Monday, May 07, 2007

The Myth of Frailty

Bobert labors under yet another misapprehension about Pretty Ladies:

Unless you are a lot stronger and bigger than your photo indicates, you're talking about raking gravel around.

Ever try to move--much less lift--a cubic foot of solid stone?
Bobert, Bobert, Bobert.

Pretty Lady has memories of the days when she was young and frail; in the sandbox days of art school, the days wherein she amused herself by picking up cubic feet of solid stone at a little-known marble shop in Oakland, transporting them to the yard outside the sculpture studio, and whacking away at them with mallet and chisels, cheerfully if inexpertly, stopping every now and then to contemplate the view of sunny Alcatraz.

The resultant sculptures made good doorstops, as early sculptures are wont to do. Such are the atrocities a youthful idealist inevitably perpetrates, in service to the Creative Process.

As Pretty Lady has mentioned, however, those were her days of demure, flowerlike Youth. Having subjected herself to twelve years of classical ballet training, at an academy whose main aesthetic influence was that of Balanchine, she had not yet achieved maximal upper-body development. George Balanchine was an odd fellow; he liked for his dancers to exude the illusion of sylphlike ethereality, even as they performed superhuman feats of athleticism with legs and feet. Thus, the formation of visible biceps was Frowned Upon. Fellow dancers would exchange secrets for rendering their bodies above the waist ever more skeletal, while maintaining the illusion of femininity onstage, with artificially painted cleavage-lines on their sunken chests.

Horrifying, indeed.

But those days are far, far in the past. For nearly a decade, Pretty Lady has been earning her living, quite literally, manually. She carries large, heavy, cumbersome objects cheerfully up and down three flights of stairs. She instructs people to undress, then pounds them into jelly. She has been known to cause career bodybuilders to whimper, and request that she lighten up a bit.

(To be fair, this is at least as much about Leverage as it is about Strength; also, it seems that it is always the strapping muscular dudes who have the lowest pain thresholds. The petite Filipina ladies eternally instruct her to 'bring it on, harder!')

To be certain, Pretty Lady herself has not completely adjusted to the notion of Self as Amazon; she is frequently amazed when she catches a glimpse of herself emerging from the shower, pectorals rippling. For she has never particularly focussed upon strength training as an aesthetic end in itself; it merely happened, as she went about this fascinating business of living.

For it seems to Pretty Lady that whatever a person's mind requires, the body will eventually deliver, within rational limits. If the mind is enthralled by the notion of marble caryatids, the biceps will come. She imagines that this is equally true with cobblestone pathways. A person only has to manipulate a single cobblestone at a time; what is so all-fired difficult about that?

Lady, with Power Saw


Anonymous said...

I want you to make me whimper. How much does that cost?

Anonymous said...


Desert Cat said...


Now someone needs to turn that pose into a marble statue.

Pretty Lady said...

How much does that cost?

$75/hr. in-person. But I can make you whimper long-distance for free. ;-)

Now someone needs to turn that pose into a marble statue.

Nah, the power saw is much too fiddly.

Chris Rywalt said...

A note for those who haven't met Pretty Lady: In person, when I've seen her, she doesn't exude pectoral ripplingness. She tends to be so covered in layers of fabric, patches, rags, knapsacks, and floppy hats that you can barely make out a woman under all of it. The last time I saw her was the first time I'd seen her in jeans and I was surprised to find that she actually has two legs with a space between them.

By the way, PL, I meant to tell you at the time that the jeans and engineer boots was a better look for you -- or anyway one I liked better -- but I kept forgetting. So now I've told you.

Pretty Lady said...

Ah, Chris, still smarting from the 'at least he's a better writer' comment, are we?

And here I thought it was a sign of Respect For My Friends, taking the trouble to put on the Urban Outfitters tulip skirt, silk scarf and designer hat while Going Out, instead of the same old grungy jeans and boots that I work in. I shall not bother to dress up for you in future.

Desert Cat said...

Well for my part, I'm still trying to reconcile Pretty Lady the Character, dressed up in tulip skirt, silk scarf and designer hat in my mind, with Pretty Lady's author, the Artist-at-Work in jeans, muscle shirt and circular saw.

Frankly it's not one or the other, but the contrast and implied complexity that's fascinating.

Pretty Lady said...

the contrast and implied complexity that's fascinating.

Such is the nature of Womanhood.

Chris Rywalt said...

I'm honestly just more inclined towards women who aren't girlie. My wife almost never wears make-up and doesn't dye her hair, for example. Her jewelry usually consists of the one pair of earrings I bought her 18 years ago and which she's almost never taken off since; and her wedding ring, if she remembers to put it on before she leaves the house.

It took me years to get her to this point. When I met her she used to dress up for chem lab. (She had a lot of fancy sweaters with holes burned into them by the end of the year.)

I understand as a Southern woman you're always supposed to wear a skirt -- like the heroine of Tom Robbins' Skinny Legs and All -- but it's not my thing. Still, don't stop dressing up on my account.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that Chris has somewhat unusual views of women's figures (although I realize that here he is discussing clothing rather than body shape or size). I remember him gallantly defending me in these very comments and referring to me as "small". Being 5'8", I'm not usually called small, but I'm not complaining; I take it as a compliment, or at least not as a detriment. Compared to Chris I am small.

friend o' PL (at least I hope I still am even after my most recent unforgiveable obscene comment to her)

Chris Rywalt said...

Compared to Chris I am small.

A lot of people are small compared to me. I'm not the biggest guy around, but I'm bigger than average.

I find people are often different sizes than just their height or weight would lead you to believe. It's got a lot to do with how big they think they are, I think.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, good point. I was feeling kinda small at that time.

Pretty Lady said...

Oh, good heavens, Anon, not only was that comment forgivable, it was practically inevitable. I am not THAT sensitive. Know any good outdoor literary readings going on this week? The weather is too splendid to stay indoors.

And yes, perceived size has a lot of mysterious factors to it, including how much psychological space a person occupies. I have had numerous people express surprise that I am 'only' 5'7".

Anonymous said...

I thought you were taller than me! You definitely have better posture. I will look into the weekend's possibilities.


Anonymous said...

"it seems that it is always the strapping muscular dudes who have the lowest pain thresholds. The petite Filipina ladies eternally instruct her to 'bring it on, harder!"

Perhaps one reason for this is that the strapping muscular dudes don't develop flexibility with their rippling lats and pecs. A tight inflexible muscle has no "give" and it takes very little added tension to produce great pain and injury. That's why so many weightlifters and bodybuilders are constantly fighting nagging soreness and damage, and also why college and professional football teams make a habit of stretching. In fact, almost all pro athletes get regular massage as well.


Pretty Lady said...

Indeed, Papapete, all those weightlifters make sourpuss faces when I recommend yoga. What can you do?

Chris Rywalt said...

Great moments in TV: On Hogan Knows Best or whatever that show is called, Hulk Hogan's wife keeps nagging him to try Pilates. Finally he gives in, expecting it to be all fruity, but when it's done he's really impressed.

Weightlifters are, by and large, angry, angry people. I've known a bunch -- I've lifted weights myself -- and they're generally guys with issues about performance. They always want to outdo themselves, see how much they can hurt themselves. Anything which doesn't look immediately painful is beneath them.

I remember once upon a time I was working out with my partner, who was much more serious than I was. We were keeping notebooks carefully tracking how much weight we were using on each exercise. We were about to start bench presses when I observed, "We always expect to lift more than we did last time. But one day, we'll have lifted as much as we're ever going to lift. I mean, we'll have reached our personal best. What will we do then?"

"Let's not think about that now," my partner replied.

I still think about it. That's probably why I'm not much of a weightlifter.

k said...

OH, such fun!

When I was out and about in the work world, especially in my bankbuster *suit* days, I often got surprised looks if people discovered I was only 5' 2". This always cracked me up. Why? I suppose because I was a rough and tough Government Ossifer.

Way back when I was working at the PO, unloading semitrucks at the age of 19 and 20, I weighed about 105# of solid muscle. Including biceps, which were highly unfashionable at the time. For some reason they really frightened the guys I worked with. Not all women can grow them; me, I'm muscled.

But best of all I had a little trick I'd developed somehow. Certain martial arts disciplines teach it: there's a thing you can do with your mind to sort of glue yourself to the ground, so no one can pick you up, even if they can easily handle your physical weight.

I could do this. Don't know how or why.

So when we were having Strength Contest questions - arm wrestling, so forth - I could always *win* on that score, even around the strongest guys. They might be able to pick up a 300# weight. But they couldn't pick me up, even though I only weighed 105. And watching them try and try and sweat and curse and get all red-faced - and not succeeding - was extremely entertaining.

You have a remarkable tendency to take me back in time to my Strong and Supple days, as opposed to my current Icky Old Crone status.