Personal fitness can be a sensitive issue. In today’s hypertensive society, it’s more important than ever to teach young people about nutrition and exercise; but how do you prevent that instruction from shading into fat-shaming?
The authors of TEEN WORKS grappled with that very issue in the 1980’s. As is their wont, they farted out the worst, pants-on-head craziest solution ever.
The woman in the fetching purple leotard is Tamilee Webb, a “fitness expert” whose expertise consists mainly of trolling teenage girls by getting them to do the stupidest exercises imaginable. When we first meet Tamilee, she highlights the singular dissatisfaction most girls feel with their butts.
Butts was in the top three, you guys! That means butts earned at least a bronze in the Body Shame Olympics. Way to go, butts! Of course, there was stiff competition.
Move over, butts. Hips are here to knock you off your pedestal.
But wait–a challenger appears!
Whew! There sure are a lot of body parts vying for the title of Most Loathed. Hence the original title of this section of the book: Fitness! Why Every Part of You is the Worst Part!
For my part, I’m sticking with butts. If only because the page on butts contains the following phrase.
So let’s say you’re a teen girl in the 1980’s, and you hate your butt the way a frat boy hates asking for consent. What can you do about it? Tamilee Webb has a suggestion. It’s called BUN WALKING.
Re-read those instructions as many times as you want. They’ll always amount to the same thing: walking on your butt cheeks.
That’s…wow. That’s really something, Tamilee. Far be it from me to second-guess a “fitness expert,” but if my parents had come home from work to find their teen daughter ass-walking around the house in a purple leotard, they would have started brainstorming ways to cancel the adoption. And I’m not even adopted. The raw power of their shame would simply crowd out all memories of my conception and birth, leaving them with no recourse but to assume I was a special delivery from The Democratic People’s Republic of Butt-Walkenstein. That’s how mind-meltingly idiotic this exercise is.
Speaking of stupid exercises…this.
It’s not enough that Tamilee wants girls to exercise by wailing on a pretend trumpet. She also suggests they wear shades while doing so. It’s literally in the instructions. To paraphrase an old Lewis Black segment on The Daily Show, any teen who does these exercises might as well start crying about her Prom now.
Tamilee Webb is a woman with far more pizzazz than sense. She’s going to faux-tap dance her way into a mental institution one day, if the weight of her insanity doesn’t jerk the Earth from its orbit and sending it hurtling into the sun first.
So that’s exercise. But here’s where the writers of TEEN WORKS prove that they’re sadists as well as psychopaths. Having completed the fitness section, the reader proceeds to the chapter on parties and is immediately confronted with this.
“For God’s sake!” you cry. “Talk about mixed messages. First you slim me down with a round of strenuous air-trumpeting, then you fatten me up with non-stop food parties. What are you playing at, TEEN WORKS?”
I think I’ve figured this one out, though. These parties aren’t for fattening you up–they’re for fattening up your friends. It’s actually sort of genius. Gorge everyone you know on ice cream, cheese, and refried beans, and you’ll always be the skinniest person in the room. Think of the look on their sad, diabetic faces as you dart hither and thither, sleek and sexy and more dexterous with your butt cheeks than most people are with their hands. Congratulations, kid! Not every Ugly Duckling gets to blossom into such a monumentally twisted Swan.