Gym rat

My friend Sheldon is a lucky guy. He’s very tall, first off, a vastly underrated attribute; you can get away with a lot of physical deficiencies if you’re very tall. (You know there are women out there who will only date tall guys? No matter what kind of guy a short fella 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 Sheldon’s real talent, if you ask me, is his ability to stay the exactly same weight and shape as he was in college. It’s quite amazing, really; I’ve seen the boy down two Big Macs, two portions of fries plus ice cream like it was nothing, and he never looks any worse for wear. If I did that, I wouldn’t be able to fit back in the car.

It doesn’t matter if Sheldon 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 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’m not rich, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m making enough money to not have to worry about bouncing cheques, late rent payments or having to skip meals. That’s all fine and good, of course, but this has led to a comfort level that is bordering on deterioration. Being a happy member of tax-paying society has its advantages — erm… Monday morning conversational stimulants… um… unlimited stapler access — but, at its core, it requires that I spend a lot of time sitting in meetings or sitting on my arse in front of computers. 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 family genes. I’ve blamed the mirrors in my flat for being at the wrong angle. I’ve even scolded the dry cleaners for shrinking my clothes. But it’s all bullshit. I’ve gained a little weight. I’m 39 years old, with expendable income, a desk job (sort of) and poor dietary habits. It was bound to happen.

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 another heart attack at 40 or pass out climbing the stairs to my office. Not going to happen. Besides, a certain measure of being an eight-hours-at-a-desk guy is complacency; if I’d decided I’d had enough, there are plenty of working-outside construction jobs waiting for you, matey. 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 few months 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. Whinge 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, “David, you’re being silly, you’re clearly not fat.” I feel better in a completely vacuous way, and I got them to say it: David, 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 a couple of girls I like, which I’m sure they find irresistibly 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’ve started going to the 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 I recently 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. A few months back, as the guest of a friend, I visited a posh London fitness club where, as it turned out, lots of gay men go to lift and separate. A tall (tall!) gay man named Marvin showed me around, saying, “You’ll have some fun here. You’ll love it.” (I pity young gay men. You can’t get away with being flabby if you’re a youthful 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. Young gay men, being young men, are intensely shallow and only care about looks. Got to be rough. I knew instantly that if I joined that gym, every day I would have been the worst-looking guy there.) But it was too far from work and home to seriously consider becoming a member. A hundred quid a month worth of a member, that is!

Instead, I’ve started using the free, quite-well-equipped sports centre at work. My goal is to just run on the treadmill at least four times a week and maybe lift a few light weights. Plus, as an added bonus, I’ll often have company (or distraction) in the lovely shapes of Kelly and Lara. Will it work? Do I have the willpower to do it? Can I pull it off? Well, it certainly beats arguing with my friends 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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Whitney: A Moment In Time

Each day I live / I want to be

A day to give / The best of me

I’m only one / But not alone

My finest day / Is yet unknown…

Rare. Perfect. Glorious. Soaring. Whitney Houston’s voice was all these and so much more. From “I Want to Dance With Somebody” to the powerful “One Moment in Time” and, of course, the immortal “I Will Always Love You”, no singer, male or female, has had such an astonishing voice.

Her range was extraordinary, her pitch was perfection and those who were privileged to hear her perform live say she sounded better live than on a record.

Whitney Houston was an inspiration for millions of young women. Her aunt, Dionne Warwick, was a star of epic proportions by the time Whitney burst onto the music scene, but even Warwick was impressed by her niece’s power and grace. I’ve always thought that if there is a Heaven, the singing there might sound like Whitney Houston.

Like Amy Winehouse, Whitney’s problems were well documented. My reflection this morning on hearing of her death was how huge a challenge a life in the limelight must have been, and how always having to meet others’ expectations can so easily become the measure of one’s own self evaluation and validation.

But for now, I won’t remember the bad moments and I won’t dwell on the mistakes and stumbles. What I will remember is her smile, and her laugh and her voice. That incredible voice! And I will remember this Grammy Awards performance of one of my favourite Whitney songs, where she simply glowed with emotion and talent.

Today, I will mourn the loss of one of the greatest talents in the history of music.

R.I.P. Whitney Houston

The 7×7 Link Award

Ben Naga (http://bennaga.wordpress.com) was kind enough to gift me this award.

RULES OF THE AWARD:

1. Thank the person who gave it to you.
Thank you Ben!

2. Share 7 unusual things about yourself.

  • I once met Fidel Castro
  • In 1997, I spent three nights as a “patient” at a mental institution while doing an undercover investigative story about patient abuse there.
  • I am black, but I had a white paternal grandfather and mother’s mum was Indian. (I’m a bit like a Panda – black, white and Asian!)
  • My ancestry has been traced back to a 12th century Norman knight and one of my ancestors was Secretary of State to King James I.
  • There is a town named after my family in Canada. It was founded by my great-great uncle.
  • I once hit the only six in a cricket match… at Lords.
  • One of my friends was once a famous international porn actress (and, yes, we really are JUST good friends)

3. Share 7 of your  posts. (Most Beautiful, Most Helpful, Most Popular, Most Controversial, Most Surprisingly Successful, Most Underrated, Most Prideworthy.)

El: A Love Story (Drives readers to tears, apparently)

The Beauty of Sadness (The one most shared by my readers)

Sex musings at midnight (Most read of all time… no surprise, with “sex” in the title)

Merry Christmas! (Not the most controversial title, I know)

Sound the alarm! There are no single men left in London! (From the hits I get, there appears to be a lot of people researching this theme on Google!)

New Year’s Resolution

Parents rule! (I’m proud of all my work… but I’m most proud of my parents!)

4. Nominate seven other bloggers and notify them.

Some of these blogs are new so there isn’t much there yet; one or two haven’t been updated for a while, but I hope to encourage the bloggers because I believe they really do have something to offer!

My So-Called Space

So Far From Heaven

A Left-Handed Jew In Malaysia

Web of Liz

The Better Man Project

Bennis Inc

Dawn

Over to you!

Jamie Sherwood* is a pussy

*Not his real name, of course...

A friend was telling me the other day that her boyfriend, Jamie, sometimes cries around her.

This was rather stunning to me, and I told her so. Your boyfriend just cries? Like, when he’s upset? She was confused by my questions. I think her perception was that I was feeding her some sort of macho bullshit posturing, mocking him for being sensitive. She was partly right, of course; I did think he was kind of a pussy. (And still do.) But I was more befuddled than anything else. The guy just cries. Seriously?

I don’t cry. I just don’t. It’s not because I’m some tough guy, or because nothing affects me, or because I just lack the ducts. Crying is just not something I do, and I’m not even sure I would remember how if, God forbid, I actually had a reason to.

As a child, I used to cry all the time. If my sister was making too much noise, if my mum made me eat black eyed peas, if I was bowled for a duck, anything was grounds for loud, relentless wailing. My parents weren’t quite sure what to make of me. I seemed like a relatively well-adjusted child, albeit one who tended to attract too much attention to himself, but for some reason, I would cry over anything. My father was the most bothered by this; it’s hard to brag about your honour student son when you have to drag him screaming from the shopping centre because you wouldn’t buy him the toy he wanted.

And then, out of nowhere, I just stopped. I think it’s probably genetics. We’re not a family of criers. I could count the number of times I’ve seen my mother cry on one hand. I think part of that had to do with her job. When you’ve been a nurse, you’ve seen so much sadness or pain on a daily basis that you almost have to desensitise yourself to it just to stay sane. And my father? I’ve only seen him cry once, at his mother’s funeral. We were following the hearse to the graveyard, and, out of nowhere, he just exploded in a brief, violent spasm. It lasted about three seconds. I was too shocked to talk. He wiped his eyes immediately, collected himself, sneezed and mumbled something about “this dust irritating my bloody sinuses.” And we never spoke of that again. Which was, you know, just fine with me.

In the last 14 years, I have cried twice. The first was at my grandfather’s funeral, my father’s father, just a week before I left for London. I had actually stayed rather composed throughout, taking questions and comforting my mum, who actually seemed more distraught than my father did. I was doing fine until I walked up to the casket. The physical resemblance of my father to my grandfather is almost uncomfortable; Dad looked like a younger clone. And I guess I look like a younger version of my father. I stood there, and thought about my father lying there, and then me, and then my son if I ever had one, and I just lost it. My mother started crying too. But, then, like my father, I collected myself, embarrassed, and didn’t cry again for 10 years.

I’m proud to report that I never cried after I split with The American, the one I’d been certain was The One — no small feat, if I say so myself, because I was quite traumatised. After I dropped her off at Heathrow, for her flight back to New York, I headed back toward my home in Surrey on the M25. On the radio came Radiohead’s 1997 song “Exit Music (For a Film),” or, as my mate Richard calls it, “music to kill yourself to.” If there were going to be a time to break down, that would have been it. I was alone. Thom Yorke is screaming in agony. My life had just swerved sharply in an entirely unforeseen direction. But I didn’t. I just sighed and drove home and drank, for about nine months, actually.

It was at the end of that nine months that I cried for the final time. I was in the Caribbean, about to fly back to London, and some friends and I, quite sad I was leaving, decided to spend a beautiful Sunday late afternoon at the beach. Somebody — I could never remember who — produced a bottle of babash. I’d never tried this West Indian moonshine rum before, and it has quite a fearsome reputation, so I was a bit hesitant. It blew me away. A few sips later I was hugging everyone and telling them how much I loved them, saying things like, “We are the only two fuckers on the planet who understand, man.” We walked into the ocean, and laughed and danced and howled at the moon. Somebody lit a little fire, we all grabbed drinks and sat around in the sand. I was in the middle of a sentence about what life was like in London, and how I missed my friends in the Caribbean, when all of a sudden Stacy’s face went sullen.

“David? Oh, David, what’s wrong?” I told her nothing was wrong, I’m fine, I’m just trying to tell my story. “Oh God… I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?” Stacy, what are you talking about? Jeez. “You’re crying. Why?” I had no idea what she was talking about. She took my hand and guided it to my face. It came away wet. And I suddenly realised there were tears streaming down my face, and that I appeared to be sobbing uncontrollably. I turned to Stacy. “Whoa,” I said. “I am crying. Crazy.”

I have not drunk babash since, and, um, I can’t say I’m in much of a hurry to again.

So why don’t I cry? I don’t know, actually. Maybe I am trying too hard to be a tough guy. Maybe I’ve become so shallow that nothing can affect me at anything more than the most peripheral level. Or maybe, just maybe… I don’t really have all that much to cry about.

These days, I think the only way you could get me to cry would be to kick me in the groin while peeling an onion under my nose. This confluence of circumstances happens so rarely, however, that I feel I should be safe for a while.

You pussies!