My Queer Life: Gym Dandy
|by Michael Thomas Ford|
I'm going to the gym again. I know, my past attempts at this have been disastrous. You don't have to remind me. But this time I think it will be okay.
I am doing this because, among other reasons, I am in love. That's a whole other story, and will have to wait for another column. But it does have something to do with all this, so I thought it was only fair to mention it. For right now all you need to know is that his name is Dave and that he used to play football. This becomes important later on.
Historically, I have avoided the gym because it simply serves to remind me that I do not like my body. As it is hardly seemly to don, say, a parka when working out, you are therefore forced to wear things like shorts and tanktops. This is all well and good if you look nice in such attire. But seeing that much of myself makes me a little uncomfortable. And we won't even discuss the horror of communal showers. Let's just say that they were bad enough in eighth grade. Twenty years later, everyone else still seems to have come along much more nicely than I have, and I resent it just as much now as I did then.
However, I have had a small revelation recently that makes things a little easier. See, I've accepted that it's not so much that I don't like my body. It's really that I'm not attracted to my own body, or, more specifically, to other men who have my body type. I have always wanted to be one of those really big, beefy guys with thick legs and arms like tree trunks. Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that because I happen to find those men attractive, I should make myself look like that too.
Well, this is not going to happen. I have never weighed more than 175 pounds in my life, and no matter how much I lift or eat, I do not put on weight or bulk up. Working out gives me lots of definition and strength, but mass eludes me. As a result, all my past workout efforts have ended in frustration because, while it's nice to be able to lift heavy things, it's nicer when your pecs look great under a T-shirt.
I blame this mental illness, of course, on being a gay man. Everyone knows that the first rule of gay dating is that you must stick to your own body type. It's even better if your partner can look almost exactly like you, but at the very least you have to have the same build. This is so that both of you can feel secure about your looks and never wonder what the other one sees in you. But because I have always been attracted to guys who are almost the exact opposite of my body type, the whole dating thing has been thrown off course for me from the beginning.
This brings us back to me and Dave. Dave, as I said, played football. He is a big boy. Not only is he several inches taller than I am, but he outweighs me by a good 60 pounds. I, on the other hand, am built for other things. As I said to him the other day, "Men like you were made to tackle other men, and men like me were made to run away from men like you very quickly." It's nature's way of evening everything out, a lesson I have learned from watching all those animal documentaries on cable. Lions may be big and strong, but their favorite food is able to run like hell when they see the big cats coming. It's only fair.
Despite the gay dating rules, Dave and I managed to get together. The fact that he is attracted to me is very reassuring. It's still sometimes a bit bewildering, but I'm getting used to it, and less and less I wonder when I'm going to find out it's all a big joke. It's also helped me view this whole working out thing in a different light. Now, instead of getting frustrated that I can't look like the guys I find really hot, I've started to see that there are a lot of men who like the kind of guy I am just fine. I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but it didn't. Probably because I was too busy blaming my tall, thin Irish ancestors for not having beefier genes.
Slowly, I'm getting over this body image issue, at least a little. I still look at the big brutes pumping huge amounts of weight over their heads at the gym and envy their size, but now I just enjoy watching them and don't get mad that I can't be one of them. It helps that I have Dave to remind meand usually without any prompting on my partthat he likes the way I look. And last week one of the ox-like guys with a body I've always lusted after came up to me in the locker room and said, "You have the nicest ass I've ever seen. I'd kill to have a butt like that." Finally, after twenty years, I felt the weight of all those awful gym class memories slip away.
Michael Thomas Ford won a Lambda Literary Award for his book Alec Baldwin Doesnt Love Me. His new book, Thats Mr. Faggot to You, is in stores now. He welcomes e-mail at Shopiltee@aol.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 12, Aug. 27, 1999