“Got Love Handles?” by Donna Collins Tinsley

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Woman,”under the chapter heading “Worth Our Weight in Gold.”

As a young girl, I remember hearing about “love handles” and wondering what the heck they were. Skinny as I was, there was no way to pinch an inch of flesh on me.

tennis shoesLater in my life, before I married my husband Bill, I got up at 5:30 each morning and jogged, all in an effort to keep my girlish figure. But after we were married, Bill said to me, “I didn’t wait 26 years to get married to wake up alone in the morning.” What a guy! It was hard to give up that morning run, but as the Good Book says, “Fit in with your husband’s plans.” I wanted to be a good wife. And with that, my morning jog dropped off my daily agenda.

Wanting to keep some type of morning health routine going, I switched to sit-ups. When I complained about aching shoulders, Bill commented, “It’s probably because you keep jumping out of bed to do them without warming up.” I gave up sit-ups.

It didn’t take long for me to notice strange things happening to my body when I put on my swimsuit: there were new bulges, skin hanging loosely and, oh no—love handles!

It was Bill’s fault, plain and simple. But should I be mad at my dear husband or at all those great looking women on the cover of every magazine newsstand? Who said women in their fifties had to have abs of steel? I remember when Jane Fonda came on the scene with her exercise videos —the claim was that every woman could look young, supple and lean if she followed Jane’s lead. I tried and could never do the whole video, but I really felt healthy as I watched her workout.

It used to be the accepted norm for a woman in her fifties to sit on a porch swing, drink iced tea and look matronly. But those days are over. Now we have Oprah, Goldie Hawn, Demi Moore, Ann-Margret (I swear, that woman never ages) and countless others in their fifties and beyond, looking like schoolgirls.

doveAnd then there were the Dove body soap ads with nude women, all over age 50, brandished on billboards all across the country! Yes, these women, who came in a wide variety of sizes, had nearly every square inch of their nakedness splayed across those large outdoor canvases for the world to see. I wondered what their grandchildren thought? One thing I did notice, however, after that initial showing, was that Dove switched and once again ran ads with the most youthful looking ladies, anyway. Maybe America really didn’t want to see people who reminded them of their mothers or grandmothers in the nude?

I can cite hundreds of more examples of how society thinks 50-plus-year-old women are supposed to look, but I have better things to do than pen the great American novel. And yes, it would be a fiction. Instead, I want it on record that I protest and challenge the social norms set upon us Baby Boomer ladies! Let us look the way we want to look, and I say, “If you don’t like it, you can lump it!” That’s an old Southern saying that doesn’t make much sense, but Mama used to say it to us all the time.

My darling husband, Bill, began to notice that the exercise advice he gave me—you know, that advice not to exercise when we first got married—was probably not the best advice after all. So he bought me one of those fancy exercise machines, the one that works every inch of your body. And, the manufacturer claimed, it would only take a few minutes a day. Not thrilled with his surprise, I got the supreme revenge; I let that expensive machine sit on the back porch and rust. Now the poor man is afraid to buy me handheld exercise weights, even though I asked him to put some in my stocking for Christmas.

When I decided it was time to do something about the shape my body was in, the two of us took out a membership to the YMCA. On my first day, I saw people older than me on the exercise machines and equipment, doing way more than I could ever hope to master.

Seeing this made me too embarrassed to ask for help learning the many workout machines. Instead, I hopped onto a treadmill, a safe bet in my mind, because all I would be doing was walking. But evidently I’m not really good at walking with something moving beneath me. Trying to distract myself from the boredom from endless walking, I watched the television set directly above me. When my show went to commercial, I tried to watch another show playing four televisions away. I kept backing up to see it and the next thing I knew, I fell sideways onto the treadmill beside mine. Jumping up immediately, with the only thing hurt being my dignity, I heard an older fellow, in good control of his machine, ask, “Are you OK?” I nodded sheepishly. For the rest of my workout, I hung on for dear life to the treadmill’s handles.

Renaissance womanI canceled my membership at the YMCA after that. You know, I’m finding that Bill’s love is handling my “love handles” pretty good. He says, “Look at the women in the paintings by the great artists—they all have well defined stomachs.” So I guess the next phase of my life will be as a model for Renaissance paintings.

Any of y’all out there with love handles want to join me in this? I bet we will make more money than all the Dove ads put together!

Women 250_rgbDonna Collins Tinsley—wife, mother and grandmother—lives in Port Orange, Florida. Her work has been published in several magazines and book compilations. Find her on Facebook, at thornrose7. blogspot.com, or e-mail her at Thornrose7@aol.com.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Woman.” The book features 62 stories only women can truly appreciate! Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1o9yZtl) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1Ctd6eK).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.