Aphrodite's mighty appeal

Whether she resides in Italy or on the California coast, the statue of Aphrodite will always exude power and charm.

Everyone needs a friend who is larger than life; the strong, silent type who is a good listener. And if she happens to be much older and has a sketchy past, so much the better. In Malibu, Calif., I found just such a friend who is always there for me, at least for the moment.

My friend Aphrodite arrived in California in the late '80s to make her home at the Getty Museum. I first encountered her ringed by admirers who gazed at the strong lines of her 7-1/2-foot frame. She stood on her pedestal, proud and sure of herself, holding court. Being in the limelight was easy for her since she had spent a number of years underground.

The 2,400-year-old Aphrodite was brought to the Getty to be the centerpiece of its antiquities collection. The museum paid $18 million for her. And to think, she has a chipped nose and is bald – although she probably originally had hair and a veil.

Over the past two decades, I have visited her more than a dozen times, awed every time by her immense size. Her voluptuousness is stunning and quite reassuring. It's nice to know that plus-size women were valued at some point in history, and, in her case, she was known as the most beautiful goddess – goddess of love and queen of the heavens.

In fact, the information placard says her size is what makes her a goddess. If big equals good, does that make me and my fellow size-14 women goddesses, too? I would like to think so.

What I like best is that she looks strong. Being that powerful, I imagine she didn't have to put up with too many antics from her husbands and lovers.

Being married to that ugly Hephaestus, the god of fire, must have been difficult for someone so lovely, but she never complained. If I could get her to talk, I'd offer her a shoulder to cry on – although she might crush me in the process.

The placard placed near her base says that the wind-blown garments clinging to her body are characteristic of Aphrodite, goddess of love.

But I know the truth: The real reason she's dressed in a loose toga is to downplay those thunderous thighs. The woman is smart – she knows she wouldn't look good in a miniskirt.

She's a hardheaded woman. Marble, to be precise. Her head looks a little small for her limestone body. Some have speculated her current head might not be her head at all. She could be a composite of two ancient artworks.

Whatever the case, having a head that is, well, completely different from your body is tough. Talk about feeling disconnected.

And as if this head thing weren't enough, her origins are in question. She could be from north Africa or Sicily. Sicily is more likely, since the limestone she's made of is of the Sicilian type, according to the geologists at the University of Palermo in Italy. Experts at the Getty also believe that the limestone is closest to the Sicilian variety.

I don't know why anyone had to consult the scientists to figure out she is Sicilian. All they had to do was ask me.

After 25 years around a Sicilian mother-in-law, I can assure you Aphrodite is a Sicilian girl. She's larger than life and exudes power from every square inch of her body and face. One look at those serious eyes, and you know not to mess with her.

Need more proof that she's Sicilian? Take a look at her outstretched arm and open hand. It's obvious the woman is begging for a snack. It could have been a golden apple or a pomegranate that she wanted, but I'm sure it was a large slice of pizza.

For the moment, she seems comfortable at the Getty Villa in Malibu. But she will soon be moving home because Italy wants her back.

Italy, Malibu, either will work as long as the big girl stays near the sea. After all, she was born of the sea and had many temples built by the sea, so she probably feels most at home by the coast, surrounded by admirers.

I have to admit I'm a little envious of my friend Aphrodite. To be mostly bald, plus size, oh-so-old, and to have so many folks fighting over you – now that's heaven.

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