you answered "they're what popped up when you google-image-searched 'fitness models', Andrea," you'd be correct.  If you answered, "they're all brunettes," you'd also be correct.  If you said, "apparently they all like red/grey/black/white workout clothes," I wouldn't argue with you.

But none of that speaks to my point. I'd say what they have in common is that they're all very lean, quite muscular, and yet have enormous boobs. Boobs which are almost certainly not the, um, originals.  Y'all know I hang out online in female weightlifting circles. In those circles one of the most common newbie questions is whether when the questioner loses fat will she lose her breasts too. The answer to that is uniformly "yes!"  Often blithely followed by something like "...but that's what surgery is for!" or "don't worry, you can buy yourself some new ones."

Now as the cranky, brought-up-in-the-late 70s, pro-choice feminist that I am, I firmly support (see what I did there? it wasn't intentional) the right of any woman to do what she wants with her own body, including plastic surgery.  But as a cranky, brought-up-in-the-late 70s feminist, I have to admit I am appalled that the beauty standard is increasingly shifting not just to something impossible for a woman without the right genetics (i.e. the 5'11, 120lb fashion model ideal) but one that is impossible for all women, barring surgical intervention (i.e. the 14-16-18% bodyfat but with DD/E cup breasts fitness model ideal).  That look is not found in nature.

Oh, some women are genetically blessed with boobs that contain a higher percentage of glandular tissue and thus do not lose them completely when they're at a lower bodyfat level. (Truth in advertising, I myself would never be an A cup even if I were emaciated.) And some very lucky women hold onto a good portion of their breast fat even when they're losing fat elsewhere.  But very lean women with very huge natural breasts just do NOT exist. How is holding this look up as a pinnacle of female beauty any better than saying that bound feet or artificially stretched necks are required for a woman to be truly pretty?

Sigh. Okay, okay, I'm not that stupid. I do know the difference: no one is forcing infants or little girls to have breast augmentation and no one is shunning or refusing to marry women who haven't had the procedure. It's still all-of-a-piece to me.  You're a woman. Not only do you have to watch every morsel that goes in your mouth, put in hour after hour of hard work in the gym, do your hair, use makeup, tan, and remove all your body hair, to be the pinnacle of hawtness, to be the ideal, you *also* have to have invasive surgery. There's something wrong with that picture.

I have a picture up on my refrigerator, a ad torn out of a magazine. I'm klassy like that, shut up.

Her name is Kelly Conrad. She's not a professional fitness model; she's a "employee of the month." She's also 5'3, 115 pounds, so about my size. I love her body: her stomach, her quads, and especially her arms and shoulders. I think she's beautiful, and beautiful in a way that's at least somewhat attainable to me. And what she has or doesn't have in her sports bra is realistic. I dunno. I wish that all the women in the fitness magazines and supplement ads looked more like her and less like the very lovely but very artificial sex-kitten-ish fitness models above.  Also?  Bonus redhead!  Alternately, I'd also love to see some female powerlifters with higher bodyfat (and thus maybe naturally bigger boobs) and lots of muscle in the ads, because that's a very beautiful look too.  Honestly, I don't even understand how putting a woman in an ad that your readers--if they have half a brain--know they could never look like through natural means even helps sell supplements. But obviously I'm not in advertising.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

they weren't joking about snowmeggadon

That's my front door with a 5 foot snow drift in front of it.  My son and I just shoveled for 3 1/2 hours and we didn't even do the side walks--there was no place to put the snow.  I hurt.  And there isn't even any crap food in the house for me to eat back all those calories.


Friday, February 8, 2013

"the highest peak in the Adirondacks!"

Let me start by saying that I began writing this a couple days ago and kinda gave up on it, but considering that I am stuck in my house due to snowmeggadon and I already spent the entire afternoon talking on the phone (to other bored people) and cleaning my bedroom closets***, I guess I'll buckle down and finish this shit. You lucky readers, you.

So, the other day in my continuing mission to throw out ALL THE THINGS, I cleaned out my bathroom cabinets. This yielded a whole green plastic trash bag of expired topical medications, hair "product" that had failed to live up to its advertising, bottles of body lotion with approximately 1/16th of an inch of lotion left in them, sunscreen that probably would promote skin cancer at this point. And the like. I also threw out a tin of Badger Balm that I bought in Lake Placid in 1998.

When I mentioned that, someone said that while she had no idea what Badger Balm was, she was pretty sure that after 14 years it was time for it to go.  Which sent me spiraling down the tunnel of misty water colored memories. (How's that for a mixed metaphor PLUS a reference to an abysmal 1970s song? Full service blog once again!)

In 1998, the gentleman who I was dating and I had a plan to climb Mt Marcy--"the highest peak in the Adirondacks!" (which is how I for years referred to it whenever I told this story, verbal quotation marks and exclamation point n' all.)  Actually *he* had a plan to climb Mt Marcy and I only went along because a.) I'll do just about anything once and b.) I like making the people I love happy, and this was gonna make him happy.  The year before he had attempted the climb with a bunch of his buds during a camping trip but they started out too late in the day, it started raining, and they ended up having to turn around before they reached the top. This weighed heavily on my guy. He didn't believe in being bested by Mother Nature. I was elected to help him fulfill his, uh, dream. He warned me ahead of time that this was a tough climb and that at a certain point the trail basically became vertical.  We day-hiked quite a bit, I felt like I was reasonably fit, and we did a few warm up mountains in late spring/early summer. (Including Mt Graylock, the highest peak in the Berkshires. Kids, let me just say this. The Berkshires are just a punkass bunch of little hills.)

I thought Mt Marcy was going to be challenging but fun.  I thought WRONG. (That's foreshadowing. Try to keep up.)

The first harbinger of impending not-ok-ness was when we were forced to postpone our original trip in early July after my then-12-year-old son was in an accident while with his father. We couldn't reschedule until August.  As those of you familiar with the northern hemisphere will know, days in mid-August are already quite a bit shorter than they are in early July.  This would ultimately turn out to be a problem.

For reasons that are lost to me now, we also got started later than anticipated. If I remember correctly, we started out with twelve hours of daylight ahead of us. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, we can climb up this mountain and back down again in 12 hours, we thought. And thus we set out, armed with nothing more than water, lunch, Skittles for energy, and a camera.  Nothing that would, like, help us in an emergency. Yes, we were morons.

I think by the time we stopped for lunch, it was becoming apparent that we were not making the time we thought we would.  It was also apparent that I was the weakest link.

I thought I was in good enough physical condition, the other hikes we'd done that year had been a piece of cake, but I was tiring and I was not-so-fast. By the time we reached the portion of the hike where the entire trail looked like this:

I was not as chipper as this adorable toddler whose picture came up when I google image searched "Mt Marcy trail." (And let me tell you, 14 years after the fact, proof that a two year old climbed that is a little depressing. Can we assume he was in a backpack till they let him out to snap the picture? Yeah, let's do that.) When we got to the very last part of the climb before the summit, and it was nothing but vertical rock, I sat down on a boulder and told my guy to go on without me and that I'd catch him on the way down. I seriously did not think my legs were going to move any more. Well, he wasn't having that and insisted that if I'd come that far, I had to reach the summit and see the view. I made it, we took some pictures, and then we realized that we had to start the hell down that mountain because oh my god, look at the time.

You might think that going down a mountain would be considerably easier than going up it, but my toes were smashing against the top of my hiking boots with each step downward. I ended up almost but not quite losing both my big toenails and they both had a horizontal ridge across them for years from damaging my nailbed. Nevertheless, we were almost running by the time we reached the bottom. Well, actually T was running and kinda dragging me along with him. We reached the parking lot just as it was getting dark. Which was a damn good thing since we hadn't been smart enough to bring along a flashlight.

We repaired to our motel room, changed, and went to dinner in Lake Placid, where we bought the Badger Balm, pretty sure we were going to need it.  I remember sitting in the restaurant and seriously wondering whether I was going to be able to walk back to the car once I stood up.  (Made it!)  I have never before or since had that feeling like my muscles just were NOT going to work.  And for at least three or four days after that, my legs and feet were so swollen I couldn't wear shoes. I had to wear flipflops to work when I returned. It was that bad.

But I did have a sense of accomplishment. I might have almost had to crawl down that damn mountain but I did make it to the top and back. So, yeah, for years I always laughingly referred to it as Mt Marcy--"the highest peak in the Adirondacks!" and called the whole experience the crowning athletic achievement of my life.  I realized in talking about this the other day that I still felt that way. I am proud of my PRs in the gym and happy when I make one, but I don't think anything I do in there is ever going to top doing that climb.

I peaked at age 35. I can live with that!


***You think the Badger Balm from 1998 was bad? I found a whole box of magazines today from 1995. Yeah.

Friday, February 1, 2013

healthy, wut?

Now that January is over, I'm gonna write the post I've been meaning to write about what (besides organizing yo shit) random blogs I read have emphasizing in the new year. Timely, that's me!

I read a few cooking related sites and sometimes I'll click on a link from one of those and end up reading another cooking blog I've never seen before, etc etc.  I'm not exactly sure why I do this. I never make 98.7% of the recipes I see on them and a lot of them are about things I don't have the skill to do or the inclination to learn. But I guess it's better than porn or internet gambling, so basically, shut up. Anyway, in January after 3 months of telling us how to bake 453 different types of cookies, make homemade liqueurs to gift, assemble a turducken to impress the folks at Christmas, and all other manner of excess, the food sites turn instead to the "lighter, healthier" food we're all either supposed to be craving in January or are just eating because we're pissed off our pants don't button anymore.

Reading these "healthier" recipes makes a person realize one crucial piece of information: no one in 2013 North America can possibly agree on what healthier food *is*.  Oh, I guess no one is against green leafy vegetables (even if, as one brilliant internet commenter maintained, kale tastes like "dirt and unhappiness".)  But for every other food group or macronutrient, there's someone out there maintaining it's healthy while someone else is trying to cut it out of their diet. For example, a lot of the purported healthier recipes involved cutting out dairy, which makes me (of course) go wtf? Unless you're lactose intolerant and have never heard of Lactaid pills, WHY? Are you still operating under the faulty assumption that saturated fat is bad for you? Go read a book. Also? Cheese tastes like the inverse of kale. Sunshine and joy! I dunno, something like that anyway.  Likewise, a lot of the healthier suggestions involved pushing your recipes to the vegan side.  As a weightlifter, you know that makes me clutch my pearlsVersagripps.  Proteinz! Where's the proteinz?!!??

And then there's the question of what's a healthier sweetener.  Molasses and maple syrup seem to be trumpeted as somehow better for you than sugar.  Because they're less processed. Or something. Molasses especially is supposed to be full of micronutrients. Listen, I will take a multivitamin every day for the rest of my life if it means I never ever have to consume molasses. But, parenthetically, I will consume molasses above attending the "conquer your sweet tooth" hypnosis workshop at the yoga studio I sometimes go to.  What's next? A hypnosis workshop on how not to have orgasms?  Some people want your entire life to taste like dirt and unhappiness. God.

Listen, I understand the impulse to eat something other than cookies after all the holiday food comas are done. I've been craving and eating salad. My salads involves goat cheese and craisins and homemade balsamic vinaigrette, yes, but also lots and lots of dark leafy greens. Moderation, people!

And if you've read this far, here's a reward for you.

That song's been stuck in my head for two weeks. Hopefully I've now ear-wormed you too. Full service blog!

I bet Adam Levine eats kale.  I hear he does yoga.