March has arrived. Let the madness begin! Not of the basketball variety. I am referring to my desire to get fit for my opera gown. As silly as it seems, it is a good incentive as any other. I had hopes of commencing this goal in February, but due to the demise of the small love of my life and flurry of activity at the library, I just could not muster the energy required of me. Now, a new month has dawned and I feel renewed. I shall indulge in healthier fare and allocate time to physical pursuits.
This was not always an option. For multiple millennia, females were instructed not to take on physical laborious tasks, least they should harm their reproductive organs. A woman’s worth was (and still is, in certain parts of the world) measured by her ability to procreate. Fitness was the last excuse a woman might not conceive in the 19th century. Bone shifting corsets, malnutrition, lack of sanitation, and rampant disease were more likely to claim the life of the mother and/or the fetus.
However, the idea of fitness is measured by its historical connotation in a given time period. It is ridiculous to think women on the whole did not lift a finger. Farm wives, those in service, the paupers; essentially anyone who could not claim the status of a Lady, exercised as basis of daily struggle to stay alive. Even Ladies, with a capital L, always rode horses and ambled about. They took up badminton, croquet, tennis, golf, archery, bicycle riding, ice skating, and even shooting. Granted, it was never for competition or sport, mind you. Such activities were considered social and acceptable on some level. Men thought it was charming women played or wanted to participate with the gentleman. The gender rules were still rigidly in place during the 19th century. It seems anything men enjoyed must not be a seriously viable option for women. They were opposites after all; they could not share too many common interests. It made a man seem effeminate but worse still it made a woman seem masculine. Oh the horrors!!! For those of a growing demographic whose perspective were more lenient and tossed caution to the wind and mingled in physical activities. To recall both sexes maintain full appropriate wardrobe, the men in three-piece suits and women in full dress, with corset, petticoats, and all other accoutrements required before leaving the house.
As early as the late 1800s Fitness referred to Health. It was thought sitting idle for too long was not good for the body. If this was the case many upper class Ladies were in a bad spot! Women were encouraged to participate in light activities within the confines of remaining a Lady. She participated in many of the pursuits mentioned above, but also made sure her milky white complexion was covered during the daylight hours as expected, amongst other required precautions. Gymnasium equipment was invented to stimulate natural range of motion whilst remaining indoors. Body mass index, sculpted muscles and a tone physique was the original object of Fitness. The Victorians and Edwardians had underpinnings and shape-wear to contour their frame to the fashions. Fitness was not employed to fit into the dress. A woman’s flesh was to remain soft and supple.
Of course, the late 1980s to the present demands a firm body with a pert decolletage and derriere. A flat midsection, being the Holy Grail of Fitness and not enhancers. The natural waist is permitted and those curves are God-given or enhanced by Man’s surgical needle. Our predecessors would balk at our idea of beauty and probably view it as too athletic and hard; too masucline.
I only have five and thirty thinned out days of which to achieve my goal. I shall do what I can without herniating myself. Either way, Dear Readers, you shall witness the results come April.