Recently, my girlfriend decided to participate in bikini competitions, which means that I would be entering what I imagined in middle school to be my own, personal seventh circle of hell. I'd be surrounded by bodybuilders, leading to my head being eventually engulfed in a swirl of toilet water, as someone shouted from above "Look, he was carrying a novel in his cargo shorts pocket! Who the fuck is Junot Diaz, and why does he deserve to be crammed in this dumb geek's asshole so badly?"
But here I am, unscathed. Through the process of watching bodybuilding contests and meeting these quad monsters, I learned that muscular men and women aren't put on earth to shove me while they berate me for biting a slice of pizza. Going to a few bodybuilding and bikini competitions helped me sort out the ignorant personality filing cabinet that I'd been constructing for most of my life. For instance, I had no idea that ...
#6. A Lot of Bodybuilders Are Giant Nerds
The desire to judge people harshly without ever meeting them is a constant throb. And the easiest way to go about doing this is to be an awful nerd and classify people using an RPG system. If you've ever felt the need to justify the existence of an ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, you understand the process of rating someone's attributes based on what they may lack according to a complex system of Rock-Paper-Scissors idiot logic.
He's skinny? Well, he must shit himself whenever he's within a whiff of a squat rack. He has big biceps? His reading skills must be around a second grade level, which means that he'll be too confused and frustrated to beat me up when he tries to decipher the insult in the first half of this sentence's hieroglyphics. Another thing terrible nerds love to do is make distinctions between what particular obsessions can be "nerdy" or not. It's something like this that forces internet users to vomit uncontrollably whenever they see a picture of a girl holding a Game Boy, and leads an entire nation's worth of writers to come up with different ways to type "People are people too."
What, did you find a game about buying clothes? EAT STEREOTYPE!
At a weird point in the annals of human existence, it was decided that a fanatical argument about the pros and cons of Marvel and DC comics was trendy, but unless you were in a particular circle, the same fervor being added to a discussion about weightlifting was what cavemen did before they contracted nightclub bathroom syphilis. It's why, whenever a major sporting event occurs, you see a thousand memes, each one telling you that A) your friends have abominable senses of humor, and B) sports are for the simple-minded. You know, lesser folk who like to throw and catch balls, because being talented physically means having a mental handicap when it comes to enjoying actual exciting shit, like writing Facebook statuses about activities you know little of.
If you've ever listened to two bodybuilders discuss the proper way to perform deadlifts, it's like watching a comic book store riot erupt whenever someone says a negative thing about Guardians of the Galaxy. Seriously, if their trapezius muscles weren't so big, I would stomp on their glasses, stuff them into garbage cans, and then make out with all of their wives/girlfriends/moms/families. And that's not to say that bodybuilders aren't also interested in non-bodybuilding topics. I've had the same conversations about why Deadwood is the greatest show that's ever existed with people who are both extremely interested in bodybuilding, and people who aren't to an extreme degree. And they're all equally annoyed at having a friend who just won't shut up about Deadwood. What this boils down to is that bodybuilders are giant fucking dorks, and it's important, in the process of becoming a functional adult, to accept that a guy who can curl your body weight might know just as much about Doctor Who, as you do, despite the sleeveless shirt telling you otherwise.
"You were saying you had a problem with geeks? Let's talk."
#5. They're All Ridiculously Exhausted
A few months before competition time, a bodybuilder begins cutting. After eating every bite of protein that they can find within the county limits, they begin decreasing their food intake. As someone who's watched many go through this, it's not a pleasurable experience, since, if you're like me, eating all the food that you want is one of the greatest ways to increase your morale. Problems that have plagued mankind for years would be solved if the people dealing with them had a cozy amount to eat. Suddenly, you have to tell yourself that you can't eat as much in order to look good, which means that you're about to become irritable, frustrated, and sexually aroused when you spot pastries. This allows competitors to lean out, and traverse the world without having to find a wide garage door in order to make it inside of buildings.
"Sir, it would probably help if you didn't carry the weights with you everywhere you went."
At certain intervals, they're allowed to have "cheat meals" and break their diet plan, but these rarely provide much relief, as they're so miniscule that they basically equate to letting someone who doesn't have electricity hear static. Their meal portions gradually get smaller and smaller until about a day or two before they go on stage, when they also have to cut most of their water from their diet. This dries them out, and makes them look "cut."
When I attended my first bodybuilding show, what I saw took me completely off guard. I expected a bunch of explosive frat boy hollers and maybe a running tackle at me if I didn't keep my guard up and my Dwayne Johnson mask firmly glued to my face. What I found was an entire hotel's worth of zombie-eyed men and women, all with Depression Era gaits, dreaming of the day that they'd get to enjoy pop tarts again. For a few minutes, I took intense satisfaction in being the most energetic person in a room full of testosterone. Me? The most virile? Little ol' Daniel? And now the hunter has become the hunted.
"What's the matter, buddy? You're lookin' mighty tired -- please don't hit me!"
They're then paraded on stage, where they pose in about as many ways as the skeletal structure can be posed, and this is something that doesn't help them get any sort of respite. That's because ...
#4. The Shows Last Fucking Forever
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You'd think, logically, that posing wouldn't take very long. It's just flexing, right? I do that in the mirror at home, and that barely lasts any time before I look behind me, see my dog watching, and misinterpret his doggy smile as mockery. But my bathroom posing doesn't include men and women's bodybuilding, physique, fitness, figure and bikini categories, and the various classes that go along with them. Mainly just a Men's Shame division.
Shows, especially those where a high placement might earn contestants a spot in larger, national shows, can last for hours and hours. And considering that there are two shows a day (one where you're judged, and the second where the actual awards are announced), you spend a lot of your day waiting around backstage, your life force slowly creeping from you, like worms from the body of the last person you loved, until you're finally able to muster up a tiny spark of energy and use it to pose as strongly and proudly as you can. The hot lights and the judging eyes don't do anything beneficial either. For a whole day, you're a gas station hot dog, unnaturally tan and slowly rolling along, under the gaze of hundreds of other people who will most likely find something better to eat.
"We need some mustard over here, STAT!"
Also, not all of the posing is the same. There is a time limit for personal routines, so that you're not watching the repeated openings of a Hulk Hogan match for ten hours, but men and women's bodybuilding, and the women's physique categories, usually lets competitors create their own routine past the usual "smile and extend one leg forward." At their best, these are fun because the competitors actually look like they're enjoying themselves, and can set themselves apart from the rest of the pack if they're creative with it. At their worst, a man with a grim expression pops his arm muscles for the entirety of an AC/DC remix.
Judges are then given the unenviable job of deciding which human puzzle is best put together. It would be great if there was some sort of obvious formula for this, but there isn't, which leaves a majority of the competitors, who have worked on their look for months and months, feeling bitter. There is an equal mix of the obvious choices for first place, and people who seem to be just then figuring out that the thing that they walked out on is a stage, and that they should be moving their arms and legs on it. They often pick favorites, which, when surrounded by people who aim to lift and swing the heaviest things that they possibly can, is what's known as a "suicide mission."
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"I am Chad Muscle, Conqueror of Logs!"