Just between us, I found Ms. Anne pacing the floor all night, then on her computer looking for information. I’m not thrilled about her driving with no sleep, even though she’s always capable under fire. So I’m joining our group.
“They’ll hate me in the fourth chapter,” she cried out at 3am. “I can’t do it. Let’s ease into America’s obesity and exercise statistics at the end of the book. I know it’s counter-intuitive to save the bad news until last, but everyone will be so happy to be in Portofino, we can just cut and run. “
But Ms. Anne, I tapped her strong shoulder. French women don’t get fat. How can you not discuss this fact upon our arrival in France? We’re parading into the Carlton in Cannes in our baggy sweats, and you don’t want to talk about America’s weight problem and its relationship to sexuality?
“That’s not entirely true, Brain,” she said, defending Americans. “France has its own problems with growing obesity rates.”
She was blowing loose in the wind with that argument. Ms. Anne, you study women for a living. Americans latch onto every little statistic to make ourselves feel that we’re just leading the race to obesity and everyone else will catch up. Then we biggie-size the facts, distorting reality way beyond the truth.
French women are the slimmest in Europe, with a collective BMI of 23.2. In a 2009 study of European women, half of all French femmes are convinced that they weigh too much. Women’s attitudes and statistics are similar in Italy, the second slimmest country in Europe.
How can we not discuss America’s obesity rates, when we open Chapter 4 in the south of France? You have me totally confused, Ms. Anne. Don’t make me feel badly, as if I’m The Doctor, or someone equally detached and analytical. I’m Brain. I see the whole picture, including the emotional component of every issue. But on this subject we must take off the rosy glasses.
Americans size up everything, except the amount of responsible pleasure, in their lives. In the name of the national economy, Americans substitute food and shopping for national wealth and call it patriotism. You well know, Anne, that the French have a different perspective about what makes “joie de vivre.”
I’ve read those 2005 articles about French people being as obese as Americans by 2020. They’re not accurate now. They’re feel-good frenzy, American style. We can’t stand being losers on the subject of fat.
Look at the mounds of research you’ve assembled. Yes, Ms. Anne, the French rate of obesity increased from 6% to 11.3% in 2005. The Americans went ooh la la. They, too, will be just as obese as we are.
There’s a couple problems with the celebrating, my friend.
Mathematicians calculated rates to 2020 without considering the intervention of the French government putting the country on a diet. More important, Americans have already eaten our way to new obesity rates. We’re leaving the French in the dust on the topic of obesity, yelling ‘catch us if you can.’
Over 30% of Americans are now obese, way ahead of those 2005 calculations. We don’t know what the number will be by 2020 in America. Trust me, Anne, French women will never be as obese as American women. They have too much self-discipline and self-respect.
Dear readers, the last challenge could have been a fatal mistake on my part.
Hearing my challenge about American women, she threw a heavy book on the floor with such force, the thud had to wake up the people sleeping in the apartment below. After all, it was now 4 am. My friend exploded in emotional frustration.
“How dare you say such nonsense, you cold-hearted heap of straw! I don’t think you have a brain at all in your head. I would be crazy to tell American women that we lack self-discipline and self-respect, compared to French women. We will never get a publisher for our book, and everyone will hate me. You call this a strategy to change the nation? You are an empty-headed bloke, Brain.”
Our guide to “la dolce vita” was just making a dramatic gesture for your benefit. Ms Anne is very sensitive to the idea that she’s not on your side.
“And what about the sex, then?” I asked her. “I thought we want Americans to have more sex. Be Superyoung. Will you try to make an argument that the thinner French aren’t having more sex and especially over 50?
She was not amused with my challenge, but she was listening.
French Women Do Have Sex
In 2009, 90% of French women over 50 said they remain sexually active. These statistics represent a big French government study, an in-depth report on the country’s sexual behavior. In 1970 50% of French women age 50 and over were having sex; today 90% are sexually active.
“Do you think there might be a connection between the attitudes of French women about food and the fact that they’re having so much sex as older women, Ms. Anne?”
“Let’s also not forget that French women have a much more positive view of aging, my dear author … thanks to their culture and their — don’t throw another book, Ms Anne — positive self-image.”
Our author rarely loses an argument, but I had her cornered and she knew it. Nevertheless, I ducked until she spoke calmly.
“French culture reveres older women, Brain. The self-confidence of French women lies in a culture that celebrates them and their individuality. And French men make it a national obsession to keep French women motivated to stay thin. American women would kill men for talking about their weight in such an overt way. You know the ‘do I look fat in these pants’ jokes.”
“Oh, Brain, what shall we do?” she said, putting her head on the desk. “I’ve always been honest in my writing. I just can’t bear starting our journey to ‘a dolce vita’ mired down in obesity statistics. We’re supposed to inspire our friends, not lecture them. “
“This whole book is a terrible idea. What was I thinking! You can’t write the truth to people about sex and weight.”
She’s right, of course, but I have too much faith in her to bail. Plus I have my own secret agenda for this trip. Indeed, I see a PhD in intellectual credibility on my horizon.
In her middle of the night misery, I decided to assert myself. Between you and me, she likes aggressive men as long as they are sensitive and respectful.
“Let me do it then, Ms. Anne. I’ll handle Chapter 4 and the tough love facts on obesity. You can’t drive alone anyway, It’s too much for one person, and you’re always looking at the Mediterranean for inspiration. You’ll drive off a cliff without me at the wheel, and we’ll have this massive American pileup in the Mediterranean. I’m coming with you.”
“You will not, Brain. How can you … oh, perhaps you’re right. It would be an innovative writing twist, very creative. Ok, then. You can narrate Chapter 4, and we’ll see how it goes. I may have to make you the villain later on, if readers hate me. Actually this is a good idea, Brain. Now I have a fall guy, someone to blame things on, if everyone gets off the literary road, when we present the facts.”
“Ok, you’re coming to the South of France. Let me just sleep for an hour. Then please call for the bags to be loaded in the car.”
“Brain, did we tell people, no sweat pants allowed on this trip, unless they’re fashion forward? Here I go. That’s such an elitist attitude. Truly, I’m doomed.”
“Ms. Anne, I know you believe that comfort dressing is a key driver in America’s weight problem. Sweats hide midriff bulge. It’s the hear no evil, see no evil effect.”
“Come on, kiddo. You’ve gotten this far without getting run off the Internet. Have some faith in Americans. When the chips are down, who is the ‘can do’ nation?”
“Brain, stop sounding like Sarah Palin! Ours is a national security problem, and I was never good at pep rallies. America’s health and wellbeing, our longevity — and even our marital institutions — are at stake here. Please wake me up in an hour.”
Success | Come Hell or High Water
Dear readers, now that we have a few moments alone before Ms Anne (now MA) wakes up, let me share a bit more about what makes her tick.
Anne of Carversville has big plans for you. Quite simply, she does not take no for an answer, when the subject is your wellbeing.
“Can’t” is not a word in her vocabulary. Call her stubborn; she accepts no excuses for us not reaching your destination, “la dolce vita” and a sweeter, more sensual and healthy life.
Let me explain that Anne has an artificial hip — a childhood injury problem. She was on a conference call four hours after hip surgery, A client sent a car to bring her back to New York, and our Anne walked out of the hospital on a cane, wearing a short skirt and kitten heels.
Anne was on the treadmill the day she came home from the hospital. Plodding along at .7mph, the woman was determined to walk without a cane, and she did in less than three weeks.
She went to a physical therapist in Wall Street, so they would beat the crap out of her, making her leg work like normal. She cursed them out plenty, but you would never know she has an artificial hip today.
MA is relentless when she gets an idea in her mind.
“If they don’t succeed, I will have failed in my mission,” she says.
Now that’s a woman with heart. You know … it’s nice having someone care about you in this way. Still, explaining the many reasons why you’re not living a Superyoung lifestyle can be bloody frustrating.
If we get a flat tire over too much weight in the roadster, she will say: “Well… fix it. It’s only a minor mechanical problem. Let’s move on.”
When I explain that there might not be enough tires to fix all our flats between here and the Italian Riviera, she says “God will provide.”
How do you deal with a woman like that? What does she mean: “God will provide?”
I explain that you’ve committed to changing your life endless times before now, and it didn’t work.
She shakes her head resolutely saying: “This time will be different. No more driving around potholes. We’re facing facts here and getting at the heart of the problem.”
Then she looks into my eyes and says in total earnest: “This time it will work. I know this time will be different. It worked for me, and I was a complete mess.”
Even being a brain, I feel myself losing focus, like I’m under her spell or something.
How could this woman ever be a complete mess! Trust me, she can convince you of just about anything. Perhaps this story, too, is a grand strategy on her part.
The Mathematics of Time Invested in Yourself
I tell her that you’re working 80 hours a week between your job, your husband and the kids. There is no time. You want to become CEO of your own life maintenance system, but only as long as no time is involved on your part. You have none.
First she looks at me as if I’ve short-circuited my brain and explains the laws of physics and mathematics. You will become more productive with exercise, so that your job and at-home performance will be more productive. It’s about focus, she says. Every successful woman knows that exercise is key to success.
Next, she explains that your overall time investments will go down, with increased productivity. You will actually find more time for yourself.
“Wishful thinking,” I challenge her back, anticipating your reaction. “Are you crazy? Readers will have time for themselves? Nice try, Anne.”
I tell her that you’re a guy operating on six-cylinders as it is, with a killer job and an hour commute each way. She tells me that you’ll operate on eight-cylinders when she’s done with you.
Your Brain is telling you this is all very simple.
The woman will make some strong arguments for why you will want to live a more sensual life. She’ll try to seduce you with her personal story. If she’s losing you, I’m sure MA will pull a rabbit out of the hat to get you back.
Facing the magnificent blue Mediterranean and inhaling jasmine, you will agree to anything. Beware, because she will hold you to your promises. Tough love, too much love … call it what you wish. Anne remembers a promise, especially when it concerns your health and well-being.
Alright then, we’re really off this time. Close your eyes; click your heels; find a blindfold. When you turn the digital page, we’ll meet you in France.
More reading: Aging American Women Should Move to France Body | Beauty | Culture
Sensual and Superyoung
In our new lineup you will find me — Anne — in third person:
Sensual Health | scientific articles about sexuality, sensual aging, and even Martha Stewart’s food fantasies
Sensual Vitality Blog | quickies that track Anne’s view of new research and cultural news about sensuality
Sensual and Superyoung | the book, a work in process