A commenter's attack on what he perceives as narcissism, and what I really know about the people he insulted.
Tomorrow, New Year's Eve, we put a cap on this awful year, and as with almost all previous years, many will recommit to a better diet and better body.
Here are the resolutions we're likely to post on our fridge or wherever we end up ignoring them:
Fitness, weight, money and diet top the list. They always do. Some of us imagine that getting more fit means ending up like the photos above. Look, while I can't blame you, for the vast majority of us who aren't fitness pros, it's likely out of the question.
For some, they are already there and maintaining. This past summer, my local gym Genuine Fitness was hosting posing classes for the local Cecil Phillips Classic, which is for non-steroid bodybuilders. I've been lifting for nearly fifty years; this is right up my alley. I made friends, did interviews and posted stories.
One story about a seriously disabled, spastic cerebral palsy sufferer named Zak seemed to raise some ire in one of my commenters. Zak, who spent his early years with a helmet, a walker, braces and uncontrolled movements, has sculpted his body into extraordinary condition. That dedication also got him off the walker, out of the braces (at fourteen) and in stupendous control of his unruly body. And he won in competition against able-bodied men.
Today if you see Zak in public, you would notice something mildly off about his movements. You might register that it was neurological. But it's so mild you barely see it. That's what dead lifting and body building did for this young man.
Here is that story:
And this one, which apparently really annoyed one commenter:
One man in his sixties, who didn't seem to bother to read the story behind Zak's achievement, wrote this:
These shots make me want to quickly lose my dinner--if possible, lunch and breakfast also.Been lately watching videos of Stones performances from back when; my God they were lean and handsome before they turned lean and less so. Lean, and talented.Who has the time or vanity to waste on sculpting oneself into inhuman artifice?Nope, not buying it, the great American glorification of superficiality, of being pumped, being dumb.
First, Zak is hardly dumb. He's well-researched, dedicated and focused. That he got this far is an extraordinary testament to overcoming stacked odds. He is well-loved around here, and for good reason. When I saw him working at Home Goods the other day, we shared an enthusiastic big hug. He's still competing, for his body work allows him to control and manage the condition he was born with.
A condition that our commenter clearly doesn't suffer.
I have a hard time suffering the insufferable arrogance of those who throw insults without the most basic of investigation.
The man in question, and he doesn't deserve the term gentleman, seems to not like himself and his aging process very much. It's to be expected in a world full of ageism and age-hate. However slathering his sewage onto those who have done remarkable things with the challenges they were given is hardly admirable.
Zak is admirable.
One woman I have befriended, Susan (not her real name), has a body made for competition. She is in her early fifties. And unlike Zak, her trauma isn't that kind of damage. Susan, like me, suffered sexual assault. She is hardly the only person I've met who got into lifting - even if unconsciously - to establish some kind of body agency after it was ripped away from her.
Susan is immensely sweet and kind, and she is the last person in the world any of us could accuse of being utterly self-obsessed. Working on the body for competition does take a lot of assessment, but that's the sport. My commenter assumes that ALL of us who lift are ALL completely and utterly in love with our muscled bodies to the exclusion of all else.
Kindly, sir, your PhD notwithstanding, assuming that all bodybuilders are dumb is what's dumb. Proof that advanced degrees don't prove intelligence.
Susan recently quit her long-time job and is now making organic healthy meals for her clients. She'll keep competing, because it keeps her focused on health, but also it's part of her brand and her lifestyle. However, that she competes as a bodybuilder does not in any way mean she is self-absorbed.
She is fact subsidizing some of Zak's expenses so that he can keep competing. If that is self-absorbed, let us all be self-absorbed more often.
Another friend is a Black PhD who is 59, a very serious body builder, and she has a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is an incest and sexual assault survivor. So am I. Both of us took to weights and body building to deal with the immense shame that comes of those kinds of tragedies. Like me, she uses the weight work and her discipline in running to help her deal with what life handed her.
As does Susan. As does Zak.
What the commenter doesn't realize in his bah-humbug full-on attack of the world of bodybuilding is that the sport draws us for very different reasons. My ex was a drug-free competitor; his father brutalized him and his brothers and he was teased unmercifully for being a redhead. A few years in the gym combined with soccer and hockey changed that conversation forever. He's also in his fifties, and his long- time commitment to health came in handy when he recently contracted Covid.
None of us is dumb. In fact quite a few folks who lift are brilliant. They are most assuredly smart enough to know that proper body conditioning ensures a happier old age than sliding into mud-slinging and hate.
My commenter also attacked the Stones for getting old. Jagger's got the body of a twenty-year-old kid under all those wrinkles because he bloody well works at it, even as he approaches eighty. This is from a few years ago:
EIGHTY, and all the commenter can do is blast Jagger for his looks, which have been affected by age. Perhaps my commenter is deeply angry at his own condition. I find that most folks who sling such insults at others are harboring a great deal of self-hate. Recognizing that takes self-awareness. Wisdom. A bit of humility.
I met one woman who competed on the Cecil Phillips stage after losing one hundred pounds. Her body wasn't perfect. But to my mind SHE was perfect. She took control of her habits, took her discipline in hand, and whittled herself down to a whole other kind of health.
Of course some folks take it too far, which you see far more often in the steroid- using community than the non-drug users. It happens.
However, for these people, all I can say is hurrah. I can't speak for you. But if you're interested in getting in shape this year, you'd be hard-pressed to find better company to surround yourself with than those of us who lift. We do it for many reasons. A lot of us got here out of terrible tragedy, trauma and a bad hand.
We're making something out of those bad hands. Weights, body building and the gym are simply tools. For so many of us, it's not just about the look, it's the life-extending health that lean bodies and better eating habits give us.
For women who have been assaulted, getting lean and strong has a way of rewriting the internal narrative of "victim." Not us.
Wanna see why? This:
For my New Year's resolution dollar, choosing to be around such people might well be the lift we all need to stick with lifting, and end up in better shape than we have ever been before. The supportive environment that such people provide goes a long way towards helping folks achieve their goals.
I don't know about you, but I'm heading to the gym as soon as my rotator cuff surgery will allow. I miss positive, upbeat, healthy people. If Mr. Aging, Angry PhD commenter wishes to stay in his cave, choosing to getting more bitter than better, have at it.
I'm going to go build my muscles, my confidence and my body agency. Almost fifty years now and counting. That's a resolution worth keeping.