How the 76-year-old terminated my respect for him
Arnold's boulder shoulders were the THING when I was much younger. He ushered in a new wave of steroid abuse and use among those desperate to look like him. He was impressive, as has been his career.
Now, as he inches towards eighty, unlike my real hero Jack LaLane, he whines and complains about his body. I have to wonder how much of what he is seeing is due to the drug use, but that's not for me to say. I only care about what he publicly says about it.
Sure, we all have our issues as we age. Arnold is such a public figure, his words matter and influence so many of us, that a little discretion would have been appropriate of a hero.
Not this guy.
On a recent Howard Stern show, he's quoted as saying:
“I kind of smile because every day I do look in a mirror and I say, ‘Yep, you suck,” he told Stern.
He continued, “Look at this body. Look at the pectoral muscles that used to be firm and perky and really powerful. Now they’re just hanging there.’ I mean, what the hell is going on here?”
What did you expect, big man? That this wouldn't be you?
You've been in the fitness business for decades, your bodybuilder friends aged the same way, and somehow this isn't going to happen to you?
While he has every right to feel a combination of horrified and disappointed about how his body is changing, the public abuse he heaps on himself is what I dislike. This rank ageism plays right into the hands of societal hate for heroes who can't stay young forever.
That's not leading. That's lagging behind.
He still works out. He's still huge. He still has an empire over which he looms large just as much as before. But his wisdom doesn't seem to go far enough to realize that his disgust about his changing, aging body teaches self-hate to his admirers.
We are our worst enemies if we are so defined by our bodies that we die a million deaths each day we see it changing, as it must.
Interestingly, Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred with Arnold in True Lies in 1994 (they recently reunited) was far more willing to share her real body with the world. Here's that story:
Women loved her for this. She shattered the Hollywood mask that so many maintain, that they never age. We all do.
The press saves its worst abuses for those women who, in their extreme youth, were extreme beauties. How DARE they age. How DARE they disappoint us by wrinkling like the rest of us.
Which is why I also like that other Hollywood stars like Pamela Anderson are showing up in public sans makeup. These women are taking steps, albeit baby steps, to rewrite how they get to be perceived.
This may seem minor, but such baby steps herald changes which could have significant repercussions for society over time. Over our ability to see that we are not our bodies, and we are our souls and our character.
Okay, I can hope.
Still, that takes courage, courage that Conan, apparently, doesn't possess. Especially given their star status, which leads to brutal scrutiny.
On one hand I have empathy for a man who for his entire life was defined by his body. On the other, let's grow up, please. For we need our heroes to be heroic in their losses. This is the one loss we must all suffer.
The older I get, the more wrinkles I find on my body, the more folds that grace my elbows and knees, the more humbled I am by time's passing. The more I so deeply appreciate that my body continues to work hard, heal, dedicate itself to my insistence that it stay strong.
That is heroic. Not me, kindly. The body that keeps right on ticking even after all the insults I've hurled at it. We all have, in one way or another.
Right now I care far less about my limited looks than how well my body works. That's the only thing that matters, especially after the last few years. What I regain is going to be hard-won. Earned.
Yesterday I spent an hour with my physical therapist. I was barefoot and doing full body weight squats, focusing on controlling my newly-repaired feet. They wobble, struggle, try to collapse. The three metatarsals on both feet are now fused, preventing them from doing their job of adapting to the micro changes as I squat slowly.
It's damned difficult work. Frustrating work. AND. If I want to hike again, it has to be done. If I want to walk safely on stones and uneven surfaces, this is what it's going to take.
Aging is the hardest journey any of us will ever take. We need heroes who are willing to face into their headwinds and show us how.
Want to read about one of my aging sheroes?
Here you go:
Let's be aging heroes. Let's show the way. Let's BE ALL THAT and a bag of chips no matter what falls off, goes grey, rolls under the bed or gets moldy.
Let's be bigger than Arnold.
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