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Note: The Life as a Loser series is ending at No. 200, which will run on March 29, 2004. There are now eight left.


The gym I go to is just a block away from my office, situated on 17th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. This neighborhood is known as Chelsea. It is affluent, fancy, clean and very, very gay. We're talking George Michael, Siegfried gay. Chelsea is kind of the Valhalla for wealthy gay men; everything is classy and professional and tasteful, because, well, everything is run by gay men. And -- this goes without saying -- every gay man here is


attractive; Chelsea is for the cream of the crop. Harvey Fiersteins and Michael Mustos need not apply; you better be ripped in Darwinist Chelsea.

I got my haircut a few months ago at a place called "The Service Station," just across the street. They set me in the chair, and a man named Bjorgen appeared behind me. You know those Calvin Klein ads you see everywhere now, the ones with the shirtless dude with a tattoo of a tiger on his thigh, the guy who looks like he was just beamed in from a Guy Ritchie movie? Bjorgen looked like that guy, except somehow squared in every physical permutation. His biceps looked like late-70s Schwarzenegger, and I got a clear Ferrigno vibe from him. His head was shaved, he had a menacing goatee and he wore a Harley-Davidson shirt in a way that didn't seem ironic. He looked like he roadied for the Stones at Altamont; he looked that guy in Over the Top who chops and swallows the lit cigar. And he leaned over me and purred, "Oh, darling, you just need a little trim on the sides. You have wannnnnnerful hair!" His voice was an unmistakable Judy Garland, with a trace of Norse. And you know what? It was a really great haircut.

I love working in Chelsea. As would befit a heavily gay community, you get the best of everything here: The food is better than it is anywhere else, the movie theaters are cleaner than anywhere else and, obviously, they give great haircuts. And then you have my gym.

After I told my father I was joining a gym right by my office, he kind of grunted in a bored way and handed the phone to my mom. (My father does this. I'll be in mid-sentence, and next thing I know, my mom's on the other line. "Well, I guess he's done talking to you." Drives me crazy.) After about 10 minutes of my complaining about girls, my dad grabbed the phone back.

"Wait … this gym thing … does that mean a bunch of gays are going to see you naked?"

"Well … um … I suppose so, Dad, though I doubt they'll be paying much attention to me."

"Jesus Christ. Watch your ass, son."

I didn't bother to try to explain to him the dynamics of Chelsea. It would have been too much trouble. Having gay men looking at me, post-20-minute workout, while I'm gasping for air and throwing up in my locker, is not only doesn't concern me, it's a virtual impossibility. I mean, have you looked at me lately? (If you haven't, um, well, imagine James Spader after a four-year binge of whiskey and Cheetos, to the point he starts looking like a bloated member of Motley Crue. Oh, and then punch him in the face a few times. That's me, pretty much.)

The point is, no gay man with any self-respect would waste a half second looking in my direction. Gay men, after all, are simply men. Men are shallow, base creatures. You see attractive women dating shlumps all the time, but when's the last time you saw a decent looking guy with a dumpy woman? Never, that's when. It's wrong and terrible and unfair, but it's true, because men are superficial pricks.

So you can imagine how much worse it is for gay men. At least a dopey-looking straight man has a chance for sex sometime, with a woman who looks deeper and can be fooled by such unreliable variables like charm, wit and intelligence. (More accurate: Completely faked-for-the-sake-of-copulation charm, wit and intelligence.) But a gay man, he just has other petty, banal men to deal with. He can't make funny dinner party conversation and hope it will fool someone into sleeping with him, like straight males can. An average-looking gay man is forced to play by his own rules. An average-looking gay man is playing a game he cannot win.

This is why my gym is so packed. In my six months at this gym, I think I've seen maybe seven women, and two of them work there. The men of Chelsea cannot be lazy; it is survival of the fittest in its most literal form. Every dude in there is not just in good shape; they're all absolutely stacked. They work out with the passion of a wrestler trying to make weight, or a pitcher needing to slim down to meet a clause in his contract. And they're there every single day. I work out pretty regularly, but I still smoke, and I still drink, and I still eat foods that are filled with lard, bacon fat and brimstone. I don't have to meet their threshold. God, how could I?

This is why, at my gym, I am an invisible presence. I am always the worst-looking guy in the room. I like that. It makes it easier for me to hack and wheeze in private. When men do talk to me at the gym, it's usually something like "you're in front of my locker, pipsqueak," or "you're not using that kidney, are you?" I mean, I think I'd be disappointed if a man hit on me at the gym. "Dude … have you looked around here? Get some freaking standards."

That said, I can't think of anything more fun than getting my dad to come to the gym with me the next time he comes to visit. The idea of my father getting nervous that a ripped model-type is checking out his 55-year-old body is staggeringly funny. Maybe I could pretend to try to set him up with someone.


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