What shapes a man’s life?

To begin: Mom, dad, little Jenny Harrison in the 3rd grade, adolescence, acne, heartache, and the jockstrap.

And then there comes the real trauma, age 60 or so: loss of gluteofemoral adipose tissue.

As in:

Sagging of the butt

Collapse of the “gluteo-pecs”

and even...

Disappearance of the “back package.”

You know what I’m talking about. It’s that age-related reworking of your once-marvelous physique, when we replace pecs with moobs, 6-pac abs with a two-liter jug and slim leg Levy’s for old time beltless-wear.

Here is how I found out about it:

Tailor: “What is going on back here? Looks like...diapers. Pampers!”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Tailor: “It’s all baggy back here. You’re too flat..”

Me: “Oh come on, can’t you just…”

Tailor: “Ok, I’ll try to pin it anyway…”

Me: “Ow! Fuck!”

Tailor: “Sorry there’s so much excess material I can’t tell where the…”

Me: “Ow! Goddamn it!”

Tailor: “I don’t think I can do it. You won’t be happy. Can you wear a smaller size maybe?”

My wife Erminia has always said, “Babe, you get fat, I can deal with it. You lose your ass, and you’re in trouble!”

“Why?” asked her one morning while she was reading the Times.

“Because it looks so unsexy!”

“My ass actually changed that much?”

“Yes. To every woman. Your ass is no longer hot… It’s not good.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was on such display…”

“Like a woman’s isn’t?”

“Skip that. But what the hell--how am I supposed to do anything about it?”

“Ha ha ha!" Erminia said, folding up the paper and going into the kitchen, "Welcome to the club ha ha ha!”

The ancients, when confronted with the inevitability of decrepitude, had a favorite method to counter male decline: sleep with virgins. Or so advised Cicero, a nice Roman boy, sometime before being slain. Seneca advised positive thinking, a classical version of Tony Robbins without the firewalk thing. Galen put it all up to the humours--a first class hormone nut if there ever was one.

Yet under their tunics, no tuchas!

And so a basic ignorance about the fate of the male caboose has left us with a legacy of lameness. No one cares until it is too late, and then your tailor’s cracking jokes, female students are giggling when you write on the blackboard, and, all of the sudden, almost every chair you sit in has the comfort of a church pew.

But what about your health?

It’s been known for many years that fat deposited around the hips and butt is better for you than the classic male beer belly. Hip fat--women have a lot of it--acts differently than gut fat. It makes fewer “bad” chemicals and more “good” chemicals, contributing less to diabetes and heart disease than does beer belly fat. In a USDA meeting about dietary guidelines some time ago, one advisory committee put it all on the line, telling his fellows, “Let’s face it. Men have to get smaller bellies and bigger butts.”

Now this important fact is back in the news. Consider:

--A recently propelled a mini-science contretemps in the International Journal of Obesity, when authors threw a wrench into the diet world by asking if loss of butt fat in a weight loss program is worse for you than just remaining fat.

--Along some of LA’s coolest avenues, from Sunset to Wilshire, giant billboards announce, alongside a predictable perk-fest of a bubble butt, a new product: “Underbum,” which looks like a kind of falsie on steroids.

--Calvin Klein is offering a “Body Boost Butt Trunk.” Not kidding.

--The “squat”--the crossfit exercise almost anybody can do--is now often billed as a “butt booster.”

In a world of war, poverty, climate change, and obesity, one might see what we’ll call “SAG” as a clearly minor and superficial concern. But not to worry! Modern values triumph, and sales of posterior padding is soaring.

But let’s face it: SAG is something we can either choose to ignore and accept--or to fight.

I passed on the CrossFit thing as a flat one seemed preferable to tachycardia

I emailed the authors of the Journal study and was told not to worry.

But there was one option I could’t resist: shopping !

Almost immediately, I found myself at sites like “Butt for You.” There you discover that these seemingly superficial products are outgrowths of one of the worst health crisis of our time: AIDS. AIDS causes a wasting disease. It was most apparent in the face and around the hips. For sufferers, gluteo-prosthetics like ass-falsies were a balm to social self-consciousness, stigmatization, and poor clothing options. You could, literally, strap on a new butt.

Want this body? It only costs $40! Link: Butt For You

A note: Butt For You’s founder was driven to expand the market for such a product when he got a rear-view look at himself in Speedos.

I decided to try one. Color: white: ok. Size: medium ok. Style: Briefs, ok.

Stop with the mental pictures!

Then it came to picking a “contour.”

On the order page I was asked to make a choice: quarterback, halfback or fullback.

I clicked the small one, let’s call it the Aikman. I hear he an awesome one.

A week or so later, my buns came in the mail. Erminia was sitting in the reading room with the newspaper when I came in and announced my experiment.

“I got something you might like…”

“A Hawaiian vacation”


“A new puppy?”


“Spaghetti Amatriciana?”

“Later. No!...Just wait here.”

I went upstairs and quickly changed, then swept in.

“Notice anything different?”


“I’ll turn around.”


“Oh. My. God.”

“What? You notice the change?”

“Uh... yeah. You’ve changed... races!”

Actually, I was now,in the bummische world, a “fullback.”

I’d subconsciously ordered the wrong size!

After I reordered and received a “quarterback”in the mail I went for a trial-spin.

My pants fit a lot better.

I didn’t need to use the seat-heater in my car.

And on a flight to New York I was very comfortable--a miracle in itself that shapes a man’s life.

Greg Critser writes about medical science, aging and public health.