Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Michelle Obama's Arms--Can a Crone Get Them?

Remember about thirty years ago when everyone wanted Farrah Fawcett’s hair? (R.I.P. Farrah.) Then about 15 years ago, it was Jennifer Anniston’s hair that everyone wanted. Around the millennium it was Angelina Jolie’s full lips, leading to a lot of ill-conceived lip-plumping inoculations. Now everyone wants Michelle Obama’s sculpted arms. (While some hyper-critical folks say she should hide those muscular arms—they aren’t lady-like. That’s ridiculous! It’s not as if she’s so ripped that the veins are popping our of her arms, the way they do on Madonna.)

Yesterday’s big news story was that Mrs. Obama’s personal trainer, Cornell McClellan, has revealed how she gets those arms. It seems that Michelle, like her husband, tends to get up about 5:30 in the morning for a grueling workout that ends with her “arm-shaping superset” of tricep pushdowns (that means pulling a straight metal bar down against the resistance of a pulley—on a machine) followed without resting by a set of hammer curls using dumbbells. Fifteen of each make a set, then do it all over again two more times.

Was it Oscar Wilde who said “Never wave good-bye after forty.”? He was right. There comes a time in nearly every woman’s life when she realizes that sleeveless dresses are no longer appropriate for her wardrobe because sleeves are necessary to hide whatever that is hanging down from her upper arms. (Evidently it’s called “Bat wings.” As in “Old Bat”, I presume.)

When I was in my 30’s, I wrote an article for Ladies Home Journal that involved interviewing the “Dancing Grannies.” These were a group of women--all over 55 years old and living in a retirement community in Arizona—who had formed a dance troupe similar to the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, and traveled around performing high kicks and other dance routines not usually considered appropriate for grandmothers. They looked great. One of the grannies, I remember, told me that her upper arms had started to look crepey, but she countered that by doing arm curls with weights as she sat watching television.

At 68, I’m 13 years past the minimum age to join the Dancing Grannies. (I wonder if they’re still around?) A year ago, when I started taking pilates classes, I was flat on the floor struggling through the push-ups that always end the session (as a novice I get to do them while braced on my knees, not on my toes) and I looked at my upper arms and sure enough—major creping. Crepe paper was smoother than the flesh of my upper arms. When did that happen, I wondered?

(And whatever happened to crepe paper, I also wondered. When I was small, my mother would sew Halloween costumes for me out of crepe paper every year.)

Today, I’m exactly one month away from going back to Minnesota for the 50th reunion of my high school graduating class of 1959 from Edina Morningside High School. This will probably require a cocktail dress for one of the nights. And a cocktail dress might reveal some things I’d rather keep hidden about my upper arms.

(Speaking of 50th high school reunions, yesterday at the supermarket I was paging through the latest National Enquirer, as is my wont, and there was a photo of actor Nick Nolte being pushed in a wheelchair through an airport and the caption said that he was headed for HIS 50th high school reunion. He looked gaunt and old. At least I can walk through the airport to get to mine, I thought, feeling thankful for that.)

So starting yesterday, because I do have five-pound hand weights—I’ve instituted an “arm sculpting” routine inspired by Michelle Obama. Of course I don’t have that handy machine with the metal bar that you push down, but I know a maneuver with the weights that’s supposed to exercise the right muscles. (Hold your arms straight over your head clutching the weights, hands facing. Then bend your elbows so that the weights drop behind your head, somewhere at the back of your neck. Then straighten up the arms again, weights reaching toward the ceiling. Repeat 15 times.) Then do 15 arm curls with the weights extended out to the sides.

We’ll see, if I do three sets of 15 each in the morning and again in the evening, perhaps the firmness and flopping of my upper arms will be improved by the time I go to the reunion on Oct. 9. I’ll let you know. Or maybe I can just find a cocktail dress with nice long sleeves.


Robin Paulson said...

Joan, First let me say that there is a group of women on Facebook that's called "Evening Dresses with Sleeves." I'm a member, as is our friend, Christine Brewer, world famous operatic soprano who, as a plus size woman, must wear lots of evening dresses on stage and wishes the fashion world would address us over 50 ladies of the evening, so to speak. So if you would like to join this group, I invite you to do so. Secondly, I've had Michele Obama arms for years, if I do say so myself. Your brother first noticed this when he saw me drying my hair in my underwear. When I lifted the blow dryer in one hand, and the brush in the other, my arm muscles (AKA guns) popped out and he couldn't help but comment. So you too can have her (or my) arms, but you'll need more than five pound weights. Happy lifting!

Esper Nasrallah said...

Who started all this hoopla about Michelle's arms? Maureen Dowd?
What is the big deal?! My mother in her seventies still has as good arms because she was a home-maker the old fashioned way all her life!
That is all you "CRONES" need: House-work the old fashioned way!

Alice in Wonderland said...

Hello, I got here via Eleni's Facebook status -- she and I were former colleagues at In Style and I got to see her when she was in town with Nick for the Centennial celebration of the Greek Cathedral in Omaha. Anyway, I enjoyed reading this post and thought to comment as I'm going to Edina next week (never been). Hope you have fun at your reunion and that get closer to Michelle O' arms!!!

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