I was glad to read in the Daily Mail online that the grotesquely pregnant women of the world have done everyone a favour and stopped looking so damn huge. No longer will construction workers and shopkeepers need to avert their eyes from the sight of mothers-to-be waddling down the street, turning innocent bystanders to stone with their fleshy protuberances.
“Pregnant Tamara Ecclestone wears slimming black,” ran a Mail Online headline this week. This will be a relief to every woman who embarks on motherhood, knowing that her only concern should be, “Does this baby make my ass look fat?” On the very same day, we learned “Still slender Rachel Zoe makes the shocking statement that she’s about to give birth.” It’s not important to know who Tamara Ecclestone or Rachel Zoe are. It’s enough that they are women, in possession of bodies, and that they sometimes take these bodies out in public, thus fair game.
The Mail Online has perfected the black art of chronicling every celebrity excess wattle, each sadly multiplying chin that cries “comfort eating,” each jutting collarbone that speaks of heartbreak. Don’t pretend you haven’t looked. I look every day, to my eternal shame. I’d go to a meeting in a church basement with coffee-smelling strangers if I thought it would keep me from clicking. Mail Online is the most popular news website in the world, with 150 million visitors every month. I’ll bet the Dalai Lama’s had a peek.
The bitter scrutiny is lined up in one column under the heading Femail (painfully apt, both in naming its victims and its readers). I prefer to think of that column as The Calipers of Shame, because no matter what your size, it’s never actually the right one. On the same day that Tamara Ecclestone disguised her hideous fecundity from the world, the Mail noted that “Lea Michele looks pin-thin in clingy workout gear” and “mother loses 17 stone after missing son’s awards ceremony because she feared she would break the chairs.” There were other felonies of curviness and boniness. The Calipers of Shame, like sharks, are always on the hunt for fresh meat.
The malignant genius of the “Femail” column is that it taps into the secret belief of all people who have struggled with their weight that there is a perfect size, a golden mean, which, if achieved, would result in happiness. Their sins and sorrows would be sucked away down the old liposuction tube.
I’m not sure it works that way. Minus the chub, you’re still left with the troublesome contents of your soul. This week, it was suggested that the hapless mayor of Toronto’s problem was not his cracky-whacky-baccy adventures, his misogynist comments to staffers, his racist slurs at cab drivers, his disregard for legislative process, or his (alleged) drunk driving. It was his weight.
Rob Ford’s mother and brother both suggested that the mayor’s size lay at the root of his shame, and that to shed excess pounds would result in a miraculous transformation, a sort of epiphany on the road to McDonalds. “He has a weight problem,” Diane Ford told the CP24 news channel. “He has a huge weight problem. And he knows that and I think that is the first thing he has to attack.” That is the logic of the diet industry, not the real world. A cronut burger is not a gateway drug; Tim Hortons was not the mayor’s enabler, though many others were. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Timbits driving the Escalade all those nights.
For most people chasing a Holy Grail filled with Slim-Fast, the stakes are pretty small: If I were only smaller, my life would be larger, and better. But sometimes, the stakes are huge. This is not a sly pun, in the manner of Time Magazine’s cover on New Jersey governor Chris Christie, which featured the headline “The Elephant in the Room.” Mr. Christie is very large, and he is also possibly the front runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 … if only he were thinner. America, which struggles as a nation with obesity, does not want to see that aspect of itself reflected in its president. A fit leader is a capable leader: How else to explain George W. Bush?
The new book Double Down, an account of the 2012 presidential campaign, reveals that the archbully and fitness freak Mitt Romney was horrified by his potential rival: “Romney marvelled at Christie’s girth, his difficulties in making his way down the narrow aisle of the campaign bus,” write Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. “Watching a video of Christie without his suit jacket on, Romney cackled to his aides, ‘Guys! Look at that!’ ”
In February, Mr. Christie had gastric-band surgery, and began losing weight. He insisted that he did it for himself, for his wife and four children, but there’s no doubt he did it for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, too. Recently, Mr. Christie told The New York Times that he was “sleeping better,” and that he was halfway to that elusive goal every dieter strives for, the “ideal weight.” His doctor released medical records suggesting that Mr. Christie was on the right track, and was “fit to serve.” The implication was clear: He was a lesser man, but a better person.