Objects In Mirror Are Larger Than They Appear


I started working out at a gym, recently. I hate it lots and lots.

I figured I had to do something because my waist size has recently passed the big four-oh, and that to me is what can honestly and without reservation be called “fat.” At my place of employment (AKA “work”), I’m surrounded by many fat guys. Fat-TER guys. Than me. And that increased my imagination potential into telling myself I’m actually quite the slender man. All those fitness freaks spending their lunches watching calories and being careful of “loading on the carbos” or “piling up the sugar” or whatever the latest diet phrase is, well, they’re just freaks. C’mon! Live a little!

But, like age, surpassing a new zero level in one’s dimensions (as in four-zero) calls into question “what the hell have I been doing?” And I know exactly what I’ve been doing, and it’s called bacon double cheeseburgers at Burger King which is less than a block from my place and oh so convenient when I get home late (or early, or on time). So when my friend Kirby said, “I’m going to start working out on Wednesdays. I know you don’t need it, since you’re so fit and you hardly breathe at all when climbing stairs and your physique is just an amazing display of human beauty, but you mentioned that you wanted to start working out. You wanna come with?” I decided it was time to bite the bacon and hit the Stairmaster.

Actually, I’m almost sure he didn’t say it in that way, but it’s how I choose to remember it. When I’m comparing my body fat level with the fat-TER men around me. On a daily basis. While watching reruns of Roseanne. As I exercycle. Yeah. That’s it.

Did you know the human butt has an unlimited supply capacity for fat? It’s true!

They surround you with mirrors at a gym. I suppose that’s so you can watch your “technique” when you’re hefting the weights, but all I see are the soft, round proportions of me where there shouldn’t be soft, round proportions. Men, in general, don’t look good soft and round. Just a personal opinion. They look better when they look like a Corvette. A Corvette is not soft and round, have you noticed? Maybe that’s why they are rumored to attract leggy blondes with big hair and bigger boobs. Or maybe it’s because they cost over US$40,000 and are generally driven by bald men with comb-overs well past the age of prime sexual attraction (assuming they ever occupied that position) who will die soon and need to leave their disposable income to somebody. Who can say?

Meat Mirror

And I dislike sweating. Sweating also only looks good on fit bodies. Fit bodies, in my opinion, should always be wet. Or at least shiny. Sweating on me looks… sweaty. It doesn’t sheen my skin with a heady musk, it rolls along the folds and settles in puddles. My hair goes all freaky, my eyes redden, I look like I’m about to die. Which was not the look I was going for.

And let’s face it, here, I’m going to the gym not to feel better, but to look better. Oh, I know that if you’re in shape then supposedly you sleep better and can do more, have more energy, la la la, this that and the other thing. But you know, fuck that. If there was a magical pill I could take that would make me look fit but still suffer from shortness of breath and occasional heart fluctuations and a sudden compulsion to dial 911 after a particularly stressful bowel movement, I’d take it! I just want my clothes to hang on me, not cling to me. And if they’re clinging to me, I want them to look muscular, not soft and round.

So Kirby, who’s bench pressing a million pounds and is like a black belt in Karate and can levitate objects and fly and alter the rotation of the Earth, has been very helpful in making me mindful not to stress my muscles too badly by limiting the weight I lift and my, um, “reps” or something and making sure I drink water and wander around aimlessly between “lifts” to allow my muscles to puddle or something. I’m usually not paying very close attention because I’m too busy trying to find some spot where I cannot see myself in a mirror. That way I can continue to exist in my little fantasy world where the past few minutes spent mindlessly shoving weights over my head have magically transformed me into Mr. Corvette Body.

Before and/or after we head into “the weight room” (or, The Wait Room, since you do that a lot, too) we do some “cardio” (don’t I sound all Jock?) on the stationary bike or the Stairmaster to get our heart rate up. Or in my case, to get my heart to the threshold of bursting through my chest like an alien inside John Hurt. The gym has TVs set up so while you’re there peddling like a madman going nowhere (wow, that is so like work it’s scary!) you can watch Seinfeld or The Simpsons and while you’re crying in pain people think you’re laughing. Very convenient!

Yesterday, the episode of The Simpsons that happened to be on was where Homer wanted to be 300 lbs. so he could be declared disabled so he could work from home. I was laughing, laughing, laughing, until the scene where Homer has a daydream about achieving that goal and he’s standing on a path next to a big sign showing his current weight. The horror was that it wasn’t so far from where I am right now.

If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

Hard Attack

I’ve only really been in shape once in my life. I was living in Vermont at the time, and Vermont is a state where all you want to be is outside because it’s so damned beautiful all the time. Even when it was 40 below with two feet of snow on the ground and 70 MPH winds whipping off the frozen surface of Lake Champlain, I loved being outside.

So I would hike up at Stowe and bike the trail along the lake and even, spurred on by my friend Jeff, jogging down and up the hill leading from Winooski to Burlington, ending at the University of Vermont which is a collection of red brick buildings nestled among rolling lawns and huge hardwoods. I mean, classic New England right there. The wind was fresh and clean and didn’t stink. There were few cars to worry about, the sidewalks were wide. Who wouldn’t have a good time?

Now I live near Boston. Okay, I’m still in New England but whoever built this place had their head up they ass.

Boston is the most unfriendly human habitat I’ve ever seen. The streets are a confusing knot of one-way headaches filled with drivers who’ve spent time as clowns because they drive like they were under the big top trying to hit all the animals. There’s not enough room to park on the curb, let alone ride your bike. Combine the two and you’re asking for an ambulance. The air is filled with dust and pollen and smells like diesel exhaust because everything’s always under repair, but nothing ever gets done. The bridges here are all being worked on one lane at a time but nothing about them seems to be getting fixed because they come back the next year and do it all over again.

The helpful policemen are seemingly there to make things worse. They direct traffic around hazards as if it’s an afterthought. “Hmm, I’m standing here in the middle of the road. Hey, look at that pebble near my foot. I wonder how long I can stare at it before I can move it with the power of my mind. Oh! An automobile! I’ll wave at the driver and scowl menacingly! I like to do that. I need a donut.”

I tell all that to explain why my bike has been sitting in the spare bedroom with two flat tires since I moved here and why I wouldn’t venture out onto the open road unless I was surrounded by a 2500 lbs. vehicle protecting me from the other maniacs in their vehicles. There are sidewalks here but I think they function as large speed bumps to protect the buildings from the large vehicles.

Food, Glorious Food

My real problem is not the lack of exercise, although that is definitely a contributing factor, but the food I eat. When I’m bored, I eat. When I’m not bored, I think that food would be a good accompaniment to whatever I am doing. I love potato chips. I love bagels and cream cheese. I love cheese, period. I can drink down Pepsi One after Pepsi One (By the way, have you tried that stuff? Don’t do it! I swear, they’ve put some addictive additive into it. The first time I tried it, I thought, “eh, at least it tastes better than Diet Pepsi.” Then I finished the liter and I wanted more. And more. And more. I’m diseased. Somebody he’p me!) while sitting at the computer or at the TV or at the DVD or while driving.

I hate cooking, I love food. Subsequently, I never go to the grocery store to get real food, I order in from delivery Chinese or drive-thru my friendly neighborhood fat supplier. Laziness has lead to gluttony. Deadly Sins R Us.

I went to the grocery store as part of my new “Lance, You’re Fat!” attitude and bought vegetables and fruit and dry cereal that delivers 100% of my daily vitamin needs and forked over $150 and can I say, the vegetables here stink! The fruit is good, but what is up with the vegetables? They’re small, they’re sad, they’re brown and they cost the equivalent of an equal weight in gold. This is ridiculous! A green salad will end up costing me $25! Artichokes are $5 a piece and they have three, four leaves on them, tops.

I’m not confident that this will work. Frankly, I’m not happy being fat and I’m embarrassed to be seen outdoors, particularly here where there’s a college on every corner filled with nubile young bodies parading around naked looking like poster children for sex. Camryn Manheim might be perfectly happy living in a soft, round body but I’m not.

My kingdom for a magic pill.

June 10, 1999

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