Friday, April 15, 2005

Beauty and the Beach

It really is discouraging to meet someone only slightly younger than you, who looks twice as good. Arrgghh.

Shortly after moving into Portofino, I met the lady who lives in the condo directly below me. (Uh oh…there goes the late night parties and flamenco dancing.) Nancy and I have a host of things in common and she’s the sweetest thing since shortbread. There’s just one tiny problem. She has the firm body of a thirty-something and looks fantastic. Trust me, on a bad-hair, bloated-body day, that issue can put a slightly envious crimp in friendship between women.

I mean, who wants to go to the beach with Ms. Cutie Pie when you look like the Pillsbury Doughgirl next to her. It’s not that I’m quite that bad, but combine a little extra padding with my Scots-Irish complexion, throw in a swimsuit for good measure, and I’m overwhelmed with the fear of looking like rising bread dough wrapped in twine.

It didn’t take long for me to discover Nancy’s secret for looking toned and fit. The concept was so unique that I was stunned at the simplicity of it. The secret: she works out!

One morning I called Nancy just as she was headed out the door to the Lifestyle Center at Portofino for a workout called “Ab Attack.” Hmmm…I was just heading over to Sailor’s Grill in Navarre Beach for a luscious Sticky Bun.

The next morning Nancy was headed for the “Muscle Works” program. Okay, I thought, perhaps I should go to The Market for some apples and bananas.

Then, I learned Nancy had gone to the Spinning class!

Let me tell you, Spinning has nothing to with grandma’s old wheel in the attic or late night disc jockeys. Spinning is an indoor cycling program that separates the girls from the women, pushing you to pedal 100 mph, causing your legs to turn into rubber, leaving your tush so sore that you can’t sit down, and eventually working up calluses where I’m convinced no woman should have them.

Oh, did I mention that right before you pass out from exhaustion at the end of the class you will have burned off approximately one zillion calories or so during the session? It pays off, but it’s such hard work. Describing it alone burns off a couple hundred calories.

I truly admire my neighbor’s dedication to all the workouts. It’s just that…well…I keep hoping for beauty and fitness through osmosis. My problem is that every time I see something advertised that I really like, I totally project myself into it and can imagine, albeit incorrectly, just how wonderful that style, that color, that swimsuit, that haircut would look on me.

Well, puhlease, it’s time to get real. It is time to admit that acquiring a product will not magically transform me into the next Miss Universe, no matter now much I’d love to believe it.

If only I had a dollar for every workout video or fitness magazine I’ve bought, thinking my body could look like that of the girl on the cover. It might actually happen, of course, if I tried USING the tapes and magazines instead of moving them around when I dust.

If only I had a dollar for every outfit I bought thinking how sophisticated or how perfectly resort casual I’d appear in it.

If only I had a dollar for every compact, tube or bottle of makeup or hair product I bought with a dream that my skin could be dewy and flawless as Isabella Rossellini’s; my hair full and shiny as Cindy Crawford’s; my eyes as gorgeous as those of Rebecca Rojmin.

If only I had a dollar for every traumatic attempt to find the perfect bathing suit (an oxymoron for sure) which would transform me into a goddess running in slow motion along the surf, a la Bo Derek. Yeah, right.

And finally, if only I had a dollar – make that $100 -- for every disastrous hairstyle I’ve adopted after watching a new movie or reading the latest issue of W magazine. The Julia Roberts haircut I tried years ago left me looking more like Howard Stern; the Meg Ryan cut left me looking like Tina Turner after a rough night at the Thunderdome. And then there was the cute pixie cut that left me looking like a cross between Little Orphan Annie and a reddish-blonde Brillo pad once the island breeze had its way with me.

There are people who believe in UFOs, those who believe Elvis is still alive, and some who believe pets go to heaven -- they do, don’t they? I personally cling to the hope that someday technology will get us to a point where I can purchase Buns of Titanium and come out of the store with a tush like that of J.Lo.

Unfortunately, at this point in time Edgar Cayce is the only person I recall who claimed he acquired anything by osmosis. He fell asleep on his schoolbooks and woke up knowing all his spelling words. Well, yippee for him. I’m waiting for the day I can fall asleep on one of my 54 workout tapes and wake up with the body of Kathy Ireland.

Every girl has the right to dream of walking along the sugar white sands of Pensacola Beach, confident and radiant in her beauty. Some remote part of our female brain comes complete with an internal fantasy screen in which short girls envision themselves with long lean legs that go all the way to heaven. Girls with thin, limp hair see themselves with long, lush locks that make the world stop in awe for a nanosecond each time the ocean breeze blows soft tendrils of hair around her face like soft kisses. We see our skin sun-kissed and moist from sea spray while we hear soundbites of the Girl from Ipanema playing in our head, “tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking and when she passes, each guy she passes goes…ahhhhhh.”

And then someone invariably toots their horn behind us, a signal that the light turned green halfway through our fantasy which was triggered, of course, by a great little bikini in the window at Alvin’s Island. In the real world, I left bikinis behind shortly after I got out of diapers – a long, long, long time ago.

So, I vow right now to change my ways and diligently work toward my goal of inner and outward beauty.

I shall ignore those glossy magazine ads full of beauty products and false promises. YES!

I shall walk straight by the sales pitch coming from the girl at the Lancome counter at Dillard’s. YES!

I shall reject infommercials that claim I’ll drop 10 lbs in twenty minutes if I am the first caller. YES!

I shall put my ABBA disk in the CD player and clean house to the tune of Dancing Queen! YES!

I shall turn my back on the hope of beauty by osmosis, working hard to follow Nancy’s example, class after class, as she cheers me on to become toned and buff! YES! YES!

Oh yeah, I’m psyched! I’m ready to go! I’m heading right out to that Spinning class, darn it … right after I drive 13 miles east and turn left for a big ol’ Sticky Bun. YES!

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