‘Oh, you’ll do it again. After competing for the first time, you’ll be hooked, unable to stop.’ A number of competitive bodybuilders delivered this sage prediction to me, when I was in the midst of dieting down and training for my show. They grinned knowingly and winked slyly. ‘Absolutely not,’ I insisted. ‘I am participating in the world of bodybuilding for research purposes only, and do not give a rat’s ass about performing on stage.’ I made such declarations in a defiant voice, filled with bravado, but I was never completely certain. Would I become a figure addict, repeatedly drawn to the allure of sparkly tits, slippery muscles, and a purse full of cold, cooked egg whites? Now that my competition has passed—has it already been three weeks?—I have my answer. No. I will not. I did not enjoy my moment under the bright lights, wearing hard plastic shoes that squeezed gel toe nails. At the same time, I relished being backstage, meeting a diverse range of other figure girls and hearing about their sense of accomplishment as they became ‘stage ready’ despite obstacles that included recent car accidents, relationship breakdowns, and chronic illnesses. Perhaps that is why I volunteered to shine and sheen the athletes at the Alberta Bodybuilding Association Provincial Championships this past Saturday; I spent the day placing my plastic-gloved hands on the fine buttocks of numerous ladies and even a few men. I have to admit, however, that when a a couple of cheeky individuals challenged me to a pose down, I could not resist strutting my stuff down the cloth covered hallway at the Winspear, while bikini girls and ripped boys wearing stained thongs shouted the odds, betting on their favourites. I Iost every time. My main rivals were:
I was also beaten by Lamp.
Aside: I first met Feminist Figure Lamp during the early hours of Sunday June 5, while drinking with friends to celebrate my show being over. Still dehydrated, I became quite tipsy on pedialyte shakers.
In my reflective and gluttonous post-competition state, I realize that I learned a lot about my body during the FFG project. On a superficial level, I discovered that I actually have a good body, without much cellulite or many stretch marks. It is well proportioned and ‘girly.’ That was news to me. I leaned out steadily, responding well to the regime so professionally provided by QMR. l confirmed that I am unusually energetic, surviving the strict dieting while continuing to work and function at a high level (others may disagree on that point). I accept that I also have many weaknesses, especially around food control. Foods that I love—and that includes practically everything—must be removed from my presence or I will cheat. How do bodybuilding moms make peanut butter sandwiches for their kids while restricting themselves to 100 grams of chicken and four brussels sprouts? They are my heroines. Moreover, I have seriously fused and defective feet, something I have always denied despite the CT scans, specialist diagnoses, and obligatory orthotics. Aren’t those fluffy socks from the Dollar Store good enough? I am wearing them right now, like an idiot, walking on the hardwood floors in my condo. And yes I am in pain. Another thing: I finally understand that unlike most women I do not retain water. I dehydrate easily, and shed my water load almost immediately. I had mistakenly assumed that it was my small bladder that forced my partner to pull the car over precisely 45 minutes after stopping at the Tim Horton’s. Luckily for him, I am a Canadian girl who was raised on camping trips. I can pee in the woods, or by the side of the road, anywhere, anytime. Other figure girls described the sensation of extreme dehydration as the worst part of their competition, but for me this terrible feeling was familiar. Though the ability to process and remove liquid from my body at an accelerated rate is potentially good for bodybuilding (if managed), it is not good for everyday life. For instance, if we are ever stranded in the middle of the ocean on a life raft, I hereby authorize you either to: 1) throw me overboard to make room for those who bloat; or 2) consider me food-fuel for your cannibalistic forays. Feel free to go all ‘Raft of the Medusa’ on me, for I will soon be dead anyway. Warning: I will also be tough and chewy.
What a gloomy post! Do not despair, my friends, for FFG is not dead yet. Happily drinking diet lemonade, she has many future plans enabling her to blog on and on, forever. I can hear your heartfelt sighs of relief. I have already registered for a Can-Fit-Pro training course that starts in July so that I can become a ‘certified personal trainer.’ A minimally certified one, to be sure, but I will upgrade, specializing in the needs of middle-aged women. Their fitness needs, you dirty birds. Oh, I know what you are like. I plan to volunteer my services, training women who cannot afford to join gyms. I have also reapplied to become a Big Sister here in Edmonton, and will soon meet a fiesty 13-year-old. I am excited but also nervous, for I seem to recall that 13 was the worst year of my entire life. It is really hard to be a teenaged girl and I would never return to my youth. Ugh. Being a middle-aged, middle-class lady professor is much easier. Want to hear something really pompous? I have also started to write a novel. Guess where the first chapter is set? That’s right, backstage at a figure competition. It is, however, entirely fictional. I got the idea after reading The Power of One (1989) by Bryce Courtenay, for my partner’s man-book-club. Since my loveable partner was especially busy golfing, playing poker, and drinking beer, it was only fair that I read the book, summarize its themes, direct him to the best chapters, and suggest potential talking points. Though Courtenay’s best-seller has some great characters, it is repetitive and terribly written. After reluctantly finishing it, I thought: ‘Well if this jackass can become a popular novelist, I probably can too.’ And I won’t even have magically to transform the Boer war into an episode in which the British were the oppressed instead of the oppressors. Good work Bryce.
To summarize: competing as FFG has changed my life, mostly for the better. Some changes are permanent. I will continue to eat lots of protein, lift heavy weights, use tanning beds—I know they can be harmful but they are so relaxing!—and do yoga. Other things are temporary, including those annoying gel nails, which I have already trimmed, much to the chagrin of Ogre.
In fact, I am getting my first tat to mark this experience permanently on my body. I finally understand why people get tattoos, to commemorate traumatic or otherwise important life events, even as they defy belief in future skin elasticity loss. While at the Opera al Fresco fundraiser with 2DO on Friday, I noticed that one of the wonderful tenors—shout out to him!—has the Superman ‘S’ tattooed on the back of each hand. I wondered what his personal challenges and triumphs had been? I also wondered if the tats had affected his singing career. 2DO and I joked about his contract negotiations: ‘I can play only those characters who wear menacing gloves. Those are my conditions, and if you don’t like them you can kiss the Aquaman figure that adorns my sweet ass.’ Oh how we laughed before we cried while he sang the Pearl Fishers Duet with that tall guy. But enough about super-talented singers. Back to me and my first tat: I will have the FFG logo inscribed in the centre of my upper back, in a spot where I will likely not sag or wrinkle, at least not any time soon. Can backs be botoxed? This location marks the trauma of my ongoing back injury, my suit malfunction, and can be easily hidden by flowing long curly blonde hair whenever I am wearing tank tops while giving invited lectures about early modern medicine. It’s going to be great. Really great.