Today I saw the new cover of People magazine. Actress Valerie Bertinelli is on the cover, looking great in a bikini (http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20267734,00.html). I applaud her, and relate a bit as well. She is a couple years older than I am, the same height, and definitely a few pounds lighter now. In the last couple of years she has lost 50 lbs., I have lost 60. She did her deal on the Jenny Craig diet and walking, but had to seriously up the exercise and cut another 500 calories from her daily intake for the bikini shoot. I walk/run on the treadmill, do some hand weights, a few squats and lunges and other comedic-looking warm-ups, and drink a lot of coffee. It’s just plain hard work, and harder to do now at midlife for sure. I don’t have any illusions whatsoever about ever wearing a bikini again; frankly, I always looked crappy in them and will leave them contentedly to others. But I have been hovering around the idea of pushing harder on exercise to get the last stubborn pounds off and to tone up some more. I really like the feeling of having a strong healthy body, without completely obsessing on it and becoming a bizarre obnoxious over-focused gym rat. It also gives me a good excuse to BUY MORE CLOTHES.

Bertinelli will probably get as much flack for her People-kini as kudos, because that is the nature of celebrity – no one gets universal praise. Some will say she is too old, too skinny, not skinny enough, whatever. As a photographer, I can see what they did with reflected lighting to smooth out her skin and flatten curves and bumps, and there is little doubt that the picture has been gone over with Photoshop, although I would have to peer at it to figure out what was likely done, and I ain’t doing that. I kind of hope they didn’t do too much, but I understand why they do what they do – the better Valerie looks, the more magazines they sell. It’s business. But the photo also sets up the AW! response from us regular wimmins. What, she has no pores, no sagging skin, no turkey neck, no stretch marks, no cellulite or scars or anything to show that her body is not that of a 19-year-old? It’s sort of disappointing that whatever her reality is, it cannot be shown. But again, I get it, and it does not take away the good thing she has done at all. It is more a comment about what is expected now for anyone on public display. She is a beautiful woman, and was when she was a teenager on “One Day At A Time,” when she was 50 pounds heavier, and now.

I am sure that the Jenny Craig people are peeing their pants in joy as are the publishers of People, and Eddie Van Halen is kicking his own ass. Hard.

The Castaways -- "Liar Liar" from the movie "It's A Bikini World"