Why Miss Marple Matters*

Marple, as she appeared in volume 20 of Case C...

Image via Wikipedia

*Everyone needs a rest day, right?  As it is in running, so it is in life.  So tonight, I bring you a guest post from Nat, the greatest feminist fiancé a gal could ask for.

Why Miss Marple Matters


The Curious Case of the Miss Marple Movie

Disney has a long history of turning classic stories into mass-market products. Walt himself drew the teeth out of dark folktales, and gave us “happily ever after” in place of tradition, meaning, and complexity. So it should come as no surprise that Disney has recently announced a “reboot” of Agatha Christie’s classic sleuth, Miss Marple. In the new Disney version, Miss Marple will be given a “young spin” by Jennifer Garner.

So what? Why does this matter? To answer those questions, let’s take a step back and look at Miss Marple – the original Marple conceived of by Agatha Christie. For those who aren’t mystery readers she probably occupies a vague spot in the cultural consciousness with the words elderly, spinster, and detective somehow coming together to form a picture of an old busy body, hunched over her knitting, popping up occasionally to solve a convoluted crime. And that vague impression is what Disney hopes to counter with Jennifer Garner. But Miss Marple should be a more important figure for women than that caricature suggests.

Agatha Christie began writing Miss Marple stories in 1927 and continued to do so regularly until 1971. Jane Marple was indeed a spinster who loved gardening and knitting, but more importantly she was an iconoclast. Jane Marple was a woman who defied both convention and expectation. Any woman of advanced middle age in mid 20th century England (or America for that matter) would have been seen as someone to be indulged, condescended to, dismissed, but never as a person capable of challenging the authority of men.

Jane Marple subverted the social structure by using those expectations against the very people she was trying to catch. She lured suspects into divulging secrets, feigned innocent concern when digging for information, and on many occasions used the camouflage of the old, pottering, spinster to uncover vital information. Her chief weapon against the schemes of brutal murderers was her keen intellect so cunningly disguised.

The murderers she helped to catch disrupted the social order with the chaos of their crimes. They upset the comfortable civility that living in a common society allows us. Jane Marple helped repair the order by finding the truth and bringing justice, but what makes her such a brilliant character is that in the end we are left with Agatha Christie’s unsettling subtext — if that social order was true and right, then a woman like Jane Marple shouldn’t be possible. Through Jane Marple, Agatha Christie questioned society’s restrictions on what women were capable of.

By “re-imagining” the older Jane Marple as a young Jennifer Garner, Disney negates much of Agatha Christie’s powerful message by promoting the all too common Hollywood message that a woman’s worth is judged first and foremost by her physical appearance. Jane Marple will no longer stand as an example of the many different ways women can be masterful and powerful. Instead she will become just another example of how the media driven cult of beauty marginalizes the beautiful minds and spirits of all women. Scheming, ruthless murderers couldn’t stop Jane Marple, but Disney has casually cut the heart out of an enduring feminist role model.

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The Perfect Short

It’s official: I’m tired of the summer.  Specifically, I’m tired of it being so warm that I have to run in shorts all the time.  I can’t wait for it to get a little bit cooler–cool enough that I can run in capris and put my shorts away.

Nike Women's Pacer, via Running Warehouse

I’ve searched high, low, far, and wide for running shorts that I like, and it seems like every time I think I’ve found a pair, something happens to change my mind.  Right now, my favorites are the Nike Women’s Pacer Short, although lately even they’ve been something of a disappointment.  Generally, these are great shorts: they’ve got two inside pockets (and very well sized to fit a gel or two), a comfortable waistband, and a good length.  Recently they’re riding up more than usual, but it’s possible that my patience with them has worn thin because I’m so annoyed at my running shorts in general.

Shorts that creep up my inner thighs are such a commonplace that I’ve learned to accept that little problem as something I’m never going to succeed in avoiding as long as I choose to wear loose-fitting shorts.  I wish I could say this is the only problem I’ve been having!  These days, my shorts are pulling across the back (unless they’re pulling across the front); they’re slipping down; and they’re gapping so much in the front that I feel like there’s something anatomically wrong with my body!  When I go out for a run, the last thing I want to be concerned about is what’s going on with my apparel.

The biggest problem, as far as I can tell, is that the warm weather is far from over.  I’ve probably got about a month (at least) of shorts weather to push through.  And honestly?  I’m not at all sure I want to spend another month tugging at my running shorts.  In fact, I’d like to just completely forget about them, and never have to think about them ever again.  But is that even possible?  Or am I chasing a dream?

Here’s the only solution I can really think of: compression shorts with a long(er) inseam.  It may come as a surprise given my long history of animosity toward loose shorts, but I’ve never really tried compression shorts.  What’s the verdict?  Any favorite styles?  Cautionary tales?  Let’s hear how you deal with your shorts.

Running Down a Dream

dreams and wishes. 62/365

Image by ♥ via Flickr

While I was training for my first marathon, I had several dreams about what the race would be like.  In one of them, the race was set in a really weird historical era: the height of the Aztec civilization.  How my brain came up with that one, I’ll never know.  The marathon consisted of running back and forth, from one point to another, and I the entire time I was doing it, I was thinking about how I was actually doing it–even in the dream I was totally excited to be running a marathon, in spite of how strange it was!  During the last couple miles, my younger sister appeared so that she could run the last part with me and be there when I crossed the finish line.

Needless to say, it was a pretty memorable dream, and it will probably stick with me for years and years to come.

Last night, I had a dream about running, but unlike the one I described above, this one was pretty stressful.  I would definitely put it in the ‘anxiety dream’ category!  In the dream, I was with people from my LUNAChix group, and we were getting ready to go out for a run, but things kept happening that prevented us from going–someone was running late, there was a freak snowstorm, we couldn’t find some of the people who had been ready to go running a few minutes earlier.  None of the events that led to our having to postpone made any sense, and they didn’t seem connected to each other in any way.  They were just bizarre occurrences that resulted in a lot of confusion, and, ultimately, a lack of running.

This week I’ve done very little running and a whole lot of worrying.  Unsurprisingly, much of the worrying I’ve been doing has been directly related to the lack of running (and in other ways, it’s been indirectly related–since running is a key stress management tool for me, less running means a higher overall stress level).  Every year I hit a point in my training cycle where I start thinking, “I can’t do this.  What was I thinking when I signed up for a marathon?  I’ll never be able to finish, my training has been disastrous so far, and I’m just setting myself up to fail…”  It goes on and on.  It happens on a smaller scale with smaller races, too.  And although I can recognize the worry as being part of my process, I always end up indulging the worries more than I’d like.

I hope that some day I’ll get to a point where I no longer experience this level of anxiety about being able to complete the distance I’m running.  I would like nothing more than to focus more on how I can improve my performance than on all the little ways in which I might screw things up.  And I think one day I’ll get there, it will just take some time.  The neat thing is, though, that as soon as I do get to that point, I’ll be able to say I’ve fulfilled a different kind of dream about running.

Do you ever have dreams about running or other athletic events you do?  Are they good dreams, or full of anxiety?

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What’s Going On?

You are beautiful - 2

Image via Wikipedia

Weeks like this really make me wonder what it is about the idea of being thin that is so appealing.  Somehow, thin has come to describe not only the size of one’s body, but also a variety of other things about one’s life.  The idea of thin is also the idea of perfection, beauty, ease, elegance…every time I see a thin girl walk down the street I can’t help but think, “Why can’t I be like her?”  It’s not just the thin body I want, it’s the entire thin life, with all the right clothes, and a great job, and a ton of friends, and everything else that I need to make my life perfect.

Of course, I have no idea what her life is really like.  It’s just the fact that she’s thin that makes me think that everything she has must be better than what I have, and all because I consider her body to be better than mine.  And I know from experience that being thin doesn’t make things perfect.  It’s not a magic wand.  There’s no such thing as a magic wand.

I think a lot about whether or not other people ever see me and think, “Why can’t I be like her?”  There’s a perverse aspect of me that wants nothing more than for someone to think that about me, as though their belief that I’m somehow special or that I represent some ideal they want to achieve will clear away all the difficulties I have with my own body.

Someday I’ll be happy with my body, and when that day comes I know I won’t be obsessing over what I’ve eaten, what I’ll be eating later, losing weight, and how much I’ve exercised over the course of the week.  Although I can’t say for sure, I’m also pretty sure that I won’t be looking at other people and wishing I could be more like them and less like me.  I can’t wait for that day to come, and until it does, I just have to constantly remind myself that I’m beautiful the way I am, that my body doesn’t determine what my life is like, and that I am already as close to perfect as I’ll ever need to be.

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Lourdes confession

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a confession: for the past couple weeks, I’ve been pretty fixated on all the little parts of my body that I wish I could change.  Several times I’ve seriously considered the various ways in which I could try to lose some weight.  More than once I’ve completely given myself over to the idea that if I were thinner, my life would be great and I’d have no problems!

Reality check!

When you have trouble with food and eating, it’s probably not a good idea to go on a diet.  It doesn’t help to obsess over all the parts of your body that you wish were different.  And if you were thinner, you’d have all the same problems, and maybe even a few more.  Sometimes it can be hard for me to fully internalize these things, even though I can understand them perfectly well on an intellectual level.

Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if we could just love our bodies and not worry about these things?  Or if there were at least some easy way out of these body-hating ruts we can sometimes get stuck in?

When I’m having a difficult day (whether it’s because I’m depressed, or disappointed, or angry, or whatever), Nat basically just hugs me until I feel better.  It’s like a full-on attack of love and even though I sometimes resist it at first, when I eventually give in and accept the hug, I’m able to let go of a lot of the things that are bothering me.  And maybe that’s the best way to deal with these sorts of feelings when they come up: instead of giving in and becoming submerged in these negative ideas about ourselves, we should try fighting back with a barrage of self-love and acceptance.

It could work, right?  And even if it doesn’t, there’s really nothing to lose.  A little self-acceptance never hurt nobody.



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Embrace: the Futility of Hating Your Body

This past weekend as I was catching up on my blog reading, I came across Samantha Angela‘s post, “Why hating your body is futile”. I’m a fan of her blog, and this post is no exception; I was really happy that she was kind enough to grant me permission to repost it as part of the Embrace:Me project. Her message in this post is, in my opinion, one that is often overlooked: the negative messages we receive about our bodies can often keep us in a vicious cycle of self-loathing and poor self care. Ironically, accepting who we are can be just what’s needed when it comes to losing weight (if you are looking to do so) and feeling better about ourselves overall. I’m not looking to lose weight, but I am going to remind myself of the ill-effects of negative self-talk the next time I find myself falling into that trap. 

woman in mirrorI’d venture to say that most of us overweight women are not happy with our bodies. Images of glamorous women praised for their ability to hide behind a matchstick are unavoidable. As are the advertisements for weight loss regimes and rapid weight loss schemes. I’m not thin enough! I get it. Enough already.

We’re suffering from some serious anxiety issues. No wonder we’re all on prozac or self-medicating with pints of Haagen Dazs and retracting to unhealthy lifestyles. We’ll never be good enough anyway.

But what if you learn to accept who you are and what you’re capable of? What if you learned what triggers your eating and how to deal with it? What if you started to believe that you were beautiful? Would it help you become a healthier person?

Researchers at the Technical University of Lisbon say yes.

So there’s this study that they did says that hating your body is futile.

Well, okay, so it doesn’t say that exactly but that’s what it implies. If you’re a large and in charge woman you’d best be putting down them diet books and swapping ‘em for some body love mantras because that’ll get you to shed more pounds.

Overweight women were enrolled in a weight loss program for a year.The control group was given“general health information about good nutrition, stress management, and the importance of looking after yourself,” while the treatment group attended “30 weekly group sessions where issues such as exercise, emotional eating, improving body image and the recognition of, and how to overcome, personal barriers to weight loss and lapses from the diet were discussed.”

The study found the women on the body love plan lost more weight over the year than the control group– 7% compared to 2% of their start weight.

woman in the mirror

(source: etsy)

The results aren’t that surprising though.

I mean, we’re overweight women, we’re not ignorami. We don’t sit down to a meal of potato chips, deep fried chicken, and a pint of ice cream and think we’re eating healthy. We don’t binge in the middle of the night when there’s no one around because we think it’ll help us shed a few pounds.

It takes a lot more work to recognize why I want to eat yet another cookie than it does to list off nutritional information about why it’s bad for me. Maybe I want the cookie because I’m bored, or maybe because my body is craving sugar, or maybe it’s because I think I look like shit anyway, so I might as well indulge in something that will make me happy.

I know what’s good for me and what isn’t. I know when my behaviours and eating habits aren’t healthy but I often don’t really understand why I am doing them.

So maybe we should shelve our diet books for good and start learning more about ourselves than what’s on our plate. …maybe we’ll end up looking better in the end anyway.


I’m just going to come right out and say it: I pretty much let this week go down the toilet. Now, a lot happened that was beyond my control (I was sick Monday, Tuesday, and yesterday), but I didn’t do a great job pulling things together during the week’s remaining four days. I ran on Thursday, and attempted a run yesterday but didn’t get all that far. I had planned on doing a long run today but let myself get carried away with all-or-nothing thinking, and decided it wasn’t worth the effort since I’d already blown it for the week. Oh well.

This is the point where people usually start to say, “It sounds like you should take a break from running.” There may be some truth to that. Maybe. I think the problem is less the running and more the way I approach it (and, one could argue, many other things in my life). I’m always far too invested with the accomplishment, and it seems that because I get so focused on the end product I lose the enjoyment of the process that gets me there. Whether I keep running or stop for a while, that’s not going to change, so as far as I’m concerned I might as well keep running.  While I keep running, though, I’m going to work on addressing this attitude–and by that I mean doing more than just saying, “Oh, yeah, that’s happening”, which is how I’ve been dealing with it up until now.

The first step in this endeavor is going to be dialing things back a little bit. I’m training for a marathon, and that’s not going to change until October 30th when I cross the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon. But for the past six weeks I’ve been following a plan that I know I could downgrade from. It’s the plan I wanted to follow, and not necessarily the plan I should have followed. So from this point forward, I’m going to follow Hal Higdon‘s Novice 2 plan (previously I’d been following Intermediate 1). The next six weeks of training will look like this:

Instead of running 5 days a week, I’ll get an additional day of rest and a designated day for cross-training. Hopefully this will help me feel a little more energized, since I’ve been walking around lately feeling a little bit like a zombie.

The hardest part of taking this step down is that it hurts my pride. It’s silly, I know, but every year I set my sights on a training plan that is just slightly out of my reach, and every year I get frustrated by the fact that it ends up being a bit too much. In my weaker moments, I just want to throw my hands up, acknowledge that I’ll never improve, and give up. The rest of the time, though, I am much more in touch with why I’m running–it’s not so I can win, or even have bragging rights. I run because I enjoy it, and that’s going to be the case regardless of whether I’m running 15 miles a week or 50. And if I want to continue running, and continue enjoying it, then I’m going to have to recognize when it’s time to step back a bit. This is one of those times, and I’d rather call myself a novice than risk pushing myself too hard and resenting running as a result. So a downgrade it is.

Have you ever been in a situation like this, where you had to scale back a little bit? How did you deal with it?  

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