I choose my face, not my bum

2011-08-10 00:00

SINCE turning 40 (I am now 41) I have started taking note of the number of times my husband and I discuss little else other than our physical deteriorations. “I don’t mean to complain,” I find myself complaining to Herman, “but my back is stiff when I get up in the morning, and my knees are starting to ache when I open the fridge.”

Later that night, as we lie in bed together, he tells me how that leg that was operated on five years ago is starting to pain, his lower back hurts and can I please press the pressure points for his sinuses?

We sigh, and realise we are travelling together on the carriage called marriage in which we hope to arrive together in that golden land of our golden years. It’s apparently not for sissies and is physically harder than where we are now.

We reflect on the fact that we have both had to give up alcohol, as we lie awake like two sparrows on a fence if we so much as have one glass of wine. He pats my leg (which wobbles) tells me that I don’t look a day older than when he married me, and I tell him that he still looks like a Greek god.

We both know that it is these co-dependent lies that are the beginning of the end of the body. As long as someone is lying and lying with you, you don’t need to roll over and look at your bottom. Carry on lying to each other, and you will be sharing a tricycle walker as you wobble into the sunshine.

But before things got too bad, Herman started cycling and out of jealousy I started going to gym. I put aside all my previous scornful feelings about hating machines, believing that true exercise should be about me and nature. I said goodbye to the person who stayed strong and fit by giving birth naturally, striding out into the mielie fields, hewing wood and collecting water.

And this time, unlike all the other attempted and failed times, somehow my relationship with gym worked out. In fact, when I first started, I found that I was in a relationship with very little else but my gym. It had become a lifestyle. As my three-year-old Pippa says when we play throw and catch: “I am the ball!” (instead of “Eye on the ball”). Since I started gym this time, I am the machine. It is no longer a mechanism of torture. It has become my friend.

Whereas I used to keep my children at home if they had the slightest infection, now we drive to town every day, and I drop them at pre-school regardless. “It’s just a light pneumonia,” I explain to the Juffrou as I place a sleepy and fever-ridden child on her shoulder before heading off to my machines.

And the best thing about starting gym, I discovered, was that before I got going, I had a whole session with the biokineticist. And it was all about me. I sat in her office, crossed my legs, folded my hands and leaned forward eagerly — I had not had so much time to talk about myself to a captive audience since… why, since 10 years ago when I was 30 and sobbing at a therapist about why on Earth I could possibly still be single.

With my biokinetic guru (BG), we discussed my muscle-fat ratio, my heart rate, and my blood pressure (and ooh, Aunty, that took up some time, apparently mine is exceptionally low — in fact I should be dead. But I am not, instead I am at gym. What a woman!)

We also discussed how fit I wanted to become. My BG said seeing that I was not an athlete she would get me into the fit but not exceptionally fit category. “Can’t we put a ‘not yet’ before athlete?” I wanted to ask, but humility held me back.

Weight-wise, I admitted that I was not desperate to lose. My friend Mel said that Meryl Streep said that at a certain age a woman must choose between her bum and her face. While I am at my heaviest ever right now, I am also at my happiest ever. And I have already chosen my face above my boude. So leave the overall weight, I told the BG, but can I please have a new set of thighs?

Shew! It’s been a whirlwind time. A season of change. A lifestyle makeover. But it has paid off.

“When exactly did you start?” My mother asked me after I gym-evangelised her on the phone.

“Um,” I squirmed slightly uncomfortably, “yesterday.”

• Catherine Smetherham is an ex-city dweller who is rediscovering herself and South Africa from a platteland perspective. She lives in Strydpoort, North West. Contact her at Catherine@holtzhausen. com

 

CATHERINE SMETHERHAM

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