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I've grown this thing on my left side, above my belly button.
I call it Marcel, aka the rogue muscle. Despite my diligent exercising, it has so far failed to sprout a right-hand side twin so I am left wondering how I have come to develop lopsided abs. Or rather, just the one ab. (Not to be confused with the much-revered generous paunch sported by my XXXL father and known in family circles as "The Abdominal").
To be fair, if I take a long naked look in the mirror, my ribcage seems to hang lower on one side and I also have the one droopy buttock complete with extra padding. And being a woman, of course one of my boobs is bigger than the other – Nature's signature rather than the shoddy workmanship of a disreputable plastic surgeon.
Then again, I am no stranger – or indeed opponent – to plastic surgery. I resorted to it age 16 to pin back the one ear that had stuck out inquisitively since childhood, satellite dish-like, always pointing towards people. The operation was a life-saver in terms of self-confidence, a precious commodity that had been ripped to shreds by a decade and a half of classroom bullying and complete lack of parental concern. But even knifed into submission, the ear's influence would continue to be felt in my professional life. This is how, at the tender age of 21, I joined the ranks of a famous broadcasting organization as a lowly news operative wearing a big headset with mic for up to 12 hours on end, recording reports and dispatches from correspondents around the world, and making sure they ended up in the right place.
I used to sit around a lot back then, and save for my occasional forays into the world of tour directing, some epic traipses in new cities tracking down interviewees, and, lately, island living, I still sit around a lot some 16 years later. Ergo, a lardy rear is as much part of journalism and writing as deadlines are, only with different sound effects. If lithe deadlines tend to whoosh past, my lardy rear thuds reassuringly every time it greets the office chair.
These days however, I'm a teetotal, non-smoking, pretzelizing vegan whose vanity goes through exponential growth spurts every time I nab the last pair of size 2/4 yoga pants from the outlet store. Having struggled with self-image and food my entire life, I find the small numbers oddly reassuring even though what I see in the mirror bears no resemblance to what actually is. In other words, it's not enough to know I could swap wardrobes with my 16-year old model niece (although I would have to turn up trousers as she is much taller than my 5'7'').
To curb self-loathing, I need to actively be keeping my lardy rear and bingo wings demons in check.
This is how my visit to Seattle was swiftly followed by the purchase of an exercise mat, in order to prevent carpet burns. On the island, the whole house is linoleum so I can get fit and do some housekeeping at the same time, but here getting sweaty requires some foam padding. And so, most days I twist myself into a pretzel, squat, push and sit up under the bemused yet watchful eyes of two felines who had rather their nap time was not interrupted by the offensive combination of human panting and beastly smells.
Not today though.
I've given Marcel the day off after that new-fangled routine I lifted from some TV infomercial turned my buns into wobbly permapain. Exercise will still happen – by stealth – when I take the kitty crap and household refuse out and walk to the grocery store for dinner supplies. And just like on the island, being a pedestrian around here is not the norm.
But if walking is usually met with confusion, there is one fact guaranteed to make American jaws drop to the floor.
At 37, I still have no driver's license.
Somehow, I think both body dysmorphia and Marcel are all the better for it.