Posted by: pendrops | December 9, 2007

who’s gonna love you


But I’m tired, 900 sit-ups a day.
I’m painting my hair the colour of mud, mud, OK?

– Outrageous, Paul Simon

I had just come from the cardio section of the gym, found a slot of space in the free weight area, and was on my last set of curls with a couple 10-pound dumbbells when no less than five earphone-clad men walked rudely in front of me on their way past the wall of mirrors, flexing their pecs and biceps as they did. A moment later, as I raised the dumbbells in a set of shoulder lifts, three woman pranced in front of me – again, rudely – on their way past the wall of mirrors, flipping their blond hair (dark roots) and puffing up already enhanced breasts.

But before I could get really indignant, my ears perked to a song filtering through the speakers above my head. The voice belonged to Paul Simon, that troubadour of justice and rightness for so many generations. The beautiful words and funky backbeat filled every inch of the large building, somehow redeeming this ugly and all-too-common mirror episode:

Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?
Tell me, who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?
Ah, who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?
Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?
Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?
Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?
Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?

“Is anyone else getting this?” I thought, looking around to see if anyone besides me was laughing at the irony, the absurdity, the perfect-ness of the moment. They weren’t, but I chuckled out loud and shook my head as I walked past the over-sized cardboard cut-out of a ”flawless” woman lowering her bikini bottom enticingly so you could see her tan line. (Maybe we’ll all look like her if we buy a tanning package, huh?)

But by the end of the song, the irony had worn off and I was feeling – what was it? – plain old sadness for these people who put all their stock, all their time, all their hope into what they look like.

You see, the two years that Jason and I have frequented this particular gym have been thorn-in-my-side kind of days. Upon setting foot through the doors, I find myself jealous, insecure, sweaty. I become frustrated, annoyed, flustered. I run out of breath and out of patience for the guys who gawk and the girls who flaunt. And all of this happens on the ten-second walk from the entrance to the Stairmaster.

But in recent days, I have started to realize that these are not just primped princesses I see at the gym for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They’re not just grunting, sweating, testosterone-tweaked men I have come to loathe on my every-other-day visit. These people have lives outside the booming walls, off the treadmill, far from the free weights.

They have insecurities, too. And broken marriages. And fears. And dreams. And addictions. And uniqueness. And wounds. And memories they’d rather forget. And deep inner beauty more weighty than any trimmed waistline or rippling triceps. And I can see them – see them all – if I’ll actually look in their eyes.

When I remember these sorts of things, I see clearly and soften a bit. But some days, I need a little more help remembering. And seeing. And today, Paul Simon came in with his unassuming strains, reminding me that these people don’t know that they’re chasing an empty thing. Reminding me that even my own pursuit of flawless appearance is vain. Reminding me that the answer to his question is simple, beautiful, true:

Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?
God will, like he waters the flowers on the windowsill.

And maybe, if I’m seeing things right, I will, too.



  1. You absolutely have to send this in to Relevant Magazine. Even if it just goes on their online articles. VERY GOOD STUFF! I love it (and you).


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