Wednesday, March 23, 2011


When I was growing up, my Dad got me a load of second-hand Marvel comics. I found them a bit soap-opera-y and complicated to be honest, so I could never really appreciate them (there go my gay geek credentials), but I always found the adverts to be interesting.

I was a skinny teen who grew upwards rather than outwards. My parents were the type of people who simply name their children after pop stars, so I was called Paul after Paul McCartney (I guess it could have been worse - had I been born in 1991 I would have been probably called Vanilla Ice). There were always lots of Pauls in my class at school (more unimaginative parents), and teachers would sometimes find other ways to distinguish us. My best friend (also Paul), was called "Broad-shouldered Paul" by one teacher (who sometimes got a little inappropriate - that's another blog entry). But I always heard this with a sense of irritation that my shoulders were not broad enough to get this monicker. I was "Skinny Paul" by implication.

My skinniness came to a kind of peak around 1992 when, as a student, I had a terrible vegetarian diet (mainly cheese sandwiches) and took on a full-time summer job in a nursing home, lugging around obese pensioners. By the end of the summer, there was practically nothing left of me at 10 stone (140 pounds).

I moved in with my husband at the end of that summer (another blog entry), who professed it his goal to "fatten me up". He did a reasonable job. I've never really had to cook for myself (he claims he enjoys it), and I'm 14 stone. Now, in my late 30s, I can still easily lose weight, but I can put it on just as easily also - so it's a balancing act. I have long ago accepted that I will never have a Charles Atlas body, I'm happy to have "just" a healthy, reasonably toned body that works properly - and I sometimes feel a little sad when I see younger guys at my gym, their backs covered in spots, their skin all shiny, and their muscles out of control, clearly on steroids. Is it really that important to be huge? Even though I felt pressure as a teenager to be big, that is nothing compared to what boys nowadays have to face. Check out this advert for Captain America - the latest hunk-fest with Chris Evans.

I would love to see a film where a big muscle-bound lug goes into one of these machines and comes out with his muscles all shrunken away, but he now has this amazing personality and great intellect. He resolves world conflicts through his great diplomacy and wisdom, and counters global problems like world hunger by inventing new technologies. He even stops an asteroid smashing into the planet with one of his inventions.

And while many people, myself included, will find Chris Evans very attractive, it's a shame that so many Hollywood films foreground physical attractiveness and strength over other positive qualities.

1 comment:

theguyliner said...

Oh me too. I dreaded summer, where I would hear "What are those two pieces o' string hanging down from your shorts - oh they're your legs" from every adult in a 10-mile radius.

I still feel the pressure now, at 35. I'm still slim, despite the initial signs of a middle-aged poitrine edging their way through my shirts, but the sheer bombardment of buffness one sees is quite disconcerting. Of course all these actors have personal trainers, are alcoholics so don't drink, and have nutritious meals delivered to them, so they're not 'real' but I realise why so many teenage boys are heading down the gym after school. It's not about being healthy; it's about not looking like the odd one out (and getting sex).