It’s so refreshing to read a man’s take on body insecurity, because man does it feel like society acts as though it’s an exclusively female problem. Obviously the expectations for women are higher and beauty standards are unfairly applied to women more than men, but the idea that body image issues are strictly female is often twisted into describing them as vain. So, Michael Ian Black’s insecurities about his feet and his waistline are welcome, particularly as they are written in his typically humorous tone, and as they are compared to the literal failure of his mother’s body from cancer.
Black writes about family and aging, a natural segue from writing about the body – after all, it tends to be aging that causes bodies to behave imperfectly, the food sticking to the belly once youthful metabolism slows, the thinning of hair and drooping of skin a physical reminder of time’s passage. And his mother’s cancer and subsequent treatment eroding her body acts as an accelerated version of his own aging – the poor woman’s hip literally disintegrated from chemotherapy.
I’m making this book sound depressing, but it really is quite funny for having such dark undertones. For instance, he talks about his mother hearing a voice telling her that the mass that recurred after it was resected wasn’t malignant, which she allowed may have been the god none of the family was sure they believe in. He asked if she ever heard it again after that first visit, and she said yes, but she didn’t remember. Black later in the story questions his mother’s priorities with the qualifier that this was a woman who maybe heard the voice of god and didn’t bother to commit what he said to memory. (Look, it’s funnier when he writes it. Trust me.)
It’s funny and touching, and worth the read.