Sunday, February 04, 2007

some thoughts about the gym

oodles and oodles of dumbbells!
this picture not taken at my gym. [photo credit: yuan2003]

i've been meaning to discuss with all of you my feelings about going to the gym for a long time, but i've never been able to find the words. and, i've never been able to assemble all of my divergent thoughts about this locus of desperate masculinity within the constraints of a single narrative. too many things happen there, too many stupid, stupid things. and though i believed that i had seen many stupid things going to a gym frequented by professional adults and their idiot offspring, my experiences there in no way prepared me for the palpable cloud that suffuses every nook and cranny of the university gym where i work out now, generated, i can only assume, by a congenital deficiency of chromosomes shared by the majority of men under the age of 23.

though, please understand, this does not mean that my old arch-nemesis, the elderly, are not known to stalk the sweat-stained halls of the intramurals building. in fact, it is with a mixture of sadness and pride that i report that i have now seen more nude, old man ass than a proctologist in the urgent care facility of a retirement community in dade county. i do not know if such a place or position does, in fact, exist, but if they do, i believe i am qualified to perform those duties. this is perhaps why i have been approached to help with the casting of "retired rectum 7," the only series of homosexual grandpa porn to have ever made it to a seventh volume, mainly due to the commitment on the part of its manufacturers rather than any support from consumers.

nevertheless, young men, mostly guys in their late teens and early twenties, work out here as well, though by "work out," i mean, try hard to convince others that they are manly.

men, for instance, do not flush toilets. did you know that? it's true. it's made me have to go back to all those tired rants from the likes of elaine boosler about men and toilets and admit, she was right. that's when i'm not too busy adding to the multiple gallons of piss threatening to spill over onto the floor. this, by the way, is why there is an additional drain on the floor of a men's restroom. having given up on our ability to use a toilet, they've turned the entire bathroom into one. this is known as "male ingenuity." it's why we've had the power over the women since the dawn of time.

other indications of the brilliance of these future statesmen and men of industry abound once one enters the weight room. here one is treated to stimulating conversation; for instance, this comment that i heard earlier in the year: "the trojans aren't a good mascot, if you look at their history. i mean, the trojans got fucked. they only had, like, one guy. they should have been spartans." i wondered if he knew that the spartans got fucked, too, or if he knew how they got fucked. it might have changed his mind about the spartans as a mascot for a sports franchise. i didn't ask, and now i regret it. i also wondered who the one guy was the trojans had; the word being plural, and the general prohibition on women fighting in combat, suggests that they had, like, more than one guy. in fact, i am so confident, that i will go on the record to suggest that they had, like, way more than one guy. that's my hunch, anyway.

it's not uncommon to hear these conversations, because guys tend to work out in packs, but because they tend towards ignorance of proper lifting technique and have no knowledge of exercises that differ from the ones they were taught by, "like, that really buff dude that one time," they rove the gym like hungry animals, waiting with pained expressions for the machines or weights they need to become available, unable to improvise or vary their workouts. this gives them ample opportunity to tactically dilute the collective i.q. by speaking.

though, in their defense, i will say that it is difficult to get to use the machine you need to use when the person who is "on" the machine is never actually using it. when you ask, he says he has "one more set," but all he ever does is stand beside the machine with his arms across his chest, breathing intently, as though his performance-enhancing gel went down the wrong pipe and is now making every breath an agonizing fight for survival (which, by the way, if it did happen, wouldn't surprise me in the least). he's frequently staring, not at anything in particular, but simply to indicate to others that "i just moved a lot of weight, because i'm a man." no one has actually witnessed his feats of strength, hence, in lieu of having done anything impressive, he has to look like he just finished doing something impressive, and you missed it. and no—you cannot work in.

and there's always one guy working out who is the absolute fittest person in the entire gym. this person never does anything. every time you see him, he's getting a drink of water, while managing to stare aimlessly, to suggest that the burn was so intense, just the act of drinking water is almost too much pain for him to bear. occasionally, he does five crunches. never four, never six. always five. then he gets more water. this takes him 10 minutes—20 seconds for the water, and 580 for the breathing.

once, out of curiosity, i stopped one of these guys and asked him what kind of a diet he was on, and he put his hands on his hips like an apollo 13 astronaut, threw his head back, projected a bellowing laugh that echoed throughout the weight floor, and disappeared in a plume of white smoke that smelled vaguely of cinnamon and creatine.

when i got home, my refrigerator was filled with met-rx bars and vitamin water. i'm not even kidding about that. i think he was an angel.

and before i forget, i want to clear something up. you do not have a right to arrive at the gym with a funky odor. before you comment, pay attention to the wording. when you work out, you sweat, and when you sweat, you stink—granted. but this does not mean that you can import a foreign stink from home and pass it off as the reek of hard work. once, a guy hopped on to the elliptical machine next to mine, and though he was barely in his 40's, he had that distinctive "old person smell." i could only conclude that he had slept inside of one the night before for warmth after being badly injured by a snow creature on hoth. worse, every time he exhaled, it was as though he had launched a salvo of funk directly at me, also smelling distinctly of unwashed grandfather. i immediately cast him in "retired rectum 8," soon to be in production, as the activities director of a retirement home in dade county.

about the only population attending the gym i have any praise for would be those future stateswomen and women of industry, the girls. i do not mean to suggest that all guys are like the men i have described above, nor do i want to suggest that all girls lift with proper technique, put their weights back when they aren't using them, and always flush the toilets. just the ones i have seen, from a hidden vantage point somewhere in between the men's and women's locker rooms, and from various points within the ductwork above the weight room floor. where the guys seem to be more concerned with looking manly, the girls are actually focused on the workout itself, because they know that being healthier, when combined with binge drinking, is the best way to score multiple times in a single weekend. boys, you could learn from their example.

now, if you'll excuse me, i've still got one more set to do on the bench press. and for the last time, no, you cannot work in.