Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Body, My Self.

One of the perks of being a student, I thought, would be the use of the gym. I've never belonged to a gym, in fact I've been scornful of that whole culture because it makes people feel bad about themselves if they fall short of an arbitrary ideal. When I see guys with perfect muscle tone, usually my second thought is "If he's spending that much time at the gym, he's probably not spending much time reading or doing anything else that might make him interesting." (My first thought, if you can call it a thought, is, "God, he's hot.")

I've never had a great opinion of my body, as far back as my first memories of noticing boys' bodies -- around the age of 9 or 10? -- and finding myself drawn to them. At the time, I thought what I wanted was to be like them. They were male in a way that I didn't feel I was. They walked differently, talked differently, sat differently. But this gets into the unique homosexual problem which recently I heard a lesbian performance artist call BUFU ("Be You Fuck You," as in, "I don't know whether I want to be you or fuck you").

But around the time I turned 40, my negative but manageable body image changed subtly to include some real information, not just the crap my tricky self-esteem had been feeding me. I started to feel actually weak, especially in my upper body. I could see and feel a change in my strength, from aging, and from lack of exercise.

So, finally I had a "real" reason to try to get in shape, a reason that I wouldn't judge to be shallow and vain. I could work out without guilt. I didn't just want to look sexier, I wanted to be stronger. I flirted with yoga for a little while, but it didn't grab me, didn't keep my attention. I wanted something more rigorous. I started doing pushups and crunches and then some free weights. I built a little muscle. My arms and shoulders definitely got stronger and bigger. But I didn't know what the hell I was doing, so I'm sure I expended a lot more energy than was necessary. Without dramatic results, I lost inspiration.

And besides, if this is partly about becoming more attractive -- I can't deny it -- I don't really need a boost there. Somehow, now that I'm older, I'm getting a lot more attention. My theory regarding this development is that there are 3 factors involved: 1) My tattoos; I have visible tattoos now, and a lot of guys are turned on by tattoos, regardless of what the rest of you looks like; 2) I'm more relaxed and confident, more comfortable in my skin than I was when I was younger, and I think that's an attractive trait; and 3) I'm handsomer now, in some objective sense; my face has aged well, if I do say so myself.

So, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If I'm already getting plenty of attention from the boys, why do I want to spend hours every week pumping iron? Well, a part of me just wants to know if I can do it. If I can actually impose my will on the shape of my body. Part of me is a bit panicked by the physical aging of my body. And there's the strength thing, which is what started me thinking about exercise in the first place. I feel weaker. I want to feel stronger. If I have to live with a totally hot body, then I guess I can make the sacrifice.

So, all that to say I was looking forward to using the gym at U.T. (Since I've never set foot in a gym before, I'll have to find a better homosexual than I to show me how to use all those scary machines.) I still hold out some hope of being able to enroll in the fall, but if I don't, I think I want to figure out some other way to start working on my body. Lord help me. I promise I won't stop reading.


Anonymous said...

hi. i think i like you. this is ewe. i hope i didnt send to many comments but i am not sure they are getting through.

Joemg said...

About four months ago I finally took the plunge and started working out. I had avoided it for all the same reasons that you did. I'm glad I'm not alone in that thinking! :)

The reasons I returned was for the sane ones that you had listed, but with the added "secret" desire to look "hotter". But, what I'm actually realizing is that I just physically feel better - have more energy, sleep better, feel stronger (omigod - "faster, better, stronger" the Bionic Woman!). Plus, it really helps me to feel less anxious, which I've had problems with throughout my life; and I can use my obsessiveness in a positive way.

I am finishing up my degree (mid-life career transition) and use the gym where I go to school. I got a personal trainer for about 8 sessions. That really helped me to learn how to use all of the equipment I never even knew existed. I had thought I was going to be the only middle-aged guy (I just turned 48) in the gym. Wrong. Most of the folks are undergrads, but at least a quarter of those there are middle aged and there a few retirees, too. Having the personal trainer helped me to initially get organized and motivated. I also learned how to avoid both overdoing some things while under-doing others.

BTW, the personal trainer was an undergrad 20 year old who was very sweet. I was one of three or four other 35+ year old guys he worked with regularly.

Have fun and enjoy!

Sissy Faggot said...

Hey Steven,

I found your blog through Joe My God. This posting of yours was sweet, vulnerable, insightful, and voiced some of the tension I think many of us feel about wanting help out our bodies without bowing to the monolithic aesthetic ideal of plastic fantastic cookie cutter fags. Thank you for your support of my commentary on Joe My God.
It touched me deeply.

kisses (wherever you'd like) from San Francisco
sissy :)