A study has suggested that the more muscle a man has, the more likely he is to be sexist. After conducting my own field research by polishing my own guns, I will have to agree.
If there’s one thing I used to do better than accurate self-flagellation, it was having chips for breakfast. I’ll admit it, I was (still am?) a man of greasy, stupid impulse. Be it fried, salted and/or flambeed, you could bet I’d dive in with both feet, regret it afterwards and not learn the lessons that surround it. My grandest of exercise plans would go out the window at the first sign of a drive-thru, a man from Kentucky with a closely-guarded secret, or the barren interiors of a pantry.
All of which made me a superb lover. Superb, in that, I always had something to prove.
I could still be in better shape, sure. “Back then” I felt the need to make up for it in other areas, like humour, intelligence or indeed, not being a complete cunt. Being buff excuses much. A lifetime of slobbery also gains one an added bonus. When those gains arrive, the response is astronomical. It’s akin to seeing a shopping centre on a square of dead commerce. You invariably go in and fondle the wares.
However, consider the new retail experience as a luxury, you don’t normally shop there, it’s a new thing. You still have the outlets a bit closer to home that you always did – the corner shops of self-deprecating comedy, bookish smarts and an ability to binge. However, the danger is eating at the mall every day. As a friend confided to me after he recently went full-buff: “I don’t think I’m as funny as I used to be. And to be honest, I no longer have to be. Shame though.” I absolutely agree. His transformation (and conversation around it) into the regimented-meal-observing, bronzed-gargoyle has been a bore.
I don’t want to make a broad generalisation here, so I’ll share what I’ve experienced, as it happened to me. About 18 months ago, dealing with a particularly sardonic breakup, in that x was here today gone tomorrow, I decided to get in shape as many have before me, out of spite. Well, that was the original idea. Get in shape, and if x rolled into town, I’d look like I wasn’t falling apart. Look good + feel good = all good.
So, it all went well. I found a gym buddy who had the same goals, and changing 30 years of habit, I got up early, and got turnt while everyone else was asleep. At first, it seemed normal, people wore singlets, sweat on their brows, all were in the same boat bobbing on a sea of rolling testosterone. Even the grunted half-hellos seemed pleasant enough. And it worked. I started feeling better about myself, the imaginary hills I rode over echoed the peak within. However, then the metamorphosis kicked in. I started impulsively flexing in mirrors at home, I shirked eating out with friends, because I’d already eaten, and horrifically, I started taking selfies in the gym toilet to win back bae.
I was unsure who this person was. So, I overreacted.
In a panic, I decided I was going to cover the experience for this very publication; the outsider schmoozing into a foreign ecosystem, written in an Attenboroughan tone. It was smarmy, it was muddled, it expired at word 262. I couldn’t articulate what I was seeing. I had no control of my actions, my limbs were flexing, and my lips were skiing the slopes of smug. Brutally I could see what was happening, but I couldn’t stop it. It was Dr Jekyll versus Mr Fuckwit, the latter running roughshod over conversations and longstanding friendships, and those who didn’t make the sacrifices I chose to on a whim were beneath me. I was told I looked the best in years at soccer training, and while I refused their praise, I was wearing a singlet. In the peak of winter. We are, of course, defined by our actions. Which was attributed to the wonky eyed sage Jean Paul Sartre, but at the time I could have read that on a fitspo post and assumed it was referencing my delts.
Fortunately, soon after that, the relationship was restored, but while my new-old bae appreciated the new-old me, she didn’t particularly care for fragmental shards of what she later labelled “alpha dickhead behaviour” – nothing overt, but when things needed muscle, I was there, too keen, too controlling and too stubborn to do things according to any other plan, bar he with the muscles.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Science sez: Want to get fit? Get into vapid exercise memes
- Five nihilistic fitspirations to get you out of shape
A recent study I found reflected this, where the University of Westminster pulled a direct correlation between muscle mass and sexist views. And while the article that published the studies did so with uber-fit male models (hello duality, nice to meet you), there’s a certain part of me that’d agree. While I would never overtly command my spouse to enter the kitchen, I’d absolutely make sure I’d cook first. And that is sexism of another colour.
Now, while it’s almost impossible to base a condition on a solitary case study, the vibe is universal. Consider, the feelings of division that would arise if you, or someone in your group, suddenly lost weight, or gained muscle. It’s the perpetual motion of subtle friendship negging. The status quo is upset. On some level you wear your dislike toward each other, either in projecting your own guilt over someone getting fit, or in the way the fit person places themselves above the others in the pack – therefore, the latter gooses the former, and reps forever be counted.
The middle must exist somewhere: fit enough to hate yourself, but not fit enough for others to hate you. Closing on my original point, the Oprah-like flux in weight that defines me, does so in my mind too. It’s a full body workout. Skirting the cusp of both, where you can look back to where you were a tiny bit fitter, it seems forever accomplishable, and most importantly keeps one humble.
You may look good, but you’ve looked better.
And that’s what’s important.