Vanity ~ vice or virtue?

I’ve been accused of a lot of things in my life. Arrogance, confidence, thoughtlessness, stupidity, ignorance, attitude, cunning, wit, intelligence, creativity, worldliness. Vanity is not one that I’ve got very often, or at all, at least not in my own hearing/knowledge. Interestingly, vanity is one of the most abiding features of my life right now as I discover a whole new world of strength, muscle and exhilaration involved in getting strong, fit and holding people up with my body (or being held). I’ve always been proud of my body, liked it, never had the serious body dissatisfaction issues that plagued so many young women in my cohort, but I’ve never striven for tone and tension with any particular vigour until recently.

It all started in my backyard. Well actually is started before that, well before that when I realised that exercise could be fun, particularly circus exercise and that my body could do awesome stuff and perhaps more awesome stuff if it was stronger. But the big catalyst was in my back yard (well, tiny courtyard anyway). 

2011 for me was The Year of Participation. I had just ended a three year relationship which had left me isolated from my friends and pretty boring in general. I was determined to re-enter the world and my method for doing so was a prohibition on saying no to social invites. The result was pretty amusing. Mostly me ending up at parties and events I’d been invited to but wasn’t really expected at. As 2012 dawned I realised I needed a new focus. I was out and about now, doing lots of cool stuff like circus and meeting many cool people along the way. Now that I had discovered that my body was pretty rocking, what was the next step?

Enter my courtyard and my trainer and I drinking beers on my banana lounges planning great things. The circus term had just started, I had grant applications to write and programs to dream of and plan for. We both decided it was a year to be awesome, look awesome, feel awesome and be awesome. And so the concept of Year of the Arms was broached. The year to focus on us, our arms and our awesomeness.

For those of you who don’t know me personally and so haven’t had the bombardment of YEAH, YEAR OF THE ARMS BABY and me showing off my guns ad nauseum, this is the basic plot line:

a year of general focus on fitness, specifically strength, most specifically having downright sexy arms

This isn’t to say we’re neglecting the other parts of our bodies, it’s just something to focus on, think about and yell at each other when we’ve just done thirty push-ups (ok, so that’s a rarity) or nine minutes of heaven (ask me if you’re interested). And the best part of all of this? I’m starting to see, and hear, results which is making me very, very vain.

Mostly, the results are that I feel stronger, can do things that I couldn’t do before but I’m also noticing actual muscle, you know, that my biceps are sitting differently next to my body, that they’re present in a way they’ve never been before. I’m also seeing the difference in amusing, wardrobe malfunctions, like last Friday night when I wore a little short-sleeved shirt with buttons at the cuffs which literally popped off their stitching when I flexed to pick up a box with my awesome biceps. I then spent the rest of the evening showing anyone and everyone the evidence of my buffness.

The vanity is fun, it gets me out of bed at 7:30am to do Richard Simmons Friday (another post), it’s evidence that all these push-ups are worth the pain, that the muscle soreness and bruises are worth while. It’s a new feeling that I’ve never had before and I like it. When the conference manager at the hotel my work owns saw me on Friday her first comment was “OMG you’re so BUFF! Have you been working out?!”. Have you any idea how amazing that makes you feel?

So my question is, vanity is ordinarily considered a vice. It’s annoying and unpleasant and vain people don’t make good friends yeh? But if I own my vanity, accept its presence and it’s purpose, can it be a force for good instead of evil? As long as I stop showing everyone my buttons once I’ve sobered up?

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