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Body beautiful: I’ll see your puberty angst and raise you middle-age insecurities

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Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a Brown Woman in a White South Africa. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

I promised myself I would never be this person. But you know how it goes, you make plans and promises for and with yourself and the universe has a big laugh. So here I am, married for five years, with one child, one love of my life and way more than 30 grams of carbs consumed a day.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

When you’re dating, you do cardio, all the time. It’s important to maintain your body goals and stay “cut”, as they say, to keep the relationship going. Of course, there are other things that maintain a connection. Like similar interests or even dissimilar interests that remain interesting so that you can be surprised and intrigued by your partner and learn new things.

Disclosure: One of these things should not be camping. You should never date someone who is interested in camping. We did not struggle to struggle. We did not struggle to camp.

Other things that keep the wheels turning could be reading or performative wokeness. Perhaps you both love armchair politics or attending protests and making posters. I could go on and on. But really, let’s not kid ourselves, what matters is how you look because if you don’t maintain your summer body all through winter and every single season that follows, things will fall apart and the centre will not hold. If your relationship doesn’t fall apart, you will. Because you cannot love yourself enough for two people – not even when you’re in the best shape of your life. So we seek to at least strive to look good and feel good and, and, and…

But the opposite tends to happen when you get married.

I was, and remain, extremely judgy. I am not going to hide behind this screen and pretend like I am a perfect snowflake; I am not and I don’t think others are either – if we were, there would be no need for personal goals. Which is why I was always prone to the internal castigation of how people’s bodies tend to change when they finally find “the one”.

I would go home following a family event, for example, and after seeing a newlywed couple three months into their marriage, lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling and wonder why finding “the one” makes people look like they’ve eaten two additional people.

I promised myself I would never be this person. But you know how it goes, you make plans and promises for and with yourself and the universe has a big laugh. So here I am, married for five years, with one child, one love of my life and way more than 30 grams of carbs consumed a day. I am at least two sizes bigger with a body fat percentage that’s up by an additional 10 points. Who’s counting? Me! Sure, some of these are blessings. Huge, huge blessings. And I would never trade a pound of flesh, or … fat, for my wife, who I truly believe is my soul mate, or my gorgeous son. But given half the opportunity, in a perfect magical world, I would definitely trade myself in for the other me – the “used to be me”.

Having said all this, I must tell you that I am not, nor ever have I been, one of those people who cannot pass a mirror without looking at themselves. I have always avoided it at all costs. But just the other day I sat and had a hard look at myself and, my God, was the view irksome. I have never shuddered and been more shooketh, as they say these days, at the sight of my own physique. I wished so hard that Google Maps had the capability to lead me to the place on my own body that had some semblance of beauty. Unfortunately, we have programmed AI to work out but not to work us out and so there I stood, short, pudgy, too full-faced and with a double chin that’s not a double chin and loose skin that isn’t quite loose skin. If middle age had a transitional self-hating puberty stage, this would be it, people. Brace yourself for what’s to come 20 years after your teens. And this is not for lack of trying, people; I do try to stay fit and fab but here we are.

Be warned. The list of middle-age insecurities is a lot longer than random breakouts, hair sprouting in places that you never thought you would have to maintain like an overworked and underpaid landscapist and, in the case of boys, voices that sound like a mix between a castrato and a cat stuck in the rain. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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  • As they say, once you hit 40, it’s a matter of maintenance. But I feel your pain. It took me a good 15 years to be okay with that.

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