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Washboard abs out, wash tub abs in

August 26, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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Bad news for John Basedow. Six-pack abs are out, the paunch is in.

This isn't just a gut feeling of mine. It comes from an actual news story in the New York Times with the headline "It's hip to be round."

And I'm telling you, the federal obesity police aren't going to like the news one little bit. But there you have it: Any guy who's cool in New York these days is, as they say, "proudly rocking a gut."

Not a big gut, mind you, just a little avocado gut.

Why? Let's ask the people whose job it is to read way too much into everything in life, the editors of lifestyle magazines. They trace hard abs back to the introduction of women into the high-level work force. Men who had used their careers to advertise their studliness suddenly needed a new way to man up. So muscles became the new currency of status.

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Makes sense. "Hey lady, you may be my boss, but I can do 400 sit-ups." As anyone can see, the logic in this reaction is air-tight.

For the record, it should be noted your Humble Correspondent never bought into that scenario -- or even realized it existed, for that matter. No, the H.C. has been sitting next to women in the office for 20 years and it never once seemed like a good reason to lay off the butter pecan. Or shave. Or use a fork to access those hard-to-reach itches. Or anything.

But back to our story. This cooked-up manliness apparently has reached the point where it has imploded on itself. Fussing over muscles suddenly seems so, dare we say, womanly.

One cultural observer told the Times, "The six-pack abs obsession got so prissy, it stopped being masculine."

Bummer. All those hours and hours of crunches and what do you have to show for it? Women giggling behind your back and wondering if you pluck your eyebrows.

Of course, President Obama is partially at fault as well. The hipsters, experts say, hate to resemble anyone who is in a position of authority, so if the leader of the free world is in great shape, they will, by definition, steer a different course.

You can believe that if you want, but I don't see it. When Bush was president, Americans didn't all of a sudden rush out and get smart. Jimmy Carter didn't make me want to get organized and Nixon didn't inspire me to become honest.

I'm no expert on culture or psychology, but another reason for this paunchorama comes to mind: Maybe these dudes just like to eat. I mean face it, if you define yourself by the geometric angulations of your belly, there are some other manners of self-expression you've missed.

I've never once looked at a man's stomach and thought, "Hmm, he must be a cool, nonprissy contrarian." But I have looked at a man's stomach and thought, "Ten years of cheesy fries."

Maybe these guys just figured out there's more to life than spending an hour a day on a 45-degree inclined plane while eating nothing but peeled tomatoes and canned tuna.

All I know is if it gets pants companies to start making 38-inch waists again, I'm all for it. Face it, the war on obesity is like the war on drugs. We're not going to win, so we might as well embrace it. And that means getting rid of euphemisms such as "relaxed fit" jeans. Call them what they are -- "letting-yourself-go fit" jeans. Be proud.

And put that bench press on eBay.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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