“… wherever, for the sake of the necessary motion of the parts, with proper strength and agility, the insertions of the muscles are too hard and sudden, their swellings too bold, or the hollows between them too deep, for their out-lines to be beautiful; nature most judiciously softens these hardnesses, and plumps up these vacancies with a proper supply of fat.”
(William Hogarth, Analysis of Beauty, 1753)
Remember when you didn’t know what “flattening the curve” meant?
Like you, I am now all too aware that the phrase refers to slowing the speed at which a virus spreads, and that, in our current moment, the phrase is usually invoked in reference to social distancing as a practice that it is hoped will diminish the rate at which COVID-19 is devastating the world.
But cast your mind back, back through the mists of time to February.
Back then, I, for one, would have taken the phrase “flatten the curve” for a Hogarthian term of art in reference to the necessary measures needed to correct a “too bulging” line.
Or perhaps, along the same lines, I might have taken it for a mantra used in a barre class to be repeated under your breath as you contract your abs.
The other day, after her bath, the younger was standing in the hallway in just her underwear admiring herself in the mirror.
“I have a 4-pack!” she announced proudly. “Let’s see what you’ve got,” she added.
I rolled my eyes and pulled up my shirt.
She examined my torso, frowning.
“Are you tensing?” she asked.
“Umm, I think so?” I said, uncertainly.
Finally, she declared, “I don’t see much.”
“A 1-pack?” I suggested.
“Let’s say a 2-pack,” she said generously and then added, consolingly, “don’t worry, I know you’re still really strong.”
This was more than a week ago, before I’d really settled into to my daily supining regimen, which has since become a full-blown lifestyle.
Now, this lifestyle, to be sure, comes more naturally to me than to others. You could say I have a gift for it. Remember how in Working Girl (which I just re-watched, and recommend you do the same) Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) tells Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) that she has a head for business and a bod for sin? 
Well, I, rather less impressively, have a head for blogging and a bod for slothing. 
In days gone by, if I didn’t have to go to campus, I could easily spend 75% of my day supine on my sofa, which is where I do the bulk of both reading and writing (yes, I’m there right now). But these days I’m really cultivating that muscle: the supining muscle, which you develop by relaxing into the posture.
You know how in yoga when you’re standing in Tadasana, your instructor will intone, “Feeeeeeel the soles of your feet siiiiiiinking into the earth”? Well, cultivating your supining muscle is like that that except you have to feeeeeeel your bum siiiiiiiinking into the sofa.
Maybe this doesn’t appeal to you. But too bad, because this isn’t for you, it’s for the public good. So suck it up and lie down.
I might be wrong, but “fatten the curve” has a lot of potential as a new public health slogan. Like:
Fatten The Curve To Flatten the Curve.
And then there could be a little illustration. See, I’ve made a rudimentary prototype:
The stick person on the right is, yes, a bit bigger than the one on the left. But that is on purpose, you see, because the person on the right is fattening the curve.
The benefits of committing to this form of inaction are, I submit, both ethical and aesthetical.
Let me be clear; I am not advocating for complete atrophy. Strong muscles are important; I am myself, as my daughter observes, very strong. Moreover, there is surely no supine sweeter than the supining of muscles fatigued by extreme exertion. So do whatever you enjoy—I recommend dancing like there’s nobody except the people you live with watching, because there isn’t—unless you’re live Instagramming your performance to the world—to keep your muscles supple and your blood flowing.
But the hard-bodied physical ideal that reigns supreme—here in Los Angeles at least—feels impoverished. It’s an ideal that, as Milton says in Paradise Lost (admittedly in a slightly different context) “perverts best things” by reducing their value “to their meanest use.” Hogarth reminds us that it is “for the sake of … necessary motion” that muscles are “hard” (my emphasis). But we are not beholden to necessity. Nature, given a chance, “most judiciously softens these hardnesses”—and supining your self is one way to encourage her softening effects.
People pay plastic surgeons to fill up their vacancies with a proper supply of fat (I know; I’ve marveled at the results on Montana Ave., back when I used to walk on Montana Ave.). But you can achieve superior results for free and in the comfort of your own home by reclining on your sofa.
We all need a proper supply of fat to plump up these vacancies—to fatten the curves of our bodies but also to flesh out our daily trajectories—trajectories that, these days, feel increasingly skeletal, reduced to the bare outlines of existence.
In my case, the existence contained within those outlines is comparatively luxurious: I’m still getting paid; I can easily work from home; I have a yard, for which I have never felt more grateful. And, although (my prolific blogging and Instagramming of late notwithstanding) I am “working,” it seems wrong to use the same verb to describe what I’m doing and what essential workers and others adjusting on the fly to alternative modalities are enduring.
So I feel aware that a paean to the fat of life might seem glib or jarring at the present time; if there was ever a moment when needs must, this is surely it.
(One of my supervisors at Cambridge once wrote dryly in the margins of one of my essays, “Thank God for “And yet”!”; he noticed that I tended to rely upon the locution when I had written myself into a corner and needed to get out of a tight spot.)
Where was I? Oh yes, and yet, it’s a grim irony of the way our world is organized that even as some people are literally working themselves to death, others, like me, have copious amounts of unstructured time on their hands. And this is why I find myself here, writing this entirely gratuitous essay. This is the fat that is helping me to plump up these meager, vacant days. I hope, if nothing else, it softens the hard edges of your day too.
 I was struck while watching Working Girl—which features a lot of both Griffith and Ford semi-clothed—that there is a beguiling softness to both of their bodies, a softness that—even though in many ways we see a much broader range of bodies onscreen now—is rare these days.
 I can’t believe “slothing” is a real word! But it is! I just found it in the OED!