As I write this I am three weeks away from my first figure competition—it is officially called a ‘championship’—desperately trying to slow down, rest more, and perhaps even sleep the required eight hours per night instead of my usual five. I am tempted to recite my ‘to do’ list but won’t risk boring the crap out of you (even more than usual). Just take my word for it that I work many hours as a snooty professor before heading off to daily tanning sessions, double cardio workouts, posing and walking practice lessons, and weekly appointments with both MHS, a massage therapist, and a local chiropractor. Yesterday after writing, working out, and completing a strenuous yoga class, in which I triumphantly did not fall asleep during savasana, I went to the see this skilled, empathetic back doctor, and she gave me a good going over, placing her heavy knee on my right hip while pushing my left shoulder back. Already dazed and confused after two low-food days in a row, I was barely able to walk home. On that sunny, windy afternoon, I passed by my favourite organic shop, the one with the bulk yogurt-covered almonds inside. No doubt I have mentioned them before. I really really really wanted to eat some immediately, but I had a weigh-in scheduled for the next morning and feared that QMR would cut food from my diet if I produced bad numbers. ‘Maybe I could just have four of those crunchy delights covered in succulent white coating,’ I bargained. ‘That would restore my spirits, rendering me more liable to be raptured on May 21.’ Yet as I slowly walked by the green and yellow store, exhausted and in pain, I realized that I was not going to cheat, not even a little. You might think that I would take pride in this disciplined accomplishment. Far from it. Overwhelmed with despair and frustration, I started to cry. My first diet breakdown was not a lung wrenching, choking-on-a-ball-of-snot boo hoo. Instead, a few deep sobs escaped my tight throat, and four tears came out of my droopy eyes, running down the vertical indentations recently made in my hollowed cheeks by the chiropractic pillow. With smeary black mascara, lipstick frown, and too-big pants falling down my lack of hips, I must have resembled one of those hideous clown pictures that misguided parents used to purchase at Zeller’s during the 1970s, hanging them in children’s bedrooms to incite night terrors. Red Buttons has a lot to answer for. In any case, bodybuilding had transformed me into an angry sad clown in desperate need of botox and a more attractive hat.
Even an insane person could realize that I needed help. Perhaps that is why a rotund man wearing a gigantic Boston Bruins shirt as a mini-dress suddenly swerved toward me. ‘Oh fuck,’ I thought, noticing the comical tufts of hair growing from the sides of his otherwise completely bald, shiny head. I guessed that he left them there, untrimmed, as defiant evidence of the continuing presence of testosterone—and thus potentially of virility—in his ageing male body. He was likely inspired by that commercial in which a square-jawed man with a touch of gray in his thick, dark locks declares: ‘Look like you know what you are doing, and can still do it.’ However, the animated man bearing down on me resembled bozo the clown more than a bum-chinned senior who uses teeth-whitening strips and hair dye to prove that he can still get it up. Blocking my path, the hockey fan offered to seranade me with a tune from a broadway musical. It was kind of cute: Happy clown trying to cheer up sad clown, just like at the circus. Rejecting his kindness, I shouted ‘Leave me alone you crazy bastard.’ Luckily he smiled and ambled away instead of attacking me, because I would have fallen like a sack of flour, unable to put up much of a fight. This interaction caused a few more tears to course down my indented face. I did not bother to wipe them away because these days I am too tired to give a shit about my appearance. How’s that for irony? Just then a truck filled with young male landscapers honked at me, providing an obligatory display of heterosexual desire in response to my long blonde hair and small frame. ‘You would not be so honky if you were 20 feet closer and could actually see my face,’ I thought. It was the face of horror. Thin, sagging, and what’s that I see, decorated with a few moustache hairs? ‘I’ll pluck later,’ I decided, obsessively rubbing them with my boney fingers. I never got around to it.
Although I regularly blog about squeezing into rubber skirts and my lustful longings for furry mascots, I hesitated before publicizing this breakdown. It makes me seem pathetic, at odds with the ass-kicking image I usually try to convey. Vivacious M called me on this several months ago, asking me to ‘Détecter le patriarcat dans mon propre discours.’ Well said my insightful friend. It’s true that I often present myself as tough, hard, invincible, emotionless, both in my everyday life and as Feminist Figure Girl. I tend toward the masculine and quite enjoy the company of men. Not always in that way, you filthy beggars. But that too. I was recently reading about ‘toxic masculinity,’ which features homophobia, sexism, violence, and bullying. I have seen that macho form in action, but what about the more appealing aspects of masculinity, like responsibility, bravery, self-confidence, and the kind of caring for others which is not necessarily paternal? Obviously, both men and women can partake of those qualities. I have to admit, however, that I sometimes favour masculine characteristics while downgrading those traditionally linked with women and the feminine, such as self-sacrifice, empathy, and apparently uncontrolled demonstrations of sadness or joy. No doubt this is a greater weakness than crying in the street while swearing at friendly clowns. The Feminist Figure Girl project is forcing me to reveal and face my failings. Why am I loathe to admit that this diet is fucking hard, and is only becoming more difficult as the competition nears?
I could not remain angry and sad for long on that windy day. For I am blessed with supportive friends and a wonderful partner. I am also lucky to be fostering Ogre, a cat that clearly sensed my pain. Using her kitty spit and small paws, she shaped her ample fur into bozo tufts before adopting a mock crestfallen expression, all with the goal of cheering me up. This time it worked.