The Reality of Man Candy

Because I follow a lot of blogs and possibly because I share the interests of many women my age cough* cough*, my Facebook feed has become overwhelmed with photos of largely topless men and some who have only strategically placed items to protect what little modesty remains to them. I’ve thought it pretty amusing, but haven’t given it much further thought. Here’s one to show you what I mean (it’s not gratuitous, at all):

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Until this morning, when I came face to face with it. Given I live at the beach now, it shouldn’t have been surprising as there is a smorgasbord of young backpackers walking around sunning themselves. But this was different. It was a fair way back from the beach, up the hill where the residents live and outside the supermarket. A man, who would generously be about 30 years old, wearing shorts and  nothing else. He clearly put a huge amount of time and effort into the large and defined muscles on his body and equal time trimming his hair and beard. He could have been one of the chests that had popped up on my screen, the look was so familiar to me. But something about it was off.

Driving home, I tried to put my finger on what exactly it was that I found off-putting. Surely I should have been ogling, as I’m sure was his intent, given that all around him were fully clothed on this slightly chilly morning. And it wasn’t just that I couldn’t picture myself ever being with someone who looked like that, it was that I genuinely didn’t want to. Having dated a guy when I was much younger who spent an inordinate amount of time in the gym, I know how restrictive it is. It also tends to be boring, with your partner constantly being vigilant about what they eat and drink and tired because they work out so much.

As a woman, I know about the pressure society puts on you to look good. Though I might rail against it at times and the double standard, I still get my hair and nails done and put on makeup most days. It makes me feel good and I enjoy it, even while acknowledging to myself the increasing futility of meeting expectations while aging. I put in some effort, while consciously making the decision to not go to extremes, which for me is fillers onwards. I realise others draw the line earlier, possibly in the area of hair removal, others what I consider later with lasers, and some just ask “what line are you talking about?”. A couple of years ago, I did some copywriting for a plastic surgeon’s website and that for me was an eye-opener. I decided there was nothing about myself that I disliked enough to voluntarily be cut open and chopped up, and then deal with being in recovery for at least 2 months.

I look at those recognisably sliced and diced women that are common in the areas I frequent and I don’t understand the attraction to that look. But then I wonder if I’m falling into the trap we accuse men of perpetuating of wanting us to look effortlessly, naturally beautiful instead of breaking the myth about how hard it actually is, as well as expensive, to look “normal”.

So this guy was essentially being a woman. In order to look as cut, muscled and groomed as he did, he would have had to prioritise looking good ahead of many things in his life. Given he was walking around half-dressed at 9.30am on a weekday morning, he probably wasn’t heading off to an office job and he didn’t look like someone who got their hands dirty working a trade.  I’m assuming that whatever job he had, it would relate in some way to how he looked.

If he had been a woman, I probably would have admired the commitment and the end result before moving on. But a man doing the same thing! Shock and horror. What a waste of time! He probably would look better if he didn’t try as hard. Cue the brain explosion…

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Death becomes us

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There’s nothing like a funeral to make you take a long hard look at your life. Even if you’ve live a long, well regarded life, it still doesn’t quite seem enough, given the loved ones who grieve your passing. Sadder still would be have no one who missed you, though in a way it would be easier knowing that your death would cause no pain. My great uncle was 95 and had accomplished some amazing things, but the thing that stood out most, which is unusual for a very accomplished man but fit well with my own memories of him, was how kind and caring he was, as a family man and as a doctor, and how he didn’t judge any of the people who came to him with their problems. Because it is incredibly hard not to judge and to care greatly for people outside our immediate circle. To be open and understanding leaves you vulnerable to being hurt yourself, which is why it is far easier to build a fortress and hand the key out to only a select few who you know can be trusted. The emotional resilience in people who can do this is remarkable.

The photographs shown to Moonlight Sonata flicked between a vital young man, a man in middle age then in increments inching towards the time of his passing. The beauty and tragedy of aging flowing in one inevitable direction. I have always known him as a grandfather, so for me he seemed to stay the same until near the end when he became much more fragile. Seeing the earlier photos on the big screens though, showed that for a lie. He was once the age I am now, younger and older. This too will one day be me, my life shown in a series of photos.

Sitting in the chapel, my thoughts inevitably turned to how my own funeral would go and if I were to die tomorrow, I’m not sure I’d be happy with what I’ve accomplished. I haven’t saved hundreds of lives, brought new lives into the world or helped countless people through difficult times. The things I’ve done have also been done by millions of others. I’ve yet to leave a smudge, let alone my mark on life.

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This, perhaps, is the tragedy of a shortened life. So much potential unrealised. What could they have done if given the chance? I have, regretfully, been to the funerals of two children close to me and they are almost indescribable. There are no words to convey the horrific sadness. How their parents kept moving shows a bravery and strength I don’t know if I possess. How can you find the joy to celebrate that they lived when it was not enough?

To believe that this life is not the end and that we will meet them again in some other time and place is comforting. I don’t think it matters where or in what form it comes. For myself, I’m happy to believe that death is the end, but for my loved ones? No. If they were to go on living in some form, I’d want to be there too.

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Chasing the past

 

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I’m a bit late with this week’s entry, but my excuse is good. It’s school holidays and we had visitors so instead of writing, I seemed to either be making food or cleaning up. Making food is my forte, cleaning up is not. Especially as our food obsessed cat lowered his whiskers and hoovered up any remains left by children on the floor and then promptly vomited everywhere, adding to the cleaning.

The last time our guests were here, we had an amazingly fun night out (see my earlier entry “Dancing”). Last night we tried to do the same. Now we all know it never works, but yet try anyway. We had most of the same people and a few extras, the same cocktails and pizza, but the magic just wasn’t there. Instead of one of the best nights out I’ve ever had, despite the debilitating knee injury, and stories that will remain untold on pain of death, there were stifled yawns and a few snarky comments from my overtired husband who’d been out to lunch all day, the poor man. Instead of dancing on into the wee hours, we were home by 11.

Fun nights out require spontaneity and a willingness to remove “no” from your vocabulary. More food? More drinks? Nightclub? Dwarves? Yes to all! They’re also one of the few things that practise does not make you better, only worse, as cynicism has no power and familiarity is a dampener. It’s like when you had a great holiday when you are younger and you go back years later and its just not the same. You’ve changed, so has the country and the people you met there have moved on. It would be better to never go back or try to recreate, as all it does is layer over the good memories with less stellar ones. But yet, the desire to go back and try to do it all again is almost irresistible. Just ask all those creepy old men in bars still trying to pick up the 18 year olds or the 45 year olds off their trollies at music festivals. They might be at the extreme end of things, but everyone does it to a certain extent. If I got a call saying everyone was back in town and we’re going out again tonight, I’d be readying my outfit in a trice, despite knowing that the chances of it being another amazing night weren’t great. Really we’re just Pavlov’s dogs slathering at the ringing bell of pleasure.

Looking Crap

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Why is it, when you are looking crap, that you always run into someone you don’t know very well? Strangers don’t care and if you saw someone you are friends with, you could explain, have a bit of a laugh, and then move on, secure in the knowledge that they knew this wasn’t how you normally looked. But it’s never the last group of people, it’s always the first, which comprise (in order of descending levels of horror): The last person who dumped you, your old boss or former colleagues, any previous exes, your exes’ friends and people from school you never wanted to see again.

I’ve just been away skiing for a week and last night was looking definitely worse for wear. I’d been out in the sun and wind and drunk too much wine in a superheated lodge so resembled one of those dehydrated chips you find periodically under the couch cushions. Two days of driving failed to add any to my level of moisture. I’d also forgotten to take my tweezers so after nine days, my militant and well organised eyebrows were staging a successful coup to take over my face. To compound the problem, we’d stayed at a friend’s working sheep farm on the way home. As they are on tank water, we were all conscious about water conservation so didn’t shower which might possibly have led me to forgetting to brush my hair too. We then went out into the paddocks on the back of a ute and “helped” (I use that in the loosest sense) with the lambing. A smoky bonfire lunch of charcoaled sausages later and the overall package of utter degeneration was complete, from my muddy boots to my birds’ nest hair.

Stopping for takeaway sushi on the way home seemed a great idea at the time. Our local Japanese is quite nice and knowing the menu, I could order from the car and we could just grab it on the way home. Unfortunately, the snatch-and-go didn’t go quite to plan. The food wasn’t quite ready, so I had to wait, antsy as all hell, given my current state and wishing I had been driving the final leg so spared the indignity of appearing in public at all. And of course, while standing there trapped, the door opens and in walks a well-dressed couple. Thinking they looked familiar, I glanced at them for slightly too long and was then forced to acknowledge the presence of my former boss. He gave me a solid once up and down followed by a condescending smile. Given our working relationship had ended on not a great note, the judgement was mortifying. Clearly, I had “let myself go” after having children, spectacularly so. Saying something in these situations can only make it worse, so I tried the next option of just brazening it out and pretending everything was fine and I was aiming to look homeless – its the latest hipster look!

As I spent a bit of time today doing some grooming, I assured myself that I didn’t care and that no one probably even remembers who I am, should chat at the water cooler happen to come around to former workers they’d recently bumped into. Unlike school, at least there are no reunions for former workplaces. Not that I care that he saw me like that. No, really I don’t. Promise. I’m just going to wear a paper bag with eye holes cut out from now on, unless I’m coming straight from the hairdressers.

The Perks of Aging

I’ve been reading a bit of YA (young adult) and NA (new adult) at the moment, as my current WIP(work in progress) (that was the last of the acronyms, I promise) is YA, so it gets me in the head space and also allows me to see what’s out there. I enjoy the genre, though it tends to be the exception, rather than the rule, unless its Dystopian. I love a good world-gone-bad/struggle against the powers-that-be  book. The problem for me is I’ve been an adult for a long time and my recollection of my teens and early twenties are nothing like in these books. On more than one occasion, I’ve rolled my eyes and scoffed loudly.

I remember the confusion and the acute embarrassment stemming out of what now seems fairly minor occurrences. I also remember being crippled with self-doubt and covering it as best I could with some fairly spectacular bravado. I had boyfriends and I fell in love, but I had no perspective to judge how important they were. To be honest, my perspective on most things was lacking. I went from experience to experience with no real goal or idea where I was heading. The entire time was chaotic.

I knew I was a pretty girl, but I didn’t ever grasp where exactly I sat on the scale. I wasn’t like the gorgeous model types, too short and rounded no matter how I starved myself. You can’t diet yourself tall and lanky. I was smart, but not brilliant enough to be one of the intellectual girls. So what was I? I never found where I fit and always felt I was chasing after a label that I wasn’t really good enough for. What I didn’t realise is that no one does, because the whole thing is illusionary.

Now I’m at the stage where the beauties are all much younger and career accomplishments I used to chase are obsolete. I’m no longer comparing myself to other women and can celebrate their accomplishments without feeling myself lacking. Compliments about appearance go with the mostly unspoken caveat of “for your age”. To be honest, it’s kind of liberating to not be trying to find a label anymore. I can finally relax and not worry about whether or not I’m attractive, because no one is looking at me like that any longer. Now when I’m walking down the street, the only thing I’m getting judged on is my parenting.