Ok, I admit to being one of those social scientists who can’t turn off the observation beacon, and I do end up being quite critical to most goings on in society, thinking that ‘surely, there must be alternatives?’. It’s the analytical lens through which the obvious becomes problematic, the norm becomes the exception. Some things, however, we incorporate willingly and merge them into our embodied makeup, as if they are an extension of our own being. For some it may be a partner, a job, a child, a pet, or even an ideological stance. One thing that bothers me though, and I’ll get to the point of this post now, is the trend in society towards asexuality, and the mystery behind the vanishing man. Let me explain…
Living in Norway, we are surrounded by egalitarianism on every corner, we are openly encouraged (and covertly pushed) to disregard gender categories in all aspects of society, quotas are in operation to do away with ‘traditional’ male/female occupations, no-one is to be a winner or a loser, pity is to be heaped on the unfortunate, and the weekend nightlife scene is a theatrical crisis of identity.
A walk around town reveals young men in jeans so skinny and tight, Freddie Mercury would just laugh. They wear plastic rainboots up to their knees secretly want to enter the next Idol. They exit the tanning rooms with their brilled up hair, pause their Shakira album on their iPod, whilst taking a call from a mate not to forget a frozen pizza and the latest Jennifer Aniston movie from the 7-Eleven on the way home. But they do get to the gym.
In the gym, they jog on the treadmills and squeeze out a few reps on the bench. They pause to drink from their protein shake and set their iPod to repeat, as Ricky Martin is sure to help push out that last seated bicep partial curl. Some venture over to the racks and load up the bars for a one-rep super set, before deciding not to overdo it before tonight’s 7pm Spin45. Call me a cynic, and I was there at that stage before, but I remember busting a gut with my mates at the gym when we were wondering how to control all the hormones. Then we get home and read in the paper that weight training is fairly dangerous for our health, and we ought to stick to moderate cardio and supervised dumbbell press sessions!. Roll on Zumba and BosuPump!.
Guys, we live in a day and age where it is ok to be conscientious with our diet, try out new careers, be good partners, and spend quality time with kids and family. But don’t fear being ridiculed because you try to be a man every now and then. In the gym, get squatting, deadlifting, chinning with plates and asking how its done correctly if you are not sure. There are no quick fixes to improving hormonal balances and stopping the downward spiral of testosterone production. Getting a tattoo or buying expensive bottles of pure crap protein shakes will not do anything to your physical performance, or the way you appear to the opposite sex. Nor will spending 6 days a week in the gym doing so many bicep curls that you may even get a blister.
Tucked away in holes inside mountains near Bergen, strongmen lift stones and flip 400lb tires, men wear black and have loads of body hair, and Crossfit has made an appearance, minus the Shakira, mirrors and exer-cycles. There is hope for sure, but let this not remain the underground scene for the minority. Training methodologies mirror social life in so many ways, but you get back what you put in, and as my old Roman friend Seneca reminds us
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult”
Don’t be afraid to be male, women are great, but don’t try to replicate their every move. They may want to be your friend and compare skinny jeans, but they already have other friends to copy Zumba playlists from. Get some testosterone back in the mix, at least it might help with those bicep curls…