I noticed lately that I’ve started turning into one of those women of a certain age who have these disproportionate middle sections, with comparatively smaller, even fit, legs. I call it the chicken-lady syndrome (although I would argue that chickens are much, much more fit than I).
Today I went around Ridgecrest Park in Aliso Viejo, California, asking complete strangers to take pictures of me attempting to exercise at the fitness stations. In the end, I was able to talk a couple teenage girls and an uber-fit young man into the project.
I walk. A lot. And I like it. I started it this year because the walking helps with my blood pressure and cholesterol. Mostly, I like it because it keeps me accountable and connected to my dog, Baxter. But before that, I spent a lot of years living inside my head, and never really prioritizing and seldom considering that there’s an entire exterior to be maintained.
Now before you get all aww, gee, poor little fat lady, don’t confuse my self-deprecation with self-pity. I think it’s dang funny that I look like a chicken-lady, and I wouldn’t be sharing these photos if it weren’t quite entertaining. Contrary to an annoying assumption in this culture, self-deprecation isn’t a need or cue for pity. It’s an ability to look at yourself from the same perspective you would when watching, let’s say, South Park.
So when I get an image in my head of myself as chicken-lady, rolly polly on two spindles, or as Pooh Bear, with my head constantly stuck in the honey pot, I’m going to call it out and laugh, because that’s just plain funny.
I take enough pictures of myself doing things that I could have, maybe shouldhave noticed this phenomenon, but I’m usually cropping out head shots or focusing the camera on an action or another person, and really, who sits and stares at photos of herself? That’s kinda’ weird.
Or is it? Maybe the narcissists have it right—at least in terms of physical fitness. In Madison we were in a house with a lot of mirrors. At our home in Lover, we have no full length mirrors and only a couple bathroom vanities and hall mirror that cuts off your legs and part of your rear-end. I had not actually been really looking at my body for a good twenty years.
As it happens, somewhere in those last twenty years, I arrived at some strange place of self acceptance or even love for myself (oh gag, I know) at around the same time as I finally began seeing my physical body. So I wasn’t seeing it in a negative way. I love my breasts and my legs and my hair and smile. I don’t mind my wrinkles and my scars and I find the fact that I have a pooh-bear belly and a weeble-wobble butt pretty doggone funny.
Loving yourself, as you are, and deciding you want be stronger, faster, fitter, are not opposing ideas. In fact, loving yourself allows you to see fitness as a privilege, not an obligation. As I started seeing myself, for the first time, from the point of view of the mirror, I realized that it’s been fun to watch the changes in my legs as I’ve been walking. It’s great to see my breasts compete with my belly again.
Someone recently offered me some of her women’s magazines and I suddenly understood the difference between looking at myself in the mirror and looking at those magazines. I hadn’t been looking at those magazines for years.
Narcissim has its benefits if we’re looking at ourselves and loving ourselves and finding ways to improve. Where it can really be dangerous is when we compare ourselves to others – both in magazines and in life.
There are a lot of things to like about being a chicken-lady, breasts not being the least of these. But mostly, this blog would be far less worthwhile (for most of my kinds of readers, anyway) if these photos were of some hot chick just showing us all yet one more perfectly unattainable exercise demonstration.
My advice to anyone still actually paying attention through the end of this blog:Step 1: Love yourself Step 2: Laugh long and hard at yourself. Step 3: Get over yourself – particularly your fear of being seen as foolish or ugly or incompetent. Step 4: Make your goals about function and fitness, not fashion. Step 5: If you see the crazy chicken lady of Ridgecrest park, say hello. No skewering, basting or patronizing allowed.