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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Do these gym shorts make me look fat?

Carole Townsend

Carole Townsend

EDITOR'S NOTE: Carole Townsend, a correspondent for the Daily Post, is beginning a new blog called Food For Thought. It is available online at www.gwinnettdailypost.com/townsend.

I am officially convinced that God is a man. Oh sure, all the likenesses I've ever seen depict a man, and all the references in the Bible say He's a man, but as a woman who stepped across the threshold of "50" last December, I have what I consider to be concrete proof.

Men, for the most part, age pretty well. They do. Admit it. Graying hair makes a man look distinguished. Gray hair on many women makes them look tired, sometimes even unkempt. Not all women, mind you, just some. I think this phenomenon can be chalked up to hair coloring products and society's expectations that we use them.

Older men look good behind the wheel of a sports car. Women just look, I don't know, desperate in one, or like they borrowed their husband's car for the day. I know. I just sold mine.

Thanks to gravity and those all-powerful hormones, women begin to bulge in some places and thin in others after 50, even if they work out (trust me; I know what I'm talking about). Men just look kind of, I don't know, sinewy after 50.

The zinger, of course, is that women spend billions annually to look beautiful. To look younger. To age well.

Have you been to a gym lately? I have. I believe in exercising regularly for health reasons. I used to believe in doing it for appearance reasons, but I've had to face a few realities. Now mind you, I am speaking for myself here and not for all women. Of course women, feel free to chime in. Make me feel better.

Anyway, back to the gym. I was exercising the other morning, huffing and puffing through my cardio regimen on the elliptical machine. I happened to glance to my right and catch my image in the floor-to-ceiling mirror. For a second, I actually thought I was looking at someone else. Surely that woman couldn't be me -- when did all that happen?

Then I looked over to the free weights area, and there was a man -- he was 70 years old, easily -- smoothly curling 35-pound weights as though they were soup cans. Hardly any effort at all. The muscles in his arms were well defined. His silvery-black hair was in place. He was not at all "fluffy." And the icing on the cake? He was smiling.

I looked back at my reflection. The muscles in my arms are there, sure, but apparently they're pretty well insulated. I was sweating, and my hair was sticking out all over in a frightening mess. I most definitely was not smiling.

When I hit 40, a wonderful thing happened. It was as though all the expected Southern conversational niceties just didn't matter anymore, and I finally felt able to speak my mind rather than just say what I thought people wanted to hear. It was very freeing, I must say. I also relaxed, felt better able to enjoy my children and my husband, and felt more at ease in my own skin. I liked that about turning 40.

When I hit 50, other things happened. The attitude remained the same, but did you know that women can grow facial hair? I'm not talking a 5 o'clock shadow or anything that dramatic, but still. No one warned me. Arches fall, glutes fall, eyelids fall, other stuff falls. Varicose veins take on the size and geography of colorful tattoos. Now I'm not naming any names here, but I know for a fact that I am not alone in these discoveries.

Oh well. I like me. Good thing, because I'm not up-to-date on the latest pills, potions and creams that promise ageless beauty ad infinitum. I'm too cheap to buy them anyway. I also feel that I must share this, just to be fair and honest: I met a stunningly beautiful woman recently while on a reporting assignment, and she was 67 years old. She simply radiated beauty, both internal and external. That gave me hope that all this effort will pay off, both in health benefits and in other ways.

And to that nice gentleman who was working out at the same time I was the other morning, good for you. I might suggest that you not look so smugly self-satisfied next time, though. I wasn't the only woman in the gym having these same thoughts, I could tell. And you were way outnumbered.

Carole Townsend is a freelance writer and a 25-year resident of Gwinnett County. As a mom, a wife, a former corporate executive, stay-at-home mom and correspondent for the Daily Post, she brings a unique perspective to life and living it in Gwinnett. "Food for Thought" gives Gwinnettians a forum where they can share perspectives, opinions, advice and solutions, as well as enjoy a few chuckles.