Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Pound Of Flesh

I am not what you might call an athletic person. My idea of working out is cycling, an act that is performed sitting down. I love tortilla chips and salsa, will (and have been known to) eat ice cream for breakfast, consider organized sports an exercise in self-loathing, and think going to the gym is boring beyond words.

However. Richard Zera once said that "Childhood is that wonderful time where all you needed to do to lose weight is take a bath;" mes amis, it's been quite some time since sudsing up has had any discernible effect on my scale. I come from a family of normal-sized people who, for no reason at all, will clutch their bellies and howl, "I'm so fat!" This practice, to no-one's surprise, has had an impact on me. I also grew up in the time of the Great Eating Disorder Panic, when every other issue of Seventeen had some breathless and dire article about anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and obesity. While those profiles probably (hopefully?) weren't designed to give tips ("some young women use laxatives!") to the curious, Seventeen wasn't exactly a friend. Pages of beautiful Sweet Valley-style models, with articles about eating disorders sprinkled throughout? Dudes, are you insane?

I'm not going to explicate my relationship with my body. That, frankly, is private. Although I will give a shout-out (do people still give shout-outs? Is that passe now? I can't keep up) to CAHM's excellent concurrent disorders program. If there are people in the Toronto region who might have been, ahem, similarly affected by Seventeen's regiment of freak-out articles, they are very nice, very good, and very free.

What I am going to do is say that, after chasing a rainbow - or a clothing size - that might be purely mythical is a huge bummer. And I am literally chasing it now. Having given up on the less mentally ill methods of whittling my jean size, I've taken up jogging.

Jogging is horrible. If jogging were an article of clothing, jogging would be harem pants. If jogging were a food, it would be broccoli soup. I could go on. I think you're catching what I'm throwing here. Jogging? I don't care for jogging. Jogging makes me think horrible cursing thoughts. If jogging were an undergarment, it would be a bra whose underwire has disintegrated yet you keep wearing because you forget and then at noon you want to take it off and make it into a noose. Ladies? Am I alone on this?

I digress. Jogging is terrible, because it's boring. At least going to the gym has the excitement of feeling uncomfortable, because I'm never sure of the towel etiquette, and always feel like a loser. I'm thankful that there's always one poor sap who is even more clueless than me; the girl who runs the track in Converse, for example, or the skinny guy who nearly snaps his leg bones on the weight machines. Jogging is just heavy breathing, awkward flailing, and the same scenery over and over again.

It doesn't help that I feel like a huge faker when I run. At least when I bike, I feel like I know what I'm doing. I feel powerful on a bike. I feel like a fraud when I jog. Do other people feel like this? When I was a kid, I burned calories by being twitchy and anti-social; I participated in soccer games by sitting down and sucking on clover flowers. I didn't grow up with athleticism in my DNA. Some kids are totally into soccer, gymnastics, lacrosse; I was totally into playing in the front hedges, reading books about Australia, and sneakily reading my mom's parenting books. So now, when I participate in physical activity that has no point other than getting the heart rate up, I feel like I'm a little late to the game.

If I ever make any children, I'm preemptively at a loss with what to do with re: exercise. I failed to respond to encouragement, threats, bribes, apathy or stern talks. I wasn't into team sports, and am sill a little wary of any event where a uniform is required. I wasn't into exertion. I wasn't into sweat. But with all manner of folks freaking out about the tidal wave of fat little kids we're producing these days, I'd prefer to sidestep that trend. But can I, in good conscience, shoehorn my dismayed offspring into cleats when I fought those every step of the way?

I guess I'll jog over that bridge when I come to it. Leafing through Glamour the other day, I learned that 30 minutes of daily exercise will boost your sex drive by 100%, make you fall asleep 40% faster, and cut depression in half. If my kids are going to be as high-strung as I am, and predilected towards the crazy w/r/t body image to boot, I'm going to try to arm them with a healthy respect for the powers of exercise. And if that means getting used to jogging in my twenties, then I guess that's the price I'll pay.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Out Of His Depp

Johnny Depp has always been something of an enigma to me. I mean, he's an excellent actor - there's no doubt about that - but all the swooning and the shrieking, the claims of world-class sexiness? I'm not totally convinced.

Maybe it's my life-long aversion to men with long hair. I was eleven years old when Brad Pitt leaped into superstardom, but he came with that ridiculous blond shag. Johnny Depp came a few years earlier, with a similarly wild coif, but where Brad Pitt was golden and glowy, Johnny Depp's Edward Scissorhands was exotic and erotic, kind of terrifying, with his bondage-inspired outfit and bladed fists.

Brad Pitt's physicality has always been rooted in his appearance; cue the mental image of him, shirtless and cut, in Fight Club, which was porny and offered a very appealing brutality in its eroticism. Fight Club is a great movie to encounter when you're sixteen, likely before you've had sex or been in a fight. The scenes with Helena Bonham Carter alone are likely to skew a person's imaginations of sexual relations for a least a couple years. But Fight Club, with all its fuck-the-man posturing and orations on modern life, is more the product of overgrown childhood fun than anything else. Hello? These dudes have their own club. They're like the Girl Scouts, if the Scouts sold molotov cocktails instead of cookies.

Anyway. Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp are in the same graduating class of Sexy Men, but they've taken wildly divergent paths. While Brad Pitt has made some truly horrendous flicks since the mid-'90s, Johnny Depp has stayed fairly constant in his devotion to weirdo roles, and I think that's generally served him well. Unlike Pitt, Depp isn't a constant tabloid fixture. He has a normal amount of children, with a hot non-wife partner, and lives in France. Pitt, for all his movies - some lauded very highly - is more of a gossip nodule than an actor.

Unlike Pitt, Johnny Depp doesn't seem to have an interest in playing up his sex symbol mystique. The roles he chooses - Captain Jack Sparrow, Hunter S Thomson's alter ego Raoul Duke, Sweeney Todd - are rippled with a sexiness, but it's often a manic, dangerous, flawed sexiness. They're killers, pirates, drug fiends. They're complicated roles. Very masculine, which is doubly weird, given that Depp got a huge career boost playing the fey-seeming Edward Scissorhands, and that he's never had a reputation as a beefcake, but Depp plays the semi-dangerous man very well. His onscreen persona does a lot of work unsettling the audience, making us ask, "Can we trust him? He looks like a dirty homeless person, but he might be just the man for the job."

We're attracted to the weird and the unusual, so we devour that kind of sexual presentation. I'll recant my previous stance of not understanding the J.Depp appeal; clearly, I do, even though he's not my cup of Lipton's (and because I blame him for Benjamin Bratt, who's carved out a cushy little niche as the bargain-basement Depp). And Johnny Depp is willing to take on roles that aren't sexy in the least - anyone who's seen Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can attest to the fact that his Willy Wonka is like vaginal Kryptonite.

Depp, his sex appeal (still not totally convinced, but maybe it's because I always hate his hair in his movies), and moreover, his talent, is a boon. He takes risks. He's willing to be disliked, both in character and out. But he does good work, balancing the Hollywood blockbusters with the weirder fare. Is he sexy? I guess. But not because he's a looker. Because he's a risk-taker.