Saturday, June 9, 2007

How do I look?

What do you hate - or love - most about your body? Teeth, hair, wrinkles, breasts ... We asked a host of writers about the part that best defines them - their saving grace or the one thing that has them fleeing from the mirror
Read part two of this article

Sunday June 10, 2007
The Observer

Jeremy Langmead on fat bottoms
Editor of British Esquire magazine

Due to a childhood spent in Oslo, I was a prolific reader - have you ever watched TVNorge? Yet, despite devouring everything from Dickens to Dostoevsky by the age of 11, there is one literary passage that has always stuck in my mind. Sadly, it isn't a piece of crisp prose by Greene or Capote, but a couple of paragraphs from James Herbert's The Fog. A man is walking innocently along a street when he is momentarily engulfed by a mind-bending mist. The first manifestation of his madness is to become obsessed with brutally kicking the fat bottom of the man obliviously walking in front of him.

Perhaps it was reading The Fog that bred within me an innate fear of the fat male arse. And particularly of ever owning one myself. But I don't think I am in a minority. There is no doubt that the big butt, whether in comic movies, lame sitcoms or horror fiction, has always been viewed as an object of derision. Even HG Wells in The History of Mr Polly describes how the world-weary merchant is drawn to violence by the frequent sight of his neighbour Mr Rumbold's large behind. Polly cruelly describes the offending object as an 'uncivil breadth of expressionless humanity'.

I suppose a big arse is an easy target, so to speak. But a fat bottom has long been regarded as a sign of greed, sloth and middle management. When a big manbottom wibble-wobbles into view it doesn't immediately conjure up images of vitality, agility and burning ambition. There is also something oddly effeminate about a man with a rotund behind. It looks too voluptuous and Rubensesque to be truly masculine. Men should surely look hard, not soft, to the touch.

I have two male friends with protruding posteriors. One of them is ashamed of his and regrets the limitations it imposes on his life: baggy jeans are a necessity, Philippe Starck see-through chairs a no-no and Dior Homme an impossible dream. The other is strangely proud. He says girls like his big, round arse and that he always gets it pinched in nightclubs. But even he has to dress with caution: corduroys don't work (they add unwanted padding), and neither do snug-fitting red jeans (these give him the appearance of a frisky baboon).

To avoid a fat-bottomed fate, I exercise regularly at a gym. When I first signed up with my trainer he asked why I wanted to work out. To be fit and healthy, I said. Bollocks, you just want to look good naked, he responded. But it is more than that. I don't want people to start kicking my bottom when I'm walking along the street. After all, London is a foggy city populated with numerous disgruntled shopkeepers.

So it's squats, lunges and step machines for me; maintaining a mid-size behind is a lifelong commitment. So far, the hard work appears to have paid off. The large mirror in my bathroom, in which I frequently check my rear, does not induce gasps of horror when the steam clears after a shower.

But, when I'm a little older and a little less single, perhaps I'll relax and expand. When that happens I'll seek comfort in the words of Marlon Brando. When questioned about his excessive weight, the actor replied: 'I don't mind that I'm fat. You still get the same money.,,2096678,00.html

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