Each evening between 6 and 7 pm, I hear the same battle-cry echoing out of the gym next door to my apartment building. It’s the crazed militant scream of a male gym instructor to his charges. Every day this man lets loose a bitter tirade of abuse on people who come to the gym. People who loyally and happily pay for the pleasure of being verbally assaulted.
Not only is this man ruthless in his vitriol, he clearly relishes it. I have witnessed from my apartment window, his ego, stance and presence become monstrously large and powerful.
However I often wonder is the power illusory or fleeting, lasting only the full forty minutes and then slipping away? Or does he carry his authority with him like a heavyweight title belt encrusted with diamonds – intimidating everyone he meets?
Also, the visitors to the gym arrive like sheepish supplicants to the great gods of corporeal world.
Some supplicants trim and have bodies sculpted into shapes and forms, as tight as drums.
Others have fringes of flab here and there. All unabashedly show their bodies in lycra outfits, a clear rebellion against fashion and convention.
The Alpha male hovers around the open window and awaits his charges, hurtling out embarrassing taunts to late-comers still getting out of cars.
“Hurry up Declan, those pecs won’t happen by themselves!”
“Anne…each minute you waste is another few inches on your stomach!”
“Simon, get out of that suit and get in here you lazy prick!”
“Get those legs moving, if you want to be fucking lazy…head to the Burger Fuel!”
This place, like millions of others is a mecca to acceptable physical form. And yet it all seems so over the top and grotesque. Collective sweat drips in stalactites from the ceiling. Towels and floors squelch with the excreted toxins of many people’s bodies. The air is ripe with exhaled carbon dioxide. It’s a veritable factory of fuckability.
And yet the irony is that becoming more fuckable – which is indeed the only true goal of such an ongoing obssession, patrons need to reveal all of their most uncomfortable and ungraceful moments on exercise machines or in awkward poses in classes, in close quarters with strangers. Possibly the very people with whom they would (either hypothetically or IRL) like to copulate with.
After a shower though, the muck all removed, a rebirth happens. A cautious, nascent butterfly emerges from the crysalis and beats its wings for the first time. All working parts feel smoother, younger. All inner parts feel more empowered and energised. The winter’s sky seems a few shades brighter, the puddles not as deep as before. Sirens and traffic horns seem ever so slightly and pleasantly muted. The city and all of its terrors, along with death, are temporarily held at bay once more for 24 hours.