May 24, 2004

Kaya Meets 'King of the Gays': And Other Gym Stories

In a culture that worships beauty, going to the gym is a common experience – almost as common as guilt about not going to the gym. We even say that we “belong” to a gym – as if it’s an elite club with a barrier to becoming a member. At the gym I belong to, the ‘barrier to entry’ involved being able to sign my name on a check. With the arrival of the movie “Troy” (or its Japanese title, “Pretty Hunk Men Fight Sweaty”) it’s a great time to feel guilty about not working out. Also, with summer here, that means it’s skimpy body armor season again.

Each gym, even within the same chain of gyms, has it’s own personality and leans towards a particular clientele. In the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to work out a few gyms – all part of the 24-Hour Fitness empire – and each one has it’s own style.

The first gym I worked out at, hereafter referred to as “The Gay Gym”, was located, obviously, in the gay part of San Diego. The gay gym was filled with extremely muscular, tan and well-kept men. I try to avoid stereotypes, even positive ones (((except the one about how writers who incorrectly use excessive parentheses are good in bed)))), but a majority of the men at this gym were in amazing shape. Even the older men, men in their mid-60s, were bronzed, buff and perfectly coifed. It’s all a bit daunting at 6:15 in the morning.

At The Gay Gym I had befriended Bruce, the king of the gays, over a period of time. He knew everyone at the gym and was there every single morning. He, of course, had a perfectly groomed mustache and lived above the campy 50’s restaurant across the street. He was fit, helpful, sexual and neat. He was a lisp and handkerchief shy of fitting every gay stereotype.

I was a little like befriending the toughest guy in prison to make sure no one messed with you. Well…I guess it was like prison minus all the unwanted anal sex. ‘Unwanted’ being the key word.

I very rarely received more attention than I was comfortable with from friendly gym-going men, even in the showers. One time, unbeknownst to me, I had a small but defined bruise on my butt (This type of marking probably gets more attention at this gym than others in town). When I was drying off, the normal silence of the area was broken by an excited, “Dare I even ask where you got that bruise?”

I now saw the bruise that he was grinning at and I didn’t know what to say. I knew there was no story (I didn’t even know I had a bruise until it was pointed out) but I thought my explanation might be a way to subtly identify my heterosexuality and avoid much follow-up discussion on my bruised behind. My mind raced with a butt bruise story that might work…I fell off a horse at the rodeo, I received a particularly hard spanking, I bumped it on a table during an Academy Awards party, Bruce bit me…every story that came to mind seemed to make me sound more gay than simply a guy with an inexplicable bruise on his butt.

It was hopeless. I joked around that my girlfriend kicked my ass (very subtle clue, Jim) as I sheepishly wrapped my towel around my waist. The next time I’m standing around naked discussing my rump with a group of men, I’ll be sure to have a snappier comeback.

This gym is always crowded and gets jam-packed in the weeks leading up to the big gay pride parade/festival. I actually went into the gym on the afternoon after the parade (when all of the parties are going on and everyone is showing off their hard-earned physique) and it was like the scene in Vanilla Sky when Tom Cruise is running through an empty Times Square. Okay, perhaps it was nothing like that…but it was empty, take my word for it. There were tumbleweeds blowing across the spin class room. If the place didn’t have “24 hour” in the title, I would’ve thought they were closed.

The strongest person I’ve ever seen was at this gym. The guy (possibly a cyborg) was doing bench press repetitions with 405 pounds. That’s eight 45-pound plates plus the bar. That is the weight of me, my brother and my fiancé, combined. The metal bar was literally bending under the amount of weight he was pushing. When I saw the bar waver for a split second during one of his reps, I made a motion towards him as if I intended to help him if he needed it.

Riiiight. I’m going to help the guy/cyborg with the 405 pounds he’s working with.

It would be like me stopping on the freeway to assist someone whose car has broken down. I will simply be of no help.

“Hmmm, have you tried the key? That’s weird; the key should start the car. Well…let’s just have ourselves a look-see, shall we? Hmmm, now are you sure this is your car…because not all keys will start all cars.”

Useless. Most of what I’ve learned about cars comes from the new MTV show “Pimp My Ride.” So unless you need a multi-colored water fountain for an armrest or stereo speakers installed in your seat belt, I can’t help you.

Speaking of music, the background music that is played at a gym is crucial. There’s no underestimating the boost from a good, motivating song or drain from a terrible song. The Gay Gym usually had techno music in the background or some other high-energy tunes. Occasionally some outdated mellow rock or crap rock (Hall & Oats, Journey, Heart) would be played, but it was predominantly techno. This kept the momentum going and spirits up.

The second gym, hereafter referred to as “The Beach Gym” was near the beach town of Pacific Beach (We have clever beach names in San Diego like “Ocean Beach” and “Pacific Beach”. I guess “Sand Beach” and “Saltwater Beach” were taken). This gym was full of a much younger and taut crowd.

Sorority girls and fraternity guys were all around. Gravity and time had taken no harsh effects yet on this group and everyone seemed to have time to work out in the mornings and lay out in the sun all afternoon. It was fascinating to listen to conversations about sports, girls and homework (all topics I didn’t hear much discussion on at The Gay Gym).

The music played at The Beach Gym was the latest pop/hip-hop, pop/punk and pop/R&B, with an occasional pop/pop song. Perhaps not the peak of musical achievement, but good to exercise to. Almost everything about this gym was like one you’d see in a movie: Young, good-looking blondes exercising to pop music. I could almost hear the theme song to “Beverly Hills 90210” in my head…except I can’t remember how it goes.

The last gym, hereafter referred to as “The AARP Gym”, had a much older and mature (pronounced “MA-TOOR”) crowd. There are still a few young folks, but the average age is dramatically higher. Here I feel like a big shot. It’s a great boost to the ego to go to an exercise machine and see that the last person was working out on the lightest setting. This allows me to triumphantly move the little metal pin down a few notches on the contraption. I find myself finishing a set, flexing loudly and yelling “In your face! How do ya like that triceps extension?!” to the older women beside me.

Despite my physical prowess in comparison to geriatric women, it’s tough to get motivated at the AARP gym. In addition to the crowd, the music that is played there is beyond description. I sometimes think they’re trying to get me to leave, or at least make me weak.

I’m not joking when I say that I recently heard the song “The Neverending Story” from the regrettable movie by the same name. This is quite possibly the least motivating song of all time. I dare you to hum this in your head without losing your will to live.

I’ve also heard “Unskinny Bop” by Poison, “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart and I may have blocked this memory, but I believe I heard “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche. When I think I take it anymore, a current song comes on and saves me from insanity. I can only imagine a DJ for this gym. No theme, no style, no focus. Any song that’s ever been released is the limitations to work within. “You like music? Well, you’re in luck…because we play music!”

Not to sound like I’m writing my college entrance essay, but going to a variety of gyms has given me a good perspective on the city I live in. I’ve worked alongside the young and the old, the gay and the straight, the blonde-haired and the light brown-haired with blonde highlights. We all sweat the same color. Perhaps the gym is a metaphor for life. Or life is a metaphor for the gym. I guess what I’m saying is summed up best in these select lyrics of “Unskinny Bop” by Poison:

“Unskinny bop
Just blows me away.
Unskinny bop, bop
All night and day.
Unskinny bop, bop, bop, bop
She just loves to play.”

Yep, I think that pretty much sums it up.

Posted by Kaya at 05:49 AM | Comments (13)

May 03, 2004

Complicated

Recently, life seems to have become more complicated. And not just because the pop-rock song “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne keeps running through my head after I acknowledged this fact, thus replacing “Who Let the Dogs Out?” as the song that prevents me experiencing a single moment of serenity. It just seems that in the past few weeks my life became much more “real”.

In many ways I welcome the issues that arise in becoming an “adult”. I enjoy much that goes with this and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also am unable to prevent the passage of time and see no reason to wish I was 20 years old again…which, I actually don’t wish for. I like myself a lot more now than I did then and have much more happiness and, once the songs leave my brain, serenity.

While I’m in the thick of wedding planning (this weekend was partially spent looking at party rental equipment, pricing wedding rings and registering for gifts) my fiancé and I are also looking into buying a house in San Diego. Aside from the absurd prices (we saw a 975 square foot home with 2 bedrooms/1 bath for $700,000) is the commitment to a massive loan -- the aptly named “jumbo loan”. All the while, I’m figuring out what I actually want to do for a living. My tech job ended and I’ve been substitute teaching. I feel closer and closer to figuring out where I want to invest myself, but there are up and down days with the process. Oh, and we’re talking about when we want to have kids, which will be fairly soon.

So…for those of you keeping score at home, my mind is busy with thoughts of Wedding, Career, Home and Children.

I know I’m wonderfully blessed to have these amazing opportunities in front of me, and I generally look at all of this with a smile. I’m not saying it’s bad – in fact I think all of this is pretty amazing – but I do feel that it’s complicated.

It just feels like my life has become beautifully complex in the past few weeks and I’m a tad overwhelmed by it all.

I find myself wanting to fast-forward a year or two to look back at this time of uncertainty from a more secure place. And yet I know that it will always be a process – that there won’t be a “secure place”. I’ll always be on a journey. There is no final destination that I will reach when it’s all figured out and I’ve resolved every aspect of my life. I’m working on welcoming the reality of constant seeking.

I feel like I’ve been pulling clothes out of my closet to prepare for a trip. I keep finding more and more clothes to consider and the piles are getting larger and larger. I can’t seem to commit to putting any of those clothes into the suitcase, zipping it shut and get going.

Still, I remain optimistic. It all has a way of working out, even if it’s not as expected. I’m sure every little piece of marriage, home, career and children will be different than I expected…and wonderful. I’m also marrying an amazing and funny woman who I can’t wait to be an adult with and that helps keep me smiling.

If I have kids, I won’t pass on the torturous songs stuck in my head, will I? Those poor kids, they'll never know who let the dogs out.

Posted by Kaya at 07:30 AM | Comments (5)