Hours after French President Nicolas Sarkozy was forced to lie down while jogging along the manicured lanes of the Château de Versailles, many wondered if his heart had given out.
Days later, the questions turned to his wife.
After all, it was Carla Bruni, 41, the Italian-born former supermodel turned folk balladeer, who introduced her 54-year-old husband to his new fitness instructor.
The 26-year-old trainer reportedly ordered Mr. Sarkozy, a dedicated jogger and cyclist, to shed two pant sizes and forbade him chocolate, cheese and pudding. The trainer gave Mr. Sarkozy a punishing exercise routine that left him looking more like a "Tour de France rider than a president," a friend told Mirror.co.uk.
Was Mr. Sarkozy's dizzy spell the most recent instance of a man overextending himself for a gorgeous wife? Men have long told tales of jumping through flaming hoops to land and keep good looking - and often high maintenance - women. Even when both parties are stunners, the female-driven dynamic can take hold. This week, actor Orlando Bloom reportedly turned down Pirates of the Caribbean 4 so he could spend more time with his girlfriend, Australian model Miranda Kerr, who had already turned down his marriage proposal, twice.
If heads of state and Hollywood hot throbs can get locked in the choke hold, what chance do regular men stand?
Adam, who asked that his last name not be used, "sucked it up for a gorgeous girl" for eight years.
Adam, who works for a design firm in Toronto, said there were the usual indulgences, including spending well beyond his means on dinner and drinks. His girlfriend routinely complained about the time he spent with his friends. And there were other, more particular requests.
"Wardrobe, there were some changes. The pants got a lot tighter, the V-necks got deeper. It started out with her buying me clothes, a couple of shirts. … And then when I was shopping, there were nudges," said Adam, 28.
Ms. Bruni too, overhauled her husband's wardrobe, right down to the trademark bling, reports say. Next, she weaned the diminutive president off Sylvester Stallone with a cultural diet of Leonard Cohen and French existentialist philosophers. Where he leaned toward French rocker Johnny Hallyday, she pushed Marianne Faithfull.
Adam's girlfriend too bemoaned his musical tastes: "She hates my music. Hates it. The girl can't stand Bob Dylan, loves Oasis."
But the hardest pill to swallow was a man his girlfriend started seeing with increasing regularity - Adam called him a "suitor."
So why did he put up with it?
"I was cool with it because she's hot. I know the minute I'm not with her, somebody else is. That's pressure to always keep the game high, to keep the level high."
Although the couple is now on hiatus - "It's kind of complicated," Adam said - The experience demonstrates that men will let highly attractive women get away with significantly more mate grooming than they do plain Janes: "The prevailing winds definitely blow in that direction," Adam said.
This tendency is frequently discussed on male-centric blogs such as AskMen.com. An article called Top 10: Disadvantages of Dating a Babe Top10: Disadvantages of Dating a Babe, for example, warns men about getting squished under her well-manicured thumb.
"You may become [so]blinded by her looks that you overlook any serious personality flaws that she may have," bleats the author.
Even the pick-up artist community debates the topic ardently, its gurus cautioning the Average Joe about the perils of overextending himself to keep a "perfect 10."
"Now that economically independent women no longer need provisions from men, they are choosing men based on flashier criteria. So what you get are middle-aged world leaders slimming down on crash diets until they pass out from starvation," said J. Wiedmann, a Washington white-collar-crime investigator behind Roissy in DC, a blog popular among aspiring pick up artists.
"I've sadly noticed that the amount of bad behaviour a man is willing to tolerate is directly proportional to a woman's attractiveness," said Neil Strauss, author of The Game .
"A bad woman can take a guy down and a good woman can bring a guy to the top."
In other words, not all trophy girlfriends are created equal.
Michael Marks, a Toronto-based dating coach for men, thinks it's great that Mr. Sarkozy is working out passionately and sampling avant-garde film, but he questions Ms. Bruni's intentions.
"There is the woman who is challenging you for your own growth, versus the one who's just trying to remake in her own image."
The grooming process can serve to stroke the woman's own ego, Mr. Marks said.
"It's one thing to change the guy down the street but to feel like you're changing the president is a bigger rush. It's a vindication of her self-esteem."
Mr. Sarkozy, for one, seems to have embraced his metamorphosis, and that's probably because he's a confident man, said Paul Dobransky, a Chicago-based psychiatrist.
"The difference between being used, being towed around by the nose and making a conscious, rational choice in compromising and power-sharing in a relationship rests in the quality and maturity of a man's personal boundaries," said Dr. Dobranksy, who also runs dating seminars.
"When he is weak, the man gets used, manipulated, or pushed around."
As for Adam, he has reached a new perspective.
"I still like gorgeousness, but I don't think it's worth changing who you are to attain gorgeousness. At the end of the day, you have to be happy with yourself."Report Typo/Error