My grandmother, Leone, was not a slim woman. She was sturdily built. Fairly tall for her time, and round all over. Strong.
She was raised on her family’s farm, along with a boatload of sisters. Among them, she was the least slim. She was a teenager, and lamented her figure. Why couldn’t she be thin like her sisters? Her father, my great-grandfather, in an effort to console her, famously said, “Leone, there are race horses, and there are workhorses. You, my dear, are a workhorse.”
This line has been held for now five generations as an example of male idiocy. But I’m interested in re-examining it.
He was, after all, a farmer. He had little use for race horses. But he could not survive without a good workhorse. He knew their value, and they were far more valuable — we might say beautiful to him — than the sleek, sexy race horses who could offer only a momentary entertainment, at best. He was paying Leone a compliment.
It didn’t work.
I live in a very modern home. This place was built two owners ago by a guy who completely embraced a clean-lined, modern aesthetic. It is all clean lines and planes, steel and glass and concrete. It is a modern house at its foundation and down to its bones. The owner between the builder and me? Did not embrace the modern. This guy made several runs at remodeling the place to change its nature. Every effort to change it made it function less logically. He didn’t want a modern house. He wanted country charm. He sold the place when he just couldn’t make it work. Our job has been to restore it. We love the modern aesthetic, so restoration is fun for us. Trying to figure out what the house was before and is trying to be is a good puzzle.
I was born with the body I will live in for the rest of my life, and I’ve never been happy with it. Always wished it was something it could never be, no matter how many remodeling abuses I subjected it to, no matter the crazy diets, extreme exercise, circulation-cutting fashions, foot-crippling shoes, bladder-abusing diuretics, no matter the beauty chemistry or diet pharmaceuticals, the carcinogens, the bleaching agents, the dyes, the paints. I’ve taken up or fallen for pretty much every sort of product, procedure, service or habit designed to make me something else. Something I’ll never be — a race horse.
And you know the rest of this story… Now that I’m old enough to know better, I would give anything to have the body back that I had before I started hurting it and hating it. I’d like to rewind, go back, and appreciate what I had. It was a perfect specimen of its type. The fact that its type wasn’t fashionable, and has never been during my lifetime, is a painful memory. But I should have gotten over that a great deal sooner. What is maturity good for anyway, if not accepting your one body?
Every time I made a great effort to transform my sturdy, strong frame into a slim, willowy one, I weakened myself a bit more. I am very sorry for that. What I’d like to do now is take it all back, apologize to my cells and circulatory system and skin and muscles and bones and brain and endocrine system. I’d like to sooth them all back, make peace, and restore them all. But I’m not made of stone and steel and glass. Restoration is not so easy.
But that’s my new goal. Not to remodel my body, but to *restore* it to its natural, sturdy, strong, workhorse state. Not some fashionable ideal. Back to what it was before I knew enough to hate it. There are race horses and there are workhorses. I am a workhorse. Or I could be, if I take good care of myself.
And my other new goal? To try to ensure no future generation in my family learns to hate their bodies because they aren’t entertaining enough for the times. That’s much harder work. I can figure out my own restoration. I have no idea where to begin on the last part.
Do you know? If so, spill it please. And how about you, anyway? What sort of horse or house are you?