The big O, from the dawn of civilization, has meant orgasm. We were told this by people like Xavier Hollander, people we trusted. We were told that somewhere on our bodies was a G-spot that, if found, would turn us into a quivering mess of feeling good Os. We are a culture that wants to believe pretty much anything that will make us feel good. And if we weren’t experiencing the big O, we studied Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in When Harry Met Sally and convinced ourselves by heartily faking that hands-in-hair, eye-rolling crescendo that we were at least coming close.
Then, in 1988, Oprah Winfrey took our big Os and stamped her Harpo ass all over them by becoming the third woman ever in the American Entertainment Industry to own her own studio. O is now the name of her magazine, with its circulation rate of two million a month. Her show attracts 30 million viewers a week. She’s broadcast in 110 countries. Where I come from, that means that she’s gone from talk show host to hosting her own religion. Her high priest Phil (how’s-that-working-for-ya?) McGraw is married to a woman who has confessed on national television that she loves spending her days making her son his favourite jello, complete, she says a little too enthusiastically, with bananas. Thirty million viewers a week. And I’ve been one of them.
In Oprah’s defence, she came along when we needed to learn how to talk about our pain, our regrets, the world-weary sadness we all were feeling. She taught us how to articulate our wounds. And then she’d zap us with a fun Friday guest like Celine Dion. You all, I’m sure, without much visual coaching from me, can picture Celine and her chest thumping passion singing to a bewildered Rene and beside him, Oprah swaying beatifically out of beat, her eyes closed in rapture, getting the words wrong.
She announced Oprah’s book club, so we all read. Then Oprah’s Angel Network, so we all saved our pennies and made home videos of our good deeds. Her Angel Network has raised over $20 million. And then she hollered: Let’s get fit, lose this weight and really kick some ass. So we did. Or we tried to. We ate a low carb diet, we ate a carb only diet, we tried the blue and yellow M&M diet and then the all-you-can-eat Lima bean diet. We boiled hard things soft and called it cereal. We looked at the small fish in our aquariums with more interest. We worked out in Olivia Newton John “Let’s Get Physical” spandex. We formed clubs. There’s the Georgia Girls Going Going Gone Club, The Sassy Sisters in Sin City Club, The Texas Women Take Off the Fat Clothes Club and here in our city, there’s the North End Walkers, a group of about 45 people committed to collectively taking 3,713,000 steps over the next year, equivalent to the 2,600 km distance between Halifax and Oprah’s studio in Chicago. At last count, they’re a third of the way there. Somewhere on the other side of Boston if they’re taking the scenic route.
It could be worse. Oprah could have started the Small Rodent Jewellery Fad or The Macrame A Motown Singer Club. Instead, we are getting in shape and this is a good thing.
There was another, smaller group that was just as committed as the North End Walkers. The leader of the “green tea instead of coffee” group down at the CBC Radio office was inspired after hearing about the guarantee of a 10 pound weight loss within six weeks according to some dietician on the Big O show. Instead of losing weight, one member lost interest pretty quickly and went back to drinking coffee, shirking from the rest of the group. Unfortunately, all attempts to reach this group were thwarted by the fact that they’d been besieged by a terrible flu. When I finally did catch up to them I was told that there was no longer a “green tea instead of coffee” group in Halifax. They’d done their six weeks and had only lost four pounds, maybe. Red wine, I told them, has some of the same positive health benefits as green tea. I’m no Oprah, but I can feel another group about to emerge from the CBC office.
Another group, to which I belong, is the group of women who are working their Mojo at Metro’s first Cardio Striptease class offered by Room2Move, a new gym on Cunard Street. First seen on Oprah a year ago as a great way to exercise, strip classes like this have erupted in most major cities and could very well be the thaw we’ve been waiting for this winter. Imagine a roomful of women and one guy in a Grateful Dead t-shirt being coaxed into shimmying and feeling good about touching their bodies and then imagine those people let loose into their lives. We could find ourselves going back in time to when the big O meant, well the big O.
We’re keen but we’re not naive. We’re Canadian after all. We can earnestly talk about the weather. We invented shovel aerobics and the “fling the finger at the snow plow” move. If we do fake, we’re only doing it to be polite. Sure we’ll walk our millions of steps, brew green tea and shake the joy back into ourselves but we draw the line there. She’s on the brink of creating Frankenclub and it could get worse before it gets better. Keep walking in groups. Stay safe. Remember, she’s everywhere.