Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


with 3 comments

The husband hikes and hates golfing. The wife golfs and hates hiking. As a teenager he memorized sports stats; she memorized poetry.

He’s a doctor, she’s a patient. She’s a writer, he’s a reader.

There are still more divisions in our oneness: he drinks Beefeater gin martinis up with olives — stirred, not shaken; she drinks Skyy vodka martinis with a sweet pickled onion, better known as a Gibson.

He makes brisket, gefilte fish and chopped liver; she makes roast beef, mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. He reads dense books on Middle East history; she reads light novels. He drinks rye, she drinks scotch.

If this were one of those old “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” features from the Ladies Home Journal in the 1950s, we would be advised to seek a compromise.

Wait one moment: If we were actually living in the 1950s, I would be the one advised to diet and exercise and “get myself in shape” for my husband. In those pre-feminist days, it would be my job to stay attractive if I wanted to stay married, regardless of whatever the husband did or didn’t do. The theory at that time was while he was at the office all day, he would see well-dressed and attractive women and he didn’t want to come home to some bag in sweatpants. I would be advised to greet him at the door, martini in hand, hair and make-up done, high heels on and wearing something fetching. And wives in the 1950s were advised to invest in some slinky lingerie in order to keep their marriage, er, hot.

(The husband has just read the previous sentences. He is rolling around on the floor laughing hysterically. It is the same laugh he used the other night when I came to bed wearing pink aloe-impregnated socks over a liberal application of Glysomed Foot Balm, in order to soften the callouses of a summer’s worth of sandal-wearing and white cotton gloves over the Gardeners’ Hand Therapy lotion from Crabtree and Evelyn — because if my feet were dry, my hands were worse. The only sex-killing implement not employed was pink curlers in my hair.)

This kind of night attire — along the lines of a flannel nightgown and tube socks — might surprise a woman who is tempted to believe the lame and demeaning advice handed out in The Rules. That 1995 best-seller by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider advocated a return to the 1950s, when “girls” (we were never “women”) sat at home waiting for Mr. Whomever to call. When it was first published, women like me snorted at the games-playing the book advised but reserved our real anger at the immature notion that men could be easily and happily be manipulated and afterwards, enjoy the result.

Real men don’t want automatons, The Stepford Wives notwithstanding.

In that movie — the 1975 original with Paula Prentiss and Katharine Ross, not the pathetic 2004 remake with Nicole Kidman — the perfectly turned-out robotic wives were a not-so-subtle message to the flourishing feminist movement. The message was men wanted perfect wives, “perfect” in this case being some idealized combination of mother-cook-model-whore who wears make-up to bed in order to present the best possible face to the head on the next pillow. Sweetheart, that only happens in movies where morning breath and the warm mustiness from jammies don’t register on the screen.

Those of us with real lives deal with each other’s peccadilloes with amusement and charity — I snore if I’m lying on my right side, he eats dried figs and dark chocolate in bed. Not both at the same time, I add.

On the surface, we are two completely different people with few similarities. What could we two do together fully clothed? Surprisingly, it turned out to be a regular fitness class. First, a beginners’ yoga class and then, a core fitness class.

We loved the beginners’ yoga, although my husband’s inflexibility made his downward dog look more like a crippled coyote than sleek hound. When we took a different class to make up for a missed one, we met the lithe and limber Liam. We were not ready for Liam whom I believe to be capable of contorting himself into one of those impossible poses usually only seen on Chinese gymnasts.

He wasn’t quite ready for the inflexible Ted and while Liam wasn’t really a drill sergeant, he did seem to expect a higher level of competence than the two of us could muster.

Eventually we found the marvelous Helen Mikuska and her weekly morning core fitness/yoga class at the Yoga and Meditation Centre in Marda Loop. Ted still can’t touch his toes, but he’s slowly getting more limber.

But is a once-a-week fitness class enough to reach my admittedly fuzzy goal by October 2010?

I need more than that. And I need to set a goal more specific than fit and healthy. First, I need to know where I am in order to know for what to aim.

So last week I joined the Calgary Herald At-Home Health Club by showing up at Chinook Centre at the crack of dawn. Anytime you want a wake-up call, try stepping on an electronic scale at 8 a.m. in front of a stranger — a fit and lean stranger young enough to be your granddaughter.

It was in public, so I couldn’t remove most of my clothing in order to achieve a more equitable number on the scale. I took off my shoes and jacket, my heavy earrings and tried to think light and fluffy thoughts. Rats! The numbers don’t lie — 165.5 pounds. (Personally, I thought we could have dispensed with the half-pound, one way or the other.)

My goal weight with Weight Watchers was 145 pounds which now seems impossible to maintain. Why did I choose that number in the first place? Because that’s what I weighed in high school. Curiously, I thought I was fat then. Now, it seems a little light for someone facing her 65th birthday in a week. So let’s split the difference, sort of: 152 pounds would be reasonable. Why that specific number? Simple: I’d like to weigh less than my husband for no other reason than it seems a good number for which to strive.

After weighing in came the dreaded tape measure and, naturally, it was all in centimeters which, while I can certainly do the conversion, we’re talking scary numbers here. Which would you rather acknowledge — a measurement on a part of your body of 105 centimeters or 41.5 inches? Truth be told, they’re both scary numbers, but 41.5 is a psychologically better sound bite.

So I stand about 5’6” (1.71m) and while I’m not exactly rectangular at 41½ -37-44 (105-93-112), I’m never going to be described as a Marilyn Monroe.

But I have the soul of a blonde bombshell.

NEXT: Oprah Winfrey weighed 142 pounds for one day. I beat her record.


Written by Catherine Ford

October 1, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Today I will sit back and read your blogs as I finally have some time.
    I have read or rather skimmed some of them. You are indeed a witty and articulate writer.
    Cheers to you.

    October 2, 2009 at 6:21 am

  2. love ’em! putting charlene et moi in the same sentence/paragraph was a great boost to my sometime-shaky ego (in spite of the fact that with all my yoga, i am desparately trying to rid myself of ego altogether).

    how can i automatically receive your blog? (just as kim gray’s comes into my inbox)


    eva newman

    October 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm

  3. Happy B-Day….early or belated…whichever it is!
    very interesting reading….couldn,t help but think that in our “18 yr. old minds” we are all Marilyn Munroes…are we not?…haircolour notwithstanding!
    good luck with all your projects….


    October 6, 2009 at 8:47 am

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