I’ve got them. Yes, yes I do.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try this experiment. While wearing a short sleeve shirt, stand in front of a large mirror, and pretend you are conducting a choir. Or trying to fly away. If it looks like your flappers could actually generate enough wind speed to take off, you have Relief Society arms.
If you conducted this experiment, and still have no idea what I’m talking about, it means that you are in much better physical shape than I am, and could probably beat me in an arm wrestle contest, or at a weight lifting competition at the gym (in which I am a frequent participant. You know, in between nursing my baby, making dinner, and cleaning up poop), in which case I probably envy you, and you are thereby excused from reading this post. Have a nice day.
My grandmother was the first person I ever heard use the term “Relief Society arms”. She made it a joke, saying, ‘You know how you know you are getting old? Relief Society arms”. When my mother asked her what that meant, she lifted up her arms and flapped. We all laughed hysterically, mostly because my grandmother was extremely proper, and was not the flapping type. Perhaps age loosened her propriety, along with everything else.
I could turn this post into some sentimental double play on the words “Relief Society arms”. I mean, that would be SO Segullah, to turn a funny phrase into a meaningful enlightened discussion, wouldn’t it? “Relief Society arms” could mean so many sweet things, and conjures up images of loving sisters wrapping their arms around grieving mothers, heartsick wives, lonely widows. Relief Society arms bear gifts of groceries, of meals, of elbow grease in times of ultimate need. Relief Society arms bond together and form a circle of strength and righteousness as we battle the forces of evil that bombard our family in this day and age. I could write an entire essay that would tie it all in be-yootifully.
But I’m not going to do that, mostly because I’m just a little bit bummed about my Relief Society arms. I don’t want Relief Society arms. I want Jennifer Aniston arms. I want what is commonly known in the trade as “guns” (Ok, I don’t actually know what that means, but I heard it on a TV show once, and it sounded cool.) Having flappy arms means I’m growing older, which brings experience and wisdom and all that cool stuff, but also means my body isn’t always going to do what I want it to. It is a reminder about how there is a lot about life that I can’t control, which is sometimes difficult to accept. And it means that if I want to stay strong, I have to do something about it, because at some point, if you are not getting stronger, you are only getting weaker. Flappier. (Carry that metaphor farther at will.)
I suppose one consolation in this is that I can’t possibly be the only one who is experiencing this. I know I’m not the only woman who wakes up one day, takes a look in the mirror and thinks, “Whoa. What happened there?”
Now I’m all for staying fit and all that, but there are some things that even the most regimented fitness program can’t help. Short of plastic surgery, how do you come to terms with changes in your body you can’t control? Should we all grow old gracefully, or fight it tooth and nail? Can you do both? Do you approach body image as a whole concept, or are there things that you are willing to let go so you can spend more energy on others (ie, shoot, I don’t care about the bellyjelly, but hoo-boy, that thigh cellulite has got to GO!)?
Really, I suppose what we could do is line up, roll up our sleeves, get those Relief Society arms flapping, like a big flock of geese, and head South for the winter. I hear the Bahamas are lovely this time of year.