The title is misleading, for this blog is actually to be about the notion of “revenge body” alongside California’s not-really-newfound desire to secede from the United States. Yes, I think, these apparently disjoined concepts have something in common.
It is not because California is the ultimate home of the bikini body, though that is a metonymic association worth noting in passing. California, after all, is an epicure’s paradise, the quintessential epicurean paradise. The Epicurean gods surely live there—that ancient school of philosophy believed that they were physical beings made out of better atoms than the rest of us, we who have our “triangles on upside down” (as friend all too recently described me, meaning, I think, that I have less pectoral muscles at the top of my torso than bulge at the waistline). Yet, in California, where the Epicurean gods must live, they drink wine coolers on sometimes nude beaches and, scantily clad, play volleyball until dusk. No, that is not the connection between getting a “revenge body” and the not-so-new movement toward Calexit.
Before we establish that proposed congruity, however, let us consider each of these propositions. A revenge body is not the direct result of “body shaming” but can be related to it. Body shaming is the vaunted superiority of one person over another—the bald, bullying proclamation that someone is fat, out of shape, in need of a makeover of some kind, or the like. The word “lazy” is sometimes used in coordination with “fat.” Such shaming is rarely intended for the benefit of the hearer; rather it is a way that the conveyor of the shame asserts his or her own sense of self-worth. In other words, it is meant to be harmful and nasty to the hearer and self-promoting on the part of the speaker. And it usually does destroy the one person’s self-esteem but does little, in the long run, for that of the perpetrator’s, for that person’s self-esteem is probably much worse off than they know.
A revenge body can grow out of suffering that kind of belligerence, in response to it. If it does, however, it is likely to be no better than for the person who seeks a revenge body after a romantic breakup. The “satisfaction” in both cases is but ephemeral, and in fact, not truly satisfying at all, for both are borne out of hatred. The person who gets in shape should do so simply to get in shape; perhaps one motivation might be to please one’s spouse or to present oneself in the best possible light for another reason (like dating), perhaps another simply to be healthy, perhaps yet another to honor God by taking good care of what is, after all, a gift, a very unique and quite personal one, for we did not choose our DNA or the body it produced.
By contrast, seeking to get in shape for revenge must be by default quite unsatisfactory, for one is unlikely ever to see the fruits of the revenge (such as the former girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s face, presumably surprised, perhaps aghast or even shocked); and even if one were to, there is a very good possibility that that person would just be happy for you. “Good to see you, Ralph; you’re looking quite well.” She would probably not be thinking to herself, “You’re looking quite beefcake.” In fact, she would probably just wish you well and move on. All that work for “revenge” producing nothing but good wishes. Wow.
So, let’s agree, for the moment, that a revenge body is a stupid idea, but getting and being in shape is a great idea. By the way, if you had any doubts about revenge being a really stupid idea, consider that a reality television star named Mama June is to be featured in a television show about revenge bodies. With all due respect, Mama June doesn’t seem to me likely to have a PhD in nutrition science (or anything for that matter), though I concede that she is a far better reality actor than I shall ever be.
But what has that to do with the growing Calexit movement? Well, I think in some ways the people of California who are signing the petition for secession—polls show a whopping 30 percent of its residents now favor that state’s departure from the union—desire to present that state as kind of “revenge body” to the rest of America. And this is oddly fitting, as perhaps as many as 30 percent of the people there have, we already established, bodies like Epicurean gods. The majority of states voted for a candidate that Californians would not have chosen. Now, instead of trusting the democratic process eventually to supply them with a president more in line with their values, such as the leader who governed our nation for the past eight years, they want to break away: they want to craft a revenge body—one so robust and healthy that the rest of the country would regret their succession as much as it would envy their success.
I say little beyond drawing the comparison of Mama June to California. California is a state of nearly 40 million people. Ten percent of those receive public assistance. Over a million are unemployed. But these are just numbers, and they’re not what makes California seem more like Mama June than other states. It is, rather, its “wall of debt.” Such debt (more than 400 billion) has begun to worry economists. I am not trying to engage in “debt shaming” here: rather, I simply want to suggest that those in California who desire succession may be seeking to do so, at some deep psychological level unknown even to themselves, to build a revenge body, a robust country that would be the envy of, if not the world, at least its former 49 brothers and sister states. The problem is, as I see it, for the foreseeable future, California is in a way, a kind of Mama June. She’s so far out of shape that it may take much more than a reality show to get her to revenge-body status; in the case of the actress, it will likely take some surgery, and for the state, well, I’m not sure. In the case of both, I suppose I wish them luck; and in the case of neither do I think that the show, if ever produced, is likely to last long or win an emmy. In any case, I shan’t be watching.