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  LIFE AS A LOSER #173: "THE GYM."  

My friend Tim is a lucky guy. He's tall, first off, a vastly underrated attribute; you can get away with a lot of physical deficiencies if you're tall. (You know there are women out there who will only date tall guys? No matter what kind of guy a short dude might be, they won't even give anyone under, say, 6-foot-1 a chance. It's terrible. Thankfully, men are never so shallow.) But Tim's real talent, if you ask me, is his ability to stay the exactly same weight and shape as he was in high school. It's quite amazing, really; I've seen the boy down two Arby's Beef 'N Cheddars, two packages of Curly Q and an Apple Pie like it was nothing, and he never looks any worse for the wear. If I did that, I wouldn't be able to fit back in the car.

It doesn't matter if Tim injected a gallon of bacon fat into his neck every day for the next three


years, the man would not gain a pound. He's tall, scrawny and infinite; save for a maybe a bald spot, potential spectacles and future forays into facial hair, he'll look exactly the same in 20 years as he does right now.

Like the rest of the planet, I am not so fortunate.

I started my current job last November. It was the first job I'd had in more than two years that wasn't paying me just enough to survive. I'm not rich, to any stretch of the imagination, but I'm making enough money to not have to worry about bouncing checks, late rent payments or having to skip meals. That's all fine and good, of course, but this has lead to a comfort level that is bordering on deterioration. Being a happy member of corporate society has his advantages - um … florescent tans … Monday morning conversational stimulants … er … unlimited stapler access - but, at its core, requires that I sit on my ass all day. It leads to inactivity, complacency … and corpulence.

Let's face it: I've gained some weight. It's time to stop pretending I haven't. I've tried to lie to myself about it. I've blamed the unfortunate Leitch-family "Howdy Doody" cheeks, bloated appendages that could make David Blaine look like Jerry Lewis. I've blamed the mirror in my room for being at the wrong angle. I've even scolded the sweet Chinese laundry lady down the street for shrinking my clothes. But it's crap. I've gained a little weight. I'm 27 years old, with expendable income, a stationary desk job and poor dietary habits. It was bound to happen.

Now, I've established before here that I have a weird thing about weight. In the past, I've starved myself for weeks at a time, I've spent months eating only a couple pieces of wheat bread a day, I've even resorted to taking diet pills. These techniques were marginally effective at best, and they required more effort than they offered production. And, frankly, I don't have the time or energy to do them anymore. They're the last resorts of a crazy person, someone with serious huge strange weird weight issues, and though I might be that person, it's just not feasible to live life that way. I'd either have a heart attack at 30 or pass out in the elevator. Not gonna happen. Besides, a certain measure of being a 10-hours-at-a-desk guy <EM>is</EM> complacency; if I'd decided I'd had enough, there are plenty of working-outside construction jobs waiting for you, buddy. No? Then stop complaining.

Nope. There are two ways I could go with this new problem. First, I could just keep doing what I'm doing and try to talk my way out of it. This has been the plan for the last month or so. I've employed a number of cute linguistic tricks in order to deceive what my friends' and family's eyes are clearly telling them, but I always fall back on one.

The trick? A case study in passive aggression. Whine about how I'm a fat pig and disgusting and obese and repulsive and how I'm the most repulsive, overweight human I know and I have no idea how they can even talk to someone so sickening. Now, I'm not obese. I'm not even close to it. I'm just not in good shape. I know that, they know that, but they might not necessarily know that I know that. So I just go on and on like that for a while, and eventually, out of exhaustion and pity, they tell me, "Will, you're being silly, you're clearly not fat." I feel better in a completely vacuous way, and I got them to say it: Will, you're not obese. If they are thinking that I think I'm too fat, maybe they won't notice that the obvious: That I'm carrying an extra 10 or so. (I've even done this, repeatedly, to my girlfriend, which I'm sure she finds hot.)

But this is a waste of time for all involved, and ultimately someone will notice the emperor has no clothes. So I'm taking the next step, the one everyone says they'll take but never does: I'm joining a gym.

I've toyed with this notion in the past, but I don't think anyone, myself included, ever really thought I'd go through with it. But the decay of the body is inevitable - I'm beginning to notice rather cavernous wrinkles around my eyes, and a couple of weeks ago I had my first back spasm. I'm a grownup! - and you can only hide so long. It's time to suck it up.

So I did. The other day, I went to the New York Sports Club right next to my office, in Chelsea, where the gay men lift and separate. A tall (tall!) gay man named Marvin showed me around, and told me "you'll have some fun here. You'll love it." (I pity gay men. You can't get away with being flabby if you're a gay man. Straight guys can always find some poor sap woman who likes us because of our souls, or our hearts, or our bank accounts, someone willing to overlook the love handles and double chins. Gay men, being men, are intensely shallow and only care about looks. Gotta be rough. I guarantee every day at that gym, I will be the worst-looking guy there.)

And now, heck, I'm a member. Seventy bucks a month worth of a member. The goal is to just run on the treadmill four times a week while watching Sportscenter in the mornings. Will it work? Do I have the willpower to do it? Can I pull it off? Well, it certainly beats arguing with my girlfriend on the extent of my grotesqueness.

The worst part about this is that it's not going to get any easier. The body doesn't bounce back as well as it used to, and that's not going to turn around. I have a feeling I've signed myself up for a life sentence; as the gym rat, constantly spinning on the wheel, trying to outrun time and death. I don't like my odds.


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