The best blogs are often written when you’re hopping mad, steaming about something that literally has you frothing at the mouth. And since I’ve now Whatsapp’d everyone my outrage (no one cares) it’s time to Vent My Feelings.
So as we are imminently due to leave for the airport, my dad – usual all-round champion of women – says: “You may want to ease up on the weights, it might make you a bit…” he pauses as he sees my eyes pop out of my head…”muscular.”
After getting a fantastic personal trainer (Tyrone Folino at Alias coaching) last year, I started doing weights properly because I wanted to feel stronger and leaner. It may have been dealing with the catharsis of losing my husband Rob the year before, but I felt I needed something to give me focus. What was unexpected, however, was how empowered it made me feel.
Some people hate the gym but I love it because it gives my brain a bit of a time off – it’s a space for me to relax the million thoughts in my head.
Doing weights also made me strong. I could flip my own mattress, carry my own luggage, move my furniture around – all of the things I had to rely on Rob to do. There is nothing on earth that would make me give up how strong it makes me feel inside and outside.
So I looked at my dad and said: “What’s the problem with that?”
And I give him credit – I mean he really had a deathwish – because he continued: “It might intimidate some men…they might be put off by it.”
My mother was listening and what followed then was a verbal savaging by the two of us akin to a gazelle who’d clip-clopped into the middle of a lion’s den.
I had to tell my dad in no uncertain terms, that quite “frankly I don’t give a shit about that. Any guy who is intimidated by the fact that I am strong and fit, and may range on being muscular is not the guy for me.” And then I finished it off with: “I am really disappointed that you think I should change how I am to make myself more appealing to a man.”
I get it’s a generational thing, and although he instilled a strong fitness ethic in myself and my sister, my 70-year-old dad is never going to get the current trend for strong women, or understand why I want muscular quads.
But the reason why this really hit home is the implication that I need a man to do all these things for me, or to lift things. In your 30s, if you haven’t settled down, this is a major fucking problem.
It’s bad enough that you are made to feel crap – by proxy of everyone else being coupled up – as if you aren’t happy or somehow missing out because you don’t have a partner, let alone that your body is in some way ‘putting guys off’.
The reason why I build my body the way I have is because I can’t allow myself to rely on a man – or anyone – for that matter. I live on my own – there is no Plan B, there is just me.
I still hear some women saying that they think they might get too muscular and to that I would say, exactly what I said to my dad: “Whose body standards are we working to here? Literally who the fuck said a size 8 or a 10 is the best body shape and that is what we should all strive towards?”
No one, right? It’s just a narrative that has been going on and around for a very, very long time that we have come to see it as truth when it is anything but that.
I wrote a blog on The Pool about fat-shaming ourselves and perhaps I should expand that to include everyone else around us who is reading off some warped hymn sheet of what a woman’s body should look like.
Because I know that at the age of 36, I am stronger than I ever was in my 20s. I also know with the wisdom of experience that no one is coming to save me – that there are no happy endings, just existing, and choosing what you make of that existence.
And so the greatest, most empowering thing I can do for myself is by making sure I am at my most independent and capable – and quite frankly any man that is put off by that is not going to have the strength I need and require to run alongside me in every aspect of my life.