I See Them

I see them, do you?

Everything from dolls to cartoon superheroes to movie heroes have all evolved and shape how men perceive themselves

Everything from dolls to cartoon superheroes to movie heroes have all evolved and shape how men perceive themselves

It wasn’t always so.  There was a time when I went about my daily life with no concern for them or the havoc that they could bring, not necessarily ignorant mind you but more or less confidently apathetic, you could call it. And I’ve always known that they constantly lie in wait around us but I’ve only recently begun noticing them so routinely.  I know I’m not alone and that others see them too but no one talks about it. 

I’ve found it hurts when you see them, a sharp sting on one’s psyche.  I wonder if it’s the same for others out there.  If I had to point at when this started, I’d have to blame the wife.  It was her; she started it.

Like many others, I’d been haunted by them for a good portion of my life.  Hell, we all have our demons.  But now, things are different; everything’s changed.

Now, I see them all the time.  It was her; she did this to me!  I can’t look in the mirror without noticing…a change.

Take heed, gents.  This is what a wife watching her weight will bring to your table.

What came first was the commitment to eating right or better.  Not that we were gluttons for junk food; we weren’t.  Being a gardener kept us in fresh produce in the summer and overall we ate pretty healthily.  But we agreed it didn’t hurt to tighten it up a bit.

It was the missus who first began counting calories.  Supporting her efforts infected me and before long, I’m counting them and the next thing you know, I’m self-aware; even more than I was before.  I see them now, those extra calories from, oh maybe a day or two ago, creeping up on my behind, literally, and taking the form of an added inch or an extra pound.

It’s bad when you can’t look in the mirror without taking stock and contrary to what you might think, more men than a little bit do this very thing.

When we speak of body image, the gender usually coming to mind is female but men suffer the same pangs of concern that their female counterparts do, only not as much as the TODAY/AOL ‘Ideal to Real’ body image survey will attest.  Take a gander at some of these results.

  • Both men and women obsess less about their appearance as they age, but
  • On average, men spend 39 minutes a day on their appearance; women, 55
  • On average men have 3 daily routines to get ready; women, 5
  • On average, 53% of men worry about their appearance; women, 67%
  • On average, men are concerned with 3 problem body areas; women, 6
  • The #1 body part that concerns both men and women is the stomach

Forget the battle of the sexes.  When it comes to our bodies, the sexes are surprisingly not that far off from each other as their individual perceptions are what drives their anxieties.

Body dissatisfaction is defined as the discrepancy between a person’s perceived ideal body shape and their perceived actual body shape.  It’s something studies have shown that men consider taboo to discuss or speak of (Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia, 2000) for fear of being considered gay or girlie (Hargreaves & Tiggeman, 2006).

For men, in addition to ailments such as anorexia or bulimia, the image disorder muscle dysmorphia lies in wait for those who feel that they’re too skinny.  More than just a desire to work out, the harm comes from when undo pressure to lift weights hinders social and occupational functioning.  Some examples can include missing work to work out or avoiding sex to save energy to work out or wearing bulky clothes to hide their body due to shame (Pope, Phillips, & Olivardia, 2000).  But there is an upside.

As we get older, we spend less time on our appearance as those aged 55 and older are half as likely to worry about how they look as someone under 25.  It also helps in our personal relationships as we likewise tend to complain less about how it.

So for me, at least, the clock is ticking down to when I won’t give a damn.  Truth be told though, I don’t know if that’ll happen.  Besides overall appearance, there’s too much riding on being in some reasonable state of physical fitness, regardless your age.   The basic functions of humanity-fight, flight and procreate-all hinge on a person’s level of fitness; and it’s especially important in one’s later years.

So there it is; doomed to a life, what’s remaining of it, of counting calories and looking at oneself with a critical eye.  Oh my God!!  Is that the ice cream from this weekend I see?


Some material was taken from the paper, Body Dissatisfaction and Males: A Conceptual Model by Mitch Primus, University of Minnesota and Morris Undergraduate Journal

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