Shadesbreath Joins the Gym and Learns How God Hates Him
Many of you have seen the drawings of me that often accompany this sort of silliness that I am about to write (like the one on the right there). Being the Rembrandt-level artist that I am, I have pretty well captured the, erm, magnificence that rounds out my sublime portliness. So, given that my general physical dimension has evolved to the circumferences so accurately depicted, I decided that it would be a good idea for me to join a gym.
This article will reveal what a phenomenally horrific decision that turned out to be.
First and foremost, I would like to say a great big giant unrelenting and eternally maintained “FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF— YOU!” to the hatefully beautiful, ridiculously exquisite, perfectly sculpted sixty-something guy with the perfect body, perfect face, perfect life and even perfect hair that is perfectly cropped and looks like the royal lawns outside of royal castles and that I’m absolutely certain is just like the perfectly manicured lawns outside his own castle too. And don’t think he doesn’t have one either, he does; maybe not like, you know, medieval, but I guarantee you he has a rich-ass mansion in which resides his super-model wife who lays around on an imported divan with her crotch perpetually smoking from the six-and-a-half hours of violent and perfectly-timed love-making he gives her two to three times a day, the skills for which he perfected after he finished his six tours as a Navy SEAL and has been improving ever since graduating from goddamn medical school.
F----------------!!!!!!!!!! that guy.
I swear to all that his holy. F- him.
And right now you think I am being hypothetical or something in that description up there. Ha-hah, Shadesbreath. Funny guy. Exaggerator. That Mr. Perfect thing. Hah ha. Great imagination.
Well, I’m not imagining. I wish I was, but I’m not.
That guy is real. And yes, I am really petty. I am fine with it. Last time I checked, I am still human, so, it is my prerogative to harbor completely unjustified hatred for whomever I want. And I am exercising that right, right now. Thank you.
Anyway, back to the story.
So there I am, my fat ass in shorts, the nuclear whiteness of skin that hasn’t seen the sun in a decade or longer blinding people in swaths like you’d expect to see killing crowds in an X-man movie after Cyclops accidently whipped his visor off. I felt pretty conspicuous being there that first day. I had that tentative poke going on the control panels of everything, that lame pawing about as I attempt to figure out the machines—you know, stab-stab, “Hey, why isn’t this starting,” stab-stab, “This button?” … “Oh shit, I can’t run this fast!!!” Yeah, that thing. And worse, you do it knowing that every second you spend not starting it up, not figuring it out, or making the spastic mash to slow it down, everyone else is exchanging glances behind your back, acknowledging amongst each other how new and fat and lame you are. “I wonder how long this one will make it?” whispers one. “Not long,” murmurs the other. “He’s a quitter; I can spot ‘em every time.”
I started to sweat just from the glare of so many eyes and from feeling so out of my universe. I was the oddball, the curiosity, the freak who wandered into the display case of some great vanity museum.
Eventually I got through my cardio warm up (the only thing that really warms up when a fat person is on a treadmill is their inner thighs, but I shan’t horrify you further). So, cardio done, I decided it was time for some weight liftin’. Enough with the sissy walkin’, it was time for some iron, baby! Oh, yeah. Hittin’ the weights. Something for the ladies, you know?
I figured I’d start with shoulders, because chicks dig shoulders. Do me some shoulder press action like they like.
I waddled along the wall of mirrors (the very existence of such a thing should have been my first clue this place was evil), picking my way down the length of the endless-seeming weight rack, looking for some dumbbells (oh, how apropos that term is), reading numbers on each as I went, theoretically making my way towards barbells suitable to my current state of nascent muscularity.
195, 190, 185, 180, 170… declared the numbers written on these colossal things as I passed by. 160, 150, 140… It was ridiculous. Who the hell does shoulder presses or bicep curls or anchors ships to the bottom of the sea with dumbbells of such absurdly colossal weight? No one, that’s who. This isn’t the damn League of Justice gymnasium. It's not. It's freaking 24-Hour Fitness. I even double-checked to be sure. I looked for Superman, Batman, Aquaman, none of them were there. Not even Robin or the Wonder Twins. It's a regular people gym. Humans work out there. Humans like me. So why these ludicrous weights?
Then I realized it: the 24-Hour Fitness management just put those big ones there to inspire people. Hey look, someday I will hoist these up like Superman lifting a locomotive to save Lois Lane. Won’t that be grand!
Well, nice idea. But I wasn’t inspired. I moved along.
95, 85… 75… 50… They were still pissing me off.
Fine. Okay, I admit, maybe some of the brutes milling about in the gym with the tank-top tees on, the guys with the round boulders of meat perched where a normal human’s shoulders would go… sure. I get it. It’s fine. I have a graduate degree. I know stuff about Shakespeare. Screw those guys. They can have their stupid 50 to 100 pound weights.
A rose by any other name will still shred your colon if you jam it up your ass.
Ha! I’d like to see them come up with something like that.
55, 50, 45, 40, 35… here we go. 35 pounds. There’s me, I think. I grab a pair. Gonna bust some iron, baby. Manhood, here I come. Oh, my wife is going to get some tonight.
Jesus. What the hell do they put in those things?
Did you know that two 35 pound dumbbells actually weigh 70 pounds if you lift them at the same time?
Well, they do. And guess what else: no amount of Shakespeare prepares you for such a thing.
Apparently 70 pounds is the average weight of a blue whale. Who knew?
Anyway, I tried. I pushed them up, my body twisting all sideways on only the second rep, and I looked like I was having an aneurism in my face. I know, because I looked into the mirror and saw it. Wow. Turnip purple. So attractive. Mortified, I let them fall to the rubber mat.
They didn’t even make a shockingly loud sound when they hit. The one time it can be irritating that no one notices you at the gym is when you drop weights to the floor. When the big barbarian guys drop weights, even on those thick rubber mats, it still sounds like two busses collided at full speed. The whole floor shakes. Everyone looks up, startled by impact of those meteoric barbells hitting the ground: CRASH! Oh shit, think the plebes, an airplane just smashed through the wall… or a comet… we’re all going to die! It’s a reflex. An instinct. Everyone does it; it can’t be helped when something that huge falls nearby. Everyone looks around, blinking for that half second after the sound, processing. Then, they realize, slowly… What? What’s that? Oh, Conan dropped a barbell. Oh. Okay. Whew!
And gym normality returns.
So I sat there—yes, I was sitting on a bench, not standing doing my exercise like the barbarians do. I looked into the mirror, into the window of shame, and studied my shoulders compared to the barbarians to my left. I am fairly sure I would need seven or eight of my shoulders to fill up the same quantity of space one of theirs did. Probably more. You’d have to make a bunch of clones of me, cut off the crepe-like shoulder meat (personally, I think it should be considered a delicacy, like veal or something), and then slap it in a pasty pile, patting it wetly together like clay or something.
Fine. Why defy the forces of gravity with shoulder presses anyway? It’s absurd, I conclude, using my educated mind to fathom the physics of my universe with an alacrity no barbarian could ever postulate.
I’ll do biceps, instead. Bicep curls are just as important as shoulder presses, and chicks like big biceps anyway. I’ll just get me some guns with these dumbbells instead. Big old rocks. I’ll go home and flex, and my wife will just go off right there in her clothes, probably fall to the ground writhing around screaming in a big orgasmic fit.
I could hear the kids grossing out in my mind as I thought about it. “Ewwwww,” and, “OMG!” they would scream, their faces contorting with revulsion at the very thought of a parent having physical ecstasy. Hah. Maybe I could get a tattoo on the way home and really drive her nuts. The kids would puke.
Turns out my right arm was sort-of fine, but my left arm had a seizure and crapped itself on the second one. Yeah, the second one. And the first one wasn’t really anything to look at either. An expert probably would have called both pretty sad.
How the hell are you supposed to lift weights if you can’t actually lift any of the weights they have in there to lift? Hmmm? Maybe someone should tell the managers of that gym. 35 lbs. is stupid. It's not even a pretty number to say aloud. F---- 35 lbs.
Anyway, 17.5 pounds was the magic number. That was it. Seventeen and a half. Pretty damn sad. I had to go with those in the end because apparently my left arm couldn’t even qualify for a third-grade shot put team.
In my own defense, I could actually do 20 pounds and even 25, but not enough times to count for three sets of anything resembling the text-book minimum quantity of eight good reps (yes, I read before I went—isn’t irony fun?).
So, that’s how I began. Pretty sad. But I was dedicated, and I swore to stick to it this time, unlike the other times I said that and failed throughout the years.
So anyway, a couple of weeks went by like that, me going to the gym. Me sitting like a big load on the bench there in front of that colossal wall of mirrors, that reflective judgment that shows you how meager and weak an actor you are in the context of a world stage filled with Brad Pitts, Hugh Jackmans and Vin Diesels.
Where are Falstaff and Sir Toby when I need them?!
But, alas, I will not lament those guys. I at least like Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman and Vin Diesel They entertain me. But not … him. Not Mr. F-ing Perfect (described at the beginning of this long prosaic enterprise). I can live with Pitt and Jackman and Diesel. For one thing, they get paid to be perfect. For another, they aren’t real. Brad Pitt wasn’t really Achilles; he didn’t actually conquer Troy, and he didn’t even exist in fight club. Hugh Jackman is not actually Wolverine, and he never killed any vampires in Von Helsing—which means he probably never tapped Kate Beckinsale either. Nor did Vin Diesel really fight fifty-thousand aliens in the total darkness with nothing but a knife and his reflexes, nor did he actually conquer the whole race of Necromongers by himself. I doubt he drives that well.
But Mr. Perfect does all of that. Every last bit. He probably did it all just yesterday. Before breakfast. Will go again tomorrow, too.
I’m serious. This guy is real, and he really is just like I described. Six-five. Perfect hair, gray in that dreamy, worldly way, and cut flat-top style like a Marine. He’s got Marine muscles too, all sinewy and corded, with long veins running down his forearms. Big round shoulders like someone buried bowling balls under his skin. Abs right out of any of those miracle fitness machine commercials on TV, the ones you can get for three easy payments of only $29.95. He’s got those abs. And he’s even got a stupid dimple on his chin.
He’s perfect. So I hated him.
I didn’t actually notice him my first time in there. I kind of caught glimpses of him as weeks passed. I’d sit panting after a fight-club match with my 17.5-ers, sit sweating, wheezing, waiting for the screaming fit in my sissy-girl arms to subside, and, in the window of shame, see the reflection of him coming in to be absorbed in the subtle worship of those who are only alpha-males until he arrives.
And it really is just like that too. You can’t help but see it if you are the least bit of an observer of humanity. And I am. It’s what I do. So I watch. I absorb, contemplate.
There’s a gaggle of them. Firemen, cops, a ranger (yes, a real Army ranger—I know because I listened to him many times talking about jumping out of this helicopter or that, etc. He is one.)
I’d listen to them talk when I was on that side of the gym: “Oh, I rappelled out of this Chinook yesterday,” one would say. “Oh, I did the 100 floors stair climb with all the other firemen for the 9/11 anniversary last time,” another would say. “Hah, hahahahahaha, so many were vomiting from exhaustion, but not me. I was just, like, eating Cheetos and carrying up huge sacks of gold bricks to donate to the orphans living on the top floor… blah blah.”
F---- those guys.
I know. Envy is an ugly thing.
So anyway, I was always over there with my little candy-ass weights—they should just paint every barbell under 20 pounds Barbie pink and be done with it—and I’d listen to that crap going on between them, absorbing it with my soft, doughy writer’s brain. And, as time went by, I became increasingly aware of Mr. Perfect. I saw that he was different than them. A cut above. Taller, obviously. More defined, if not necessarily the burliest—like he had enough sense to know when to stop building up mass. And he was older. Much older. At least a decade, more likely two. Sixty-something. Seriously. They were all late thirties or early forties like me. (Okay, mid forties. What are you going to do, card me?). So this guy was old. And still totally fit as hell. Ripped. He went over there to those giant weights, the stupid ones that are a joke, and he used them. Every time. And he didn’t drop them when he was done either. No plea for attention from this asshole. He just used them and put them back. What a dick.
He laughed with those other guys too. Hah hah, that joke you said is funny and I’m laughing with you because I’m so cool.
And he didn’t strut. He didn’t preen, or check himself out like the others do. I watched. Expectantly. Looking for that sign of weakness. His vanity. Ha, then I would know my hatred was justified.
Not him. None of that.
Just his muscles and perfect hair and easy laugh that they all deferred to, unknowingly submissive as they all became when he walked in—seen only by me, the watcher with the Barbie weights.
And so I hated him anyway. I was glad my wife never came into this place that she might accidently see us side by side.
I hated that I was being stupid like that.
I realized it, even marveled at it. I’m really not like that. And yet I caught myself doing it and traced the line of those feelings back to when I’d first started noticing him. I realized that, in a way, this environment was changing me, warping me into a hater. I am not a hater. I am not even all that insecure, at least, not so much more than anyone else, I guess. Who knows? But I did know that I had let petty jealousy and insecurity work on me, and for some un-reasonable reason, I had started harboring this hatred for this guy. I told myself it was stupid. Some kind of middle-aged stupidity response on my part. The guy was obviously nice. Why else would all those guys like him so much? He was perfectly fine, unassuming, just very handsome and big and kind-of-too-perfect for his age physically.
So, just as I was coming to terms with that, shaking off my stupid enviousness, I happened to see him coming into the gym one day just as I was leaving. He must have been running late.
He was wearing blue surgeon’s scrubs.
The chick at the counter greeted him, “Hey Doctor Blah-Blah.” And I was like, Dude! A doctor? Are you freaking serious?
Needless to say, my attempts to reconcile that guy’s awesomeness and my unjustifiable jealousy suffered a major setback that day. I became petty again, lost most of the ground I’d gained. I had to struggle to fight off ungracious emotions all over again.
But I did. Slowly. A few weeks passed, and I got it back together. Could watch him come in without feeling very small. I was solid again.
Then the stupid weather cleared.
Once again, I caught Mr. Perfect coming in late, as I was heading out and off to work.
He had a motorcycle helmet under his arm.
Well, I'm sure you won't be shocked to discover that I am no longer a member of a gym. And yes, I know it’s stupid. And yes, I recognize this as unspeakably unreasonable on my part. But you know what: F---- that guy. I’m fine with pettiness. Just this one time. I claim my right to it in the name of all humanity.
Plus, I really needed an excuse to quit. Wow, do I hate exercise. Hopefully that will be the last time I ever join a gym.
Thanks for listening.
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