Mummy tummy

Mummy Tummy Kathy Lette

Women are forever watching our weight. I can see it right now, in fact, out there in front of me – a little tootsie roll of tummy that sprouted after menopause, which is why, like most women my age, I now spend a lot of time holding my stomach in.

Attending a posh garden party the other day, I held my stomach in so firmly that my neck got thicker. Why? Because I’d stupidly chosen to wear a sheath dress so tight you could see the half a sultana I’d binged on for lunch, so as not to ruin the frock’s ‘line’.

On the drive home, as I gasped for air like a stranded goldfish, I thought to myself, how many more decades must I clench my tummy muscles like this? Is there a cut off point where a woman just decides to let it all hang out? None of my male friends worry about their paunches. For blokes, a beer belly is nothing more than a ‘veranda over the toy shop’; while women get saddled with the dreaded “muffin top” moniker and are forced to contort into Spanx or, like me, hold my breath until my internal organs run up a white flag of surrender.

Recently Kate Winslet revealed that the director of her hit TV series Mare of Easttown offered to edit her sex scene to hide her “bulgy bit of belly”. He suggested showing her middle-aged body in a more flattering light by digitally slimming her mummy tummy. Kate refused, saying television should show unfiltered images of middle-aged women.

But it wasn’t just Kate’s curves that endeared her to audiences. It was also her character’s chipped nails, hair roots and wrinkles. Kate disclosed that she twice sent back the promotional poster for the drama because it had been retouched. She wanted viewers to read between her lines – her facial lines that is.

Winslet’s performance is sublime, but what’s winning her global accolades is her “bravery ” for being “an average weight” and not wearing make-up. Brave? Let’s just think about this for a moment. “Brave” is dashing into a burning building to retrieve an orphan. Brave is gnawing your own leg off when it gets caught in a bear trap while hiking in a remote wilderness. Kate Winslet didn’t diffuse a bomb or crawl across enemy lines. No, she was simply filmed with a wrinkle and a muffin top. And yet, judging by the media hoo har, anyone would think the Victoria Cross beckoned.

A few years back I gave a talk in Hollywood to female studio executives about feminist empowerment. It was a funny speech – I’d test run it in front of a London audience the week before – and I was expecting big laughs. But as I delivered my punch lines, I looked out at a sea of unsmiling faces. Panic set in. Desperate, I cracked even funnier jokes – but still that collective Easter Island countenance. But then I detected a noise… a murmuring gurgling. It took me a while to realise that it was actually laughter; waves of laughter, but emanating from frozen faces, ossified by Botox.

Later, over cocktails, these glamorous, stick thin women with store-bought boobs came up to congratulate me on my comedy routine – which they loved, apparently, despite the fact that they looked less animated than the Sphinx. They also congratulated my “bravery” for daring to age naturally.

Nor could they believe the way I was wolfing down pastries – which they were avoiding as though laced in plutonium. I told them that whenever I’m about to decline food, I think of all those women on the Titanic, shipwrecked and shivering, cursing themselves for turning down the dessert trolley. My motto? Check the obituary; if you’re not in it, order the crème brulee. But my “food for thought” remained the only thing these women ate that day.

My question is, when did ageing for women become the ultimate sin? Why do men get ‘silver fox’ status, while older women are dismissed as hags and old bags? Ms. Winslet proves that it’s time to reassure older women that if we go into the House of Horrors we won’t come out with a job offer. What’s making Winslet a box office heavy weight is not caring about her weight at all.

Women will finally have achieved true equality when you see me and say, “Hey Kath, why are you wearing a life preserver?” And I simply smile back, breath out and reply – “I’m not. That’s all me.”

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