Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Frustrating Lie of the A-Lister Body, and Why It's Okay

Looking at Google News, skimming over the Entertainment section, I see photos of famous people who have famously maintained their shapes.

In spite of having three kids, Julia Roberts is still slim.  She's my age, plus a couple of months.  After a few kids and a few decades, the metabolism slows down, the body takes a little extra effort to keep it that trim shape that was so easy to maintain as a teenager.  How does she do it?

Easy.  She's a star.

You hear about A-lister celebrities, the ones whose very presence make whatever event they're attending somehow more important than other events.  I contend that that's a load of old tosh but Hollywood doesn't work that way.  People like Sigourney Weaver and Julia Roberts and Will Smith automatically get the flashbulbs going, even if all they're doing is just walking down the street.  Roberts and Smith are my age, Weaver is over 60.  And let's be honest, she looks great.  What all these people have in common is: they're wealthy, and they don't have steady jobs.

That leaves plenty of time and room in the budget for personal trainers.  If I was a movie actor, my face and body would be very large parts of my stock in trade.  As it happens I'm not tall, not especially muscular and a little funny-looking if I haven't shaved my head recently.  Thanks to genetics, my hair doesn't come in on top and if I don't keep the rest under control, it grows in a Bozo-like pattern.  So I'd have to go all Bruce Willis on it and just like Bruce, I'd have to spend time at the gym.  At 56, Bruce is built like an offseason hockey player.

So instead of five days a week, 40 hours a day (I know that came out wrong but I'm leaving it in, some days it feels correct) of holding down the desk, working the phones and email, running parts and turning wrenches, these people are spending time keeping toned for the next time the cameras roll.  Sometimes they can skip it for months on end, even years, and get it back when a picture comes around.  Schwarzenegger has been way off form lately (being governor of a big self-contradictory state can do that to you) but could - and probably will - pull himself back together ere long.  He's only 64.  He's got plenty of acting years left in him.

When I get home, I'm coming off a long day of doing whatever needed doing.  I'm just tuckered out.  Could I go another couple of hours at a gym, toning up?  Probably.  But I wouldn't enjoy it much.  I lift weights, a little, do some sit-ups and some push-ups, a little.  But I've done my bit - I want to rest.

It's ironic, isn't it?  Most of us work too hard to have an A-lister body.  I don't know many women who look as good in their mid-60s as Helen Mirren does.  But as a wealthy actress, she can devote a lot of time and effort to that physique.  That's great for her, and kind of frustrating for a lot of the rest of us.  The vast majority of everybody knows, "oh, she doesn't have a regular nine-to-five, she can spend all day every day at the gym keeping that shape."  But then you see shots of her in her pink bikini and intellectual rationale just goes away.  What's left is "dammit, I want to look like that."

Dammit, I want to look like that.  Okay, maybe not exactly like Helen - the bikini straps get wound up in my chest hair.  But I want to be a star.  But I also have to confess I don't need it.  And not needing it, I can live without it.  And if I want that appearance badly enough, I can lift more weights, I can do more push-ups.  I don't have to also tolerate the stresses of being an A-lister.

Can you imagine spilling your drink as an A-lister star?  Coca-Cola all down your front, and next thing you know it's in the tabloids.  What a pain that would be.  And God forbid you have an itch in a place you shouldn't scratch in public - there's nowhere private enough to deal with that when the paparazzi are climbing trees to get a better look at you.

Is it any surprise that Harrison Ford, another A-lister (whose presence on the A-list may not be warranted anymore) lives somewhere in the middle of 800 acres of Wyoming wilderness?  If I had to bust my butt working out to keep my butt trim into my 60s, I'd want privacy too.

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