💅 PhD In "That Partner" Studies 💄
Friday, February 24, 2023 :: Tagged under: pablolife essay. ⏰ 6 minutes.
🎵 The song for this post is Rasputin (Club Mix), by Boney M. 🎵
I was at a party two weekends ago where I was the only non-South Asian person there and the topic of SRK's wild abs and physique came up. If you don't know who this is, it's this guy, and the first thing everyone tells you is shock and surprise is that he's 57 (!):
And people were going pretty gaga over his physique and I said reflexively "oh, those are almost certainly implants." And folks were surprised! Some seemed a bit upset ("okay I know he's probably got like 5 trainers and 3 nutritionists but, like, he worked hard!"). But I think most people don't know that ab implants, especially for dudes, is a thing? Like, this is pulled from a plastic surgeon's website:
And… I know some things about this space. Here's some explanation of how great ab photos are largely about photography technique and physiques can look very different even by changing your position. Here's one about the horrible things Zac Efron had to do to get his Baywatch body (and how rapidly his body made people say "dadbod" after drinking some water and having a carb or two). Here's bodybuilders dying due to drug use to get as much water out of their systems so they could look amazing for a few hours. Hugh Jackman reportedly passed out on the set of Logan.
So if you tell me a 57-year old man trained into those abs and he has them for sustained periods of time, like, for multiple movies and music videos and photoshoots, not just a single shoot or bodybuilding meet, I suspect he's probably getting a bit of help like other famous ab-haver The Liver King, who looks like this:
and was outed as taking over $10k of steriods a month, and is suspected by many to have ab implants.
Pablo… how do you know so much about this?
I studied. I dated someone for 5 years who was obsessed with this stuff (among other things, she founded a beauty tech company) and partially because I'm a curious person, partly to get closer to her, I decided to learn about it.1 I'm finding so many times in my life where people say things — "Paul Rudd doesn't age" (no; it's Botox and filler, L.A. is the nation's capital of beauty tech) or "lol did they kill Melania, she hasn't made an appearance in two weeks!?" (she was recovering from surgery, like a touch-up facelift) — where I out myself as someone who knows a weird amount about this stuff.
As I wrote here, on my 4th anniversary of dating her: I read a whole-ass book on facial plastic surgery. I have a skincare routine. Ask me about facelifts, neck lifts, brow lifts, chemical peels, botox, filler, kybella, breast implants, ab implants, BBLs, liposuction, coolsculpt, face lasers, laser hair removal, hair loss prevention, hair transplants, skincare routines… there's a village in here 🧠
Reading pages of the Necronomicon, or, catching fleas
[section of original draft excised, feel free to chat with me about what goes here]
Eternal Sunshine had a point
Being reminded that I have this pocket of knowledge, and further, to try to explain it like at that party, makes it truly hard to disentangle your life from someone you'd really like to forget. It's like a psychic scar, where everytime your gaze lands on it you remember that horrible period in your life. Not that this shit hasn't been useful; people find this impressive and interesting, and in applying it I often get confused as being 5-7 years younger than I am. But it wasn't worth the price of giving so much of myself, for so long, to someone so undeserving.
The feelings remind me of a favorite poem I first heard in college. While having favorite poems is a bit of new thing for me, I've used the central metaphor in this one for a while after I first heard it in 2008.
Looking back at it now, I think it's a bit… of its time? 😬 Wow, the early aughts were a vibe. I still love the central metaphor, but I think the slam! aesthetic is pretty dated. You can see the poet perform a longer version of it here, this one looks like a transcript of a shorter performance of it:
if i counted up all the hours
PhD in Him, by Vanessa Hidary
gotten up and been resilient about
not given up on
so believed in
ignored my friends advice about
did i mention talked about?
I'd have a PhD in him.
By now, I could have had a PhD
Middle Eastern Studies,
Stem Cell Research.
But no, I have a PhD in Him.
Funny how he brings me no income,
did I mention no future?
And so don't ask me what I did this year
I didn't write any plays or any books
I didn't do some responsible shit like
pursue a backup career.
I was fully employed in the fury of him
graduated valedictorian at the tippy top of my class
magna cum fucking laude
and a waste of fucking time
hours upon hours
spent figuring out his equations
cracking his codes
philosophising his constitution
oh, did I mention vodka?
So quiz me
I know him better than he knows himself.
I'm that matriculated doctorate ho
paid full tuition at his All-About-Him University
Ladies have you visited?
See, now I'm licensed to teach and preach
sparing my pride
in hopes that other women will read my dissertation
See, I have a PhD in Him
and my transcript is rolling off my wicked tongue.
Not sure of how my most difficult degree might serve me
but think one day I'll thank him
for reminding me how fierce a pupil of life
I really am.
Some other reads:
Changes in preferences in male physique, especially after Fight Club.
That time I lost ~45 pounds and started on shaping my own body, gained awareness of things like calorie counts and macros. LOTS of caveats, because holy shit it's harder to imagine a more personal and political topic than the bodies we inhabit.
The More Plates More Dates YouTube channel is often cool — a dude who goes over male physiques and speculates with a lot of credibility what they're doing to get it. Here's a breakdown of Logan Paul, for example, and here's his video on ab implants, and how he thinks Liver King doens't have them.
Probably my favorite content creator in this space is Casey Johnston's Ask A Swole Woman. Run, don't walk: subscribe, read back issues, read it when it was a column pre-Substack, and/or order her strength program. She's incredibly thoughtful, accurate, and includes gobs of context and empathy.
1. ^ I once saw Carlos Fuentes — a major Latin American author and essayist of the 20th century — speak at Brown and he had a funny anecdote: "In pre-independence colonial times, they used to call Guatemala "The Paris of the Americas." Paris did not return the favor and embrace being called "The Guatemala of Europe."" I learned the hell out of this stuff, but most of my major passions remained mine.
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