Contemplating My Bisexuality While Gettin’ Swole
My internal struggle as men at the gym keep trying to adopt me
I fit in at the gym about as well as a Disney Princess in a BDSM studio. I don’t get the culture: running, lifting, grunting, groaning, flexing. I’ve never understood the axioms of “power through” or “feel the burn” or “do three more.” The only times that “power through,” “do three more,” or “feel the burn” apply to my life is over a plate of chicken wings. I don’t feel a need to get stronger or run faster. Who do I have to run from? Who is trying to hurt me? I asked my friend this one time, a gym nut since we were 15, and he said, “Everyone.”
Despite this, gym culture has always been a part of my life. My mother was an aerobics instructor in the ’90s, and then a Body Pump instructor into the 2000s. I spent my days at the SIM’s Club, our hometown rec center, first in the daycare center and later, roaming through the treadmills in a secondhand suit coat, drunk on a cocktail of horny anxiety, marveling at all of the beautiful people. This was before beauty was on the inside, so I asked my mother, “Exactly how much would I have to work out to look like that?” She looked at me, folded up in my angst, and decided to let her personal trainer friend, Jared, break the news.
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Jared said. He pinched my belly with a metal tool and told me I was 36% fat. He looked like he was made of meatballs. His shoulders, chest, and arms all bulged out. Even his fingers looked like three meatballs on a stick. He was always sweating just a little bit — always hot and slightly sticky. I wanted to play that game with him that kids play where they wrap themselves around an adult’s leg to ride them from room to room. This was before I’d had sex, and long before I’d considered the possibility of men as people I could have sex with. I puttered along from machine to machine as he told me, “No, like this!” and “Come on! Do three more!” I lasted a week before Jared said, “Maybe this isn’t for you,” and I kept my virginal chub well into my late teens.
When I started going to the gym many years later, I went because, by luck of the draw, I’d grown tall and thin and so the work to look good had met my laziness…