Toward the end of my stay that August, Clémence starts running with me on my loops around the Norman countryside. She can only make it through the warm-up lap, a slow jog around the apple orchard behind the house, and is absolutely exhausted by the end of the ten minutes. She gasps for air and holds her skinny knees for support as we slow to a walk.
As tall, thin women, on first glance Clémence and I seem like we are built similarly, but our bodies are in fact drastically different. Hers is skin and bones with a layer of soft flesh in between---pretty typical for a French high school girl whose exercise is generally limited to whatever walking she happens to do that day and whose diet includes a steadily growing nicotine addiction. I run miles every day and can easily inhale plates of pasta in a single sitting before cross country meets.
Not as sexy, maybe. But as I flex my legs, feel the muscles in my stomach under my hand, I decide I’d rather be hard than soft.