Monday, January 11, 2010


Damn that Kelly Ripa.

Every so often, the Matron catches Kelly's daily banter with Regis. The Matron is struck by how down-home-busy-working-mama Kelly constructs herself to be. Lots of talk about carting the wee ones, the joys and dramas of the under ten set.

This woman has no body fat. Where is her jelly roll, the rotund and inflexible ring of fire that the rest of us mamas have? The Matron is no porker but even at fifty sit-ups a day, she has the mommy fat around her middle-aged maternal belly.

This is the point in the narrative when she reminds herself that part of any skinny, beautiful celebrity's regular work day is the work out: the 9 to 5 or 6 to midnight or whatever the day would be probably incorporates a couple of hours at the gym. Celebrity salaries depend on staying not only trim but downright undernourished.

But today, all of this blather depresses the Matron. Actually, pisses her off!

It is hard to be female -- and it is hard to be a woman growing older. Yes, yes, she can hear you now, all about the self-love and body acceptance, aging with grace. You're right, of course. Perfectly right.

But a little part of her - -the vain streak despairing about age and another part peering into the future for her eleven-year old daughter who is quite literally growing up on stage and in film -- is so weary of a world in which many women (and she counts herself among them) might wage world war over a cookie or a slice of pie: should she or shouldn't she? What will she do for dinner? Was there exercise in the day?

While her husband will down the dessert without a thought, slam dunk.

She doesn't much think about these issues -- the glorified, sexualized slender female body -- because, well, she's just been through that drama already. But maybe she should be giving this more consideration.

After John and the Matron ended their no caffeine, no alcohol, no sugar, three week cleanse (thank EVERYBODY that's over and pour another cup-glass of both), she overheard Scarlett and a 12-year old friend discussing whether or not they should also go on a 'cleanse' the following week.

Scarlett is a child, a girl, growing up watching her mother say NO to pasta, cheese, pie. A mother who works out nearly every day and who -- pregnancies aside--has maintained the same body weight for twenty years. With effort. And it isn't all about the health, folks. This post is tough -- she's putting herself out there -- because she's being brutally honest: the self-discipline is partly about health but also (okay MORE) about wearing the size one jeans and looking good -- by the culture's problematic, damaging and demanding standards.

She's here to tell you, there are rewards in being a woman and being thin. She sees how people look at other women her age, sisters whose breasts and stomach are one, who hide their bodies in bulky sweaters and sweat pants. Women who bear at least a passing resemblance to assumptions about beauty and grace get treated better. She's not endorsing this but reporting the reality.

Events over the weekend -- unrelated to food and bodies and probably a post for tomorrow -- held a mirror to how the Matron and her husband are modeling LIFE for their children. Expectations, pleasure, discipline, dreams and duties. Modeling how one navigates the larger world, with its demands and inconsistencies.

Modeling what it meas to be female. Today, the Matron thinks she could be doing that a little bit better.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I love Kelly Ripa, but that first picture is slightly scary looking.

I am proud that, despite being overweight, I have managed to pass on the view to my children that the way I look, and my weight, are not what defines me--and should not be what defines them.

They know that both diet and exercise are about health for me--I have no desire to be thin for thin's sake, just thinnER for health's sake.

My youngest daughter spent the night at a friend's house the other night. Nobody in the house is allowed to eat after dark--this is to control their weight.

Yes, the mom is thin and beautiful. Also, in my opinion and my daughter's, a total nut-job.

Laura said...

I hear ya sister. I am a petite, thin woman. But sadly, I have thinner (and taller) friends, so that I am always looking at the tiny roll of fat around my belly, the accumulating thigh fat and thinking, damn, I'm fat. Oh, I know I'm not and never had a food issue in my life. I plan my day around food (which may be an issue, but I eat very healthily). I work out a few times a week, but not as heavily as I should. Mostly, it's a time thing. If I can squeeze in a 30 minute walk on the treadmill, but I should be doing the hour circuit, whatever, I won't die. But I still feel guilty.

Memarie Lane said...

I read recently that doing sit-ups or other ab-intensive exercises will actually bulk up your midsection, that people who want slim middles should concentrate on fat loss rather than building muscle. Also, all these celebrities get colonics regularly, which makes their bellies flatter than flat. I used to book their colonics for them, so I am in a position to know. ;)

Minnesota Matron said...

Memarie -- NO. Please don't tell me that. Jenn, that mother IS a nut job. I"m not that bad. I snack at night and so do the kids!

Suburban Correspondent said...

Wait. You mean by not watching my weight, I'm being a positive role model for my daughters? Praise the Lord and pass the buttered popcorn!

MJ said...

I struggled with self-acceptane for years until my mid-30s when I finished the child-bearing phase & concluded that my body did okay and produced 2 healthy children. What more could I want?

My positive self-acceptance collapsed within a few months when my back/abs collapsed & the constant need to maintain them. I'm not trying to be a role model heading to the gym with a cast on my left arm; I'm just trying to keep my back healthy.

This self-acceptance and balance stuff just stinks.

JCK said...

Kelly Ripa does look incredibly scary in that top picture. And horribly thin. Yes, she has help, lots of it - to help with children, a trainer, etc. She is a celebrity with money to pay for it all, and to keep her image trim.

I think it is wonderful that you are looking at all of this and seeing how it might affect Scarlett. It is important stuff. How we are with our own bodies, and how our daughters see us framed, at times, by our own body image.

Wenderina said...

Health. That's what I've turned to in my post 40, acid reflux, flabby years. I'm trying to make non teenage junk food choices, trying to get some discipline in exercise, trying to get fit overall. But the focus has to be health as my abs will never by a 6-pack (or 2-pack even)...but hopefully the acid reflux will go away and I'll have strength enough to walk that beach I'm going to own when I retire.

Anonymous said...

I'll never be what the world calls thin. I don't even want to be there! But I do want to be healthy, to not be out of breath after climbing stairs or hills, and to wear clothes off the rack in the ladies section of the store. It's hard work.

I would say that Kelly Ripa is a naturally thin person who is also a naturally thin eater. It's all about the genes. My husband is one of those types but even he is not THAT thin!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

The great irony is that when asked, most men prefer a woman with a little meat on her bones--a Sarah Fergeson to a Princess Dianay--we are SO hard on ourselves.
And Kelly Ripa is TOO skinny.

INK said...

I agree with the other comments about health being the primary focus. Everything after that is gravy.
A good book on image and how western women have been subjected to a certain ideology is John Berger's Ways of Seeing.
"A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman."

Anonymous said...

Imagery is powerful strong. It works on our senses and every level of our psyche. For the same reason I had to end my subscription to Martha Stewart’s HOME because I became weary of trying to live up to examples of sublime home furnishings and artful seasonal crafts, I also try to not view images of popular style magazines. But while recovering from illness this weekend I rifled through a Women’s Health magazine. My head is now filled with images of skinny models, exercise regimes, food portions, and a general feeling of inadequacy.
Norishing one's body is hard to do in a society where food is often disguised as junk. Soda pop, HFCS, ultra-processed foods, additives, etc, are rampant in our food supply.
My goal is to simply the food, nourish my bod, be kind to myself. Walk the dog, jump around a lot. Make extra trips up the stairs, clean the house with vigor, squat, do push ups, do handstands. Dance to loud music in the middle of the day. Maintain quality relationships with my spouse and friends. Love my children. Do good work. Read often. Think before speaking. Welcome peace. Savor. Enjoy.

BTW, Why is Ms. Ripa wearing a spaghetti strap tunic, while everyone around her is wearing coats and hats--inclucing her children? Is she is "toting" her children around for the three second photo shoot before she goes to get her hair done (she is also carrying another wig.)

Minnesota Matron said...

Ink, anyone who quotes John Berger on my blog is a good fit for me! You picked just the right paragraph.

Mrs. G. said...

I'm with Jenn. That first photo is very scary. She looks gaunt.

Body image. It starts too early and never ends.

Sue said...

My problem is more about self control. I have none.