Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lullaby Of Two Hearts

Parenting is perhaps the most wondrous, terrifying, ecstatic journey available to us as human beings. It introduces us to a love stronger than anything we have ever imagined, a love so overwhelming that it is at times shocking while simultaneously pushing us to our full capacity for patience, tolerance, courage, wisdom and perseverance. We suddenly cease to be the center of our own world and shift our focus to children for whom we are now entirely responsible.

For most people who have not yet experienced it, the thought of becoming a parent inspires a combination of trepidation and exhilaration. There are so many idealized images that come to mind about the joys of raising a child, many of them similar to those mentioned above. However, there are also many fears that accompany those images. They can range from concerns about repeating the same mistakes as our own parents to fears about the world into which we are bringing our future children. Perhaps the greatest obstacle that must be overcome in order to be a successful and happy parent is letting go of the expectations of perfection. In essence, parenting boils down to our ability to manage our expectations, both those we place on ourselves and those we place on our children.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Love Handles, Actually

They say that exercise lengthens, strengthens and tones. If you do nothing then what happens? You put on a kilo a year–it is the easiest thing and you do that for five, ten years and suddenly your best self is way, way, way behind you.

Today, nothing signifies your status more than your fitness or your lack of it.

This obsession with the firmness of our abdominal muscles, quadriceps, the fascination with our muscle tone, the need to get on the scales at least once every day–frankly, it was always a chick thing. In my childhood at Canadian boarding school, fitness was a mandatory passion. Your family was paying big bucks for you to study and choose a sport every term to excel in–whether they showed up for the games was a non-matter because most of us were from lands far-far away. Fitness was a mandatory part of every old or new boy’s identity.

Fast forward into the 21st century and our concept of success–financial, professional, emotional, social and spiritual is bound up completely with our physical appearance. Our fitness level. A man’s firmness–that’s what matters most. Not the size of his wallet or his heart or his knob. The size of his quadriceps. The size of his biceps. The size of his VO2 Max.

“Men grow cold as girls grow old and we all lose our charms in the end,” Marilyn Monroe breathed in “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”–the ultimate expression of 20th-century females aspiration. And now the terrible knowledge haunts men too. Isn’t that why our lives revolve around this pathological obsession with health, with fitness, with the definition of our physical body? Isn’t that why we spend longer time in gyms than we do devouring food? Because now we know it applies to us too. We all lose our charms in the end. Once, being fit was about how young we were. Now being fit is about how we age.

What a strange, turbulent relationship we have with our bodies. Successful fat people have gone the way of the dinosaur, the dodo and Simon Le Bon. Once upon a time successful fatties walked the Earth. But they walk the Earth no more.

We can’t take you seriously unless you take your fitness seriously. Politicians are now obliged to be Olympian or actors. If you are fat and a party leader it is not going to work out. You have to at least be seen trying to work out. Throwing yourself into fitness can also backfire because you can’t always look cool when you are pushing yourself to the limit.

But it is not just image.

Keeping fit brings down blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, reduces weight, extends your life, and makes for a better sex life. We don’t endure all this pain because we want to be fit. We endure all this pain because we want to be sane. With advancing age comes the inevitable expanding paunch. But it’s no longer just women who are under pressure to remain lean and lithe gym fanatic.