For Butt Or For Worse

By Molly Guy


Originally published on the New York Observer October 2010

Pic by Life Magazine


For Butt or For Worse


I was licking a pretzel nugget full of peanut butter in a pleather easy chair inThe Writers Room, computer balanced precariously in the lap of my sweatsuit, when I first encountered Leandro Carvalho. I can’t lie–I was googling “butts.” In just three weeks, I would be getting married, and I was terrified. I saw myself: walking down the aisle, my butt drooping inside my white dress like two deflated lumps of half-risen dough.


On my computer screen, there was an alternative: an unshaven man grinning amid an improbable array of butts. “Leandro Carvalho’s Brazil Butt Lift” was written in swishy yellow letters above his face. In a little square in the corner of the screen, a perky butt in pink short did some exercises. Two very fat butts walked side by side. A Brazilian supermodel with crossed eyes appeared, making butt shapes with her hands. I clicked a bright pink bar: “Yes! I want my butt to lift.” It led me to a page where I could buy a workout tape. Too much effort; I returned to the pretzel.


An hour went by. Butts were in my head. My wedding was around the corner. My butt needed to change. It needed to lift. It needed to look… well, Brazilian. Minutes later I was making my way down Broadway, Equinox gym was just around the corner, and Leandro, “The Tush Technician” was teaching a Brazilian Butt Lift class in a half hour.


I arrived with ten minutes to spare.


“I’m here for the butt class,” I told a man behind a desk, a portly, paunchy fellow with a wolfish grin.


He pointed upstairs.


A few minutes later, I stood in the dressing room surrounded by a raw sea of boobs and butts. The air was ice-cold; the music loud and thumping. A woman with bright red hair stood butt-naked, arms akimbo, inspecting her butt in a mirror. Another transfixed lady with a disgusted expression stood behind her gazing at herself in profile, lifting up one cheek in her hand, as if to see what her butt would be were it Brazilian. Beyoncé crooned a tune, the booty bass got louder, or was it Lady Gaga? Madonna? My head spun, my butt sagged. I headed for the exercise room.


It was 6:20 on a Wednesday evening and the gym was packed. Packed like sardine-can packed. Sardines from Soho, strapped into expensive Spandex, Stairmaster-ing, grimacing, sweating, straddling, straining, stretching, being stretched by some Herculian hardbody or waiting in line outside the exercise room for Leandro’s butt class to begin; I walked over and joined the queue. Inside the exercise room a grotesque amount of people lay on the floor in indecorous poses. They were holding balls between their groin regions as giving birth, squirming their bodies to and fro. A man in a tight red top stood before them, screaming about stomachs: Leandro.


“What are they doing?” I asked a woman with dour face and a medium-sized butt.


“Brazilian tummy-tuck,” she said wanly, staring at the sum of stomachs as if hypnotized.


The clock struck 6:30. Some of the tummy-tuckers filed out; other stayed but stood. The music swelled; those standing starting jumping, Leandro started screaming, and we, the Butts, filed in. Everyone, I noticed, had a similar dour expression, as if nursing a private wound. I wondered how many of them, like me, had first encountered Leandro safely cocooned in the privacy of their studio apartment, laptop balanced on chests, nibbling forbidden handfuls of chocolate chips? The music grew to insanely loud proportions while Leandro–whose butt, by the way, resembled a pair of gorgeous ripe cantaloupes–shrieked aerobic commands. Some Butts, familiar with the routine, performed it to perfection: Jumping, leaping, pressing, pawing at the air; others, red-faced, braced themselves against the back wall, wheezing like pug dogs. Everyones’ butt was burning. We were woman. We loved gummy candy. We bloated easily. TV was our friend.


Hear us roar.


We danced more. We shook. We squatted and lunged. We did capoira and high-kicked; the music grew in intensity. “Don’t be shy!” roared Leandro from the front of the room. More shaking, then shimmying, a frantic swell of pawing arms and kicking legs. It was out-of-control, apocalyptic; the room reeked of gin and sweat. I flashed back to a yoga class I’d taken earlier in the day. In that session, there was a harmonium, and lots of talk of equanimity and Ganesha, remover of obstacles. I stretched tenderly. Tears were shed. An Afro-Brazilian beat tweaked my heart string and snapped me back to reality; back to Leandro…sashaying sideways in an Electric Slide-like motion. Dizzy with physicality, I lumpishly hopped on one leg while staring at all the butts that were, by the minute, becoming bodacious, beautiful, Brazilian.


Leandro caught my eye. He grinned.


“We all want a meaty, perky, cute, rounded-up butt,” he told me later. “You should have seen Miss New York before she trained with me. She had a flat, flat butt. And in one month I made a bubble butt. Round and perky. The culture used to be about the breasts. But people are more into butts now then ever.”


The music slowed, then softened, “The Girl From Ipanema” came on, a mellow, almost soft-core porn version I’d never heard before–people started filing out of the room. My butt and I took off after them; both of us were beat. Inside the gym, the Sardines were still sweating and stretching, but instead of judgment I now felt a certain solidarity, compassion even–all of us were in it together, the great democratization of Butts. In the dressing room, the transfixed lady was smiling at her reflection while the redhead gave herself a thumbs-up in the glass; I joined them in front of the mirror and gave my butt a proud wink. “See you next week!” I called on my way out to the portly man; waggling my new butt in his direction.  On the street I had a vision–I was now strutting down the bridal aisle, all eyes glued to the firm high mounds that were my new perfect butt. Hiking up my sweatsuit, I headed into the cool Autumn night.