The Surprising Truth About What’s Beautiful
She’s a Botticelli, and he’s smitten. A tale of preferences at my local gym
The woman was facing away from me when I first noticed her. She was short, probably six inches shorter than I am. At least my weight and then some.
Her body was all curves. She had on long green leggings which emphasized her bottom. She was small-breasted, her hair long and brown, cascading over her shoulders. She had a sweet face. She looked like someone out of a Peter Paul Rubens painting. When she moved, she did so with the kind of grace that was reminiscent of sheer summer curtains billowing in a late afternoon breeze.
The entire time she was in the gym I didn’t see her pick up a single weight.
Her gym companion is a regular. He’s got biceps like basketballs, his body hard and sculpted. I see him every afternoon. Every gym has a few guys like this: he’s huge. The girls are all giving him sideways glances.
The general assumption is that guys like this one want stick-thin fitness models. Perfect bodies. Just like theirs.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
He was obviously seriously, hopelessly smitten with this girl. A girl whom many in the gym world would ridicule as fat.
She was, to my eye, lovely. Clearly to his, too. The way they interacted, the way he looked at her. It was beyond charming. Just….delightful.
Delightful, if for no other reason than the two of them fundamentally disprove the widespread bullshit that you and I have to be thin, perfect, muscled (name your characteristic) to be loved.
This guy was tush-over-teakettle. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. I have never seen him smile so much. He was teetering dangerously close to the cliff-edge of goofy.
Seriously step-on-your-tongue goofy.
He apparently loves soft. Pillowy. He likes sinking into the sweetness of a woman’s full body, her curves. It’s welcoming.
Not an anorexic body where the bones jut out so sharply they can splice your spleen.
Since I’ve been both soft and pillowy, and I’ve had that anorexic’s body, I can relate. I can attest that for all the years I was anorexic, near death and obsessing over a single lettuce leaf, not a single man wanted anything to do with me. Yet that attention was what I wanted, what I starved myself for day and night.
Pushing for impossible perfection pushes good people away.
The ongoing battle to be perfect rages on. These days it’s exacerbated by body-shamers at the gym. I find this particularly hateful because it’s already hard enough for folks to get out the door, much less show up where people who are already hard-bodied make fun of them.
The other day I got tagged in a story by Medium peep Ricky Thomas Gordon. One quote left me laughing so hard I nearly fell off my chair. This is what got me:
I tried going to a Gold’s Gym once but was embarrassed and intimidated by giant guys pumping ridiculously heavy weights and yelling at one another to do more. I distinctly remember walking in, seeing what was happening and pretending I was looking for a friend. I looked around and actually said out loud, “Well, I don’t see Larry,” and walked out — never to return.
That’s funny. My handy man was here at the time and we guffawed to the point of tears. Both at how wonderfully inventive this was (my mind doesn’t work that fast) and at the aching, wicked truth of it: how easily we are intimidated and terrified by what we perceive about others, and what we imagine they think of us.
(Small secret: most folks are far too self-absorbed to be thinking about us, but that’s another article)
So many good people are scared off taking care of themselves for fear of ridicule. Because gym assholes and self-righteous shamers have infected the places where you and I do our level best just to be fit, much less fitness kings and queens.
Which is precisely why this couple so delighted me.
The assumptions we make about what others want and expect are almost always wrong. Yet we spend billions trying to be something that in many cases might not be at all what the love of our life wants, or is attracted to.
To wit, my last BF always liked me with an additional ten pounds — where I am now- when I hated and struggled with that very weight. He liked a little padding.
I thought the padding made me look fat. At 5'8" and 128 lbs.
Most women I know would kill to get to that weight, yet I saw that ten pounds as ugly fat.
Dear god the bullshit we feed ourselves. The BF just wanted to be able to fool around without having an unplanned appendectomy.
The best men I know are put off by those of us who can’t tuck into a sandwich or a piece of pizza once in a while. Our constant complaining about, fascination with and self-disgust about a single errant calorie is fucking exhausting.
In precisely the same way that a partner’s endless fascination with this or that muscle or his beer belly or dad bod or whatever it is that he is allowing to eat him alive makes him incredibly boring.
I watched the couple walk towards the locker room. The Gym King periodically touched his Botticelli beauty lightly on the arm, a gesture of immense sweetness. Each time he did it she leaned in ever-so-slightly. Delicate, feminine, appreciative.
He loves that body, and the woman in it.
A woman in full. With all her curves and her femininity. His preference.
That’s the whole point. For you, for me, for any one of is there is someone who is going to find us unbelievably yummy just as we are, not as some manufactured picture of perfection sold us by gym posters and airbrushed magazines.
You and I may fear to go where the gods work out because of some twisted version of what we think we’re supposed to look like. It’s like cleaning the house before the housekeepers get there. I would argue strenuously that there is likely someone (or several someones) who are gazing at you with deep appreciation for what you are and what you look like right now.
Our ability to appreciate and enjoy the body we inhabit is a lot more alluring than any compulsion to seek perfection, which doesn’t exist anyway. You and I do, right here and right now. Being comfortable in the skin we are in is sexy as hell.
She isn’t fat. She’s fabulous.
Just ask Mr. Smitten.