An Ethnography of the American gym

(I wanted to call this post ‘An Ethnography of the Naciremian Gym’, but realized that I would be proving my dorky academic cred to fucking no one)

I go to the gym. I am not sure I do anything there that can be described as successful, but dammit if I don’t go. I have actually been going to the gym now, kind of off and on, for about seven years or so. I have done so in four different countries, and have noticed little differences in each country’s gym. I have already ‘written’ (read: complained) about the gyms in China, so now it is time to give the good ol’ ’Merican gyms what is coming to them. Because they are awful places.

Not the facilities. The facilities themselves are fine. Occasionally some sadist hooks the air conditioning system right into the feed of the nearest nuclear reactor and you get temperatures so fucking glacial that everyone starts speaking in mock Russian accents. But I can’t actually pin that one on the gym itself, particularly since a hoar and rugged old man will approach you just after the temperature drops and explain to you the science behind why lower temperatures while you work out promote prostate health.

Or some such shit. I don’t actually know because I stopped paying attention. Which brings me to one primary distinction about American gyms; they are fucking gregarious. People are talking, exchanging tips, talking about best practices. I don’t know how they get anything accomplished at all.

This all really fucking bothers me, though I need to get into my larger point to explain why. There are two types of people at American Gyms: People who need to be there, and people who desperately need something better to fucking do. The latter might be there solely to see whether jealousy is a motivating force on the former.

At almost 300 pounds, I am firmly planted into that first group. We are pretty easy to spot at the gym, because we are the one wearing the type of clothes you could hypothetically walk into a church wearing without making a nun faint. We aren’t doing much, but we are red in the face and drenched in our own sweat just attempting to do it. You can also tell that it is us because we are slack-jawed staring at the other group.

The bunch of assholes. If you have ever wondered where fit people get all their confidence from, its because they have leeched it all, vampire style, from the poor fat-asses at the gym. They come in there with their pornography-ready bodies and do acts that might as well be breaking the laws of physics, and seem to do it effortlessly.

Let me give you an example. A guy comes to my gym, and we can call him Adonis. Why Adonis? Because he is so objectively good looking that die-hard republicans could use him as an argument that homosexuality is a choice (Idris Elba also has this effect on people. Don’t believe me? Watch The Wire). Anyway, I often encounter Adonis when he goes to the pull-up bar. I have never (and likely will never) done a pull up in my life. It’s one of those things that I am just never going to experience. But this mother-fucker? He pumps in there, grabs the bar pulls his legs up so that his feet are pointing at the ceiling, then begins to pivot at the hips, moving his legs back in forth. I’m convinced the exercise is pointless, and that the guy does it simply to be an asshole.

I know almost next to nothing else about Adonis. But I can tell you that he is fucking built incredibly well. He has a tattoo of something written in Hebrew, making him also a walking argument that the Jews really are God’s chosen people, which is a bitter pill to swallow when you are God’s afterthought.

There is a counterpoint to all this, and that is the men’s locker room. The men’s locker room is a place where humility and decency are checked at the door, and everyone is suddenly comfortable with their own bodies. The men’s locker room almost completely disproves the very existence of homosexuality, as everyone there seems to be as unattractive as possible. The whole place is a mess of overhanging fat rolls and dangling appendages. I start to wonder how anyone, anywhere, can bring themselves to ever fuck a man.

At which point my confidence comes back. Which is what I will need to keep coming to the gym.

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