The editor, Emma Forrest, writes in the introduction
That's what this collection is about: the intimate strangers who work with the surfce and get to the depths. If women tell their secrets to their hairdressers, what might they share upside down on a masseuse's table or hand in hand with a manicurist?I found the book a quick read. It provided insights in women's experiences with people I seldom (OK, never) frequent: the manicurist, the aestheticist, the make-up artist. How an individual came to give their trust to someone. How some became friends, how other were betrayed.
I loved Jennifer Beale's story: My Body Will Always Remember You, where a surprise Christmas present sends her back in time. The idea that while our minds might forget those who have worked on our bodies in the past, our bodies will always be able to recall each individual's unique touch is a haunting concept.
Emma Forrest's own essay about an "affair" with her tattoo artist was charming, too. And Marcelle Karp's Tender was just that.
However, as you might suspect, I was really intrigued by the hint on the cover about stories of personal trainers. My own past year has been tied to the work with own, that I was curious to read about other women's stories. And here the book lost me. Except for part of Beale's piece, there was only one other woman who wrote about her trainer.
She was not kind. Barbara Ellen's Less Than Zero is a discussion on large metropolitan area's obsession with the size zero, and the reality of knowing that because she is now "of a certain age".. she will not be there. It's a bitter, biting piece that made me angry at her instead of angry at the society she was commenting on.
Personal trainers are what happen to people who commit the cardinal sin of no longer being too thin. Their role is to convince people not remotely interested in the sadomasochistic world that it is completely normal to pay someone to bully, criticize, and insult you.And later:
...he feels he can get away with doing what he does; What, after all, we ask him to. It's for their own good, he thinks. ...I am doing a great job pointing out to them all how out of shape they are.
But, as we come to the end of our session, I wonder is he??
...How did it come to this--paying strange men 40 pounds a time to bully me? ...I have times when I'm sorely in need of a positive reflection. here at the gym, all I seem to be getting is a hall of mirrors, warped glass, at best a kaleidoscope of random (substandard) body parts (glutes, abs, biceps). Woman once whole, now shattered by toffee hammer. There has to be more out there somewhere.
My experience has been greatly different than Ellen's; and I'm sorry that the readers of this book will left with only an ugly image of the personal trainer. Especially when I came away feeling more positive about the other professionals who help women be whatever "best" they wish to be.
I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.