I Know My Shirt’s Not On. (You Needn’t Keep Reminding Me.)

Christian Matyi would like to take his shirt off without you psychoanalyzing him, or projecting onto him your own insecurities. Capiche?

Few things I can do are more politically charged than taking off my shirt.

You see, I belong to a visible minority. And like so many minorities, my presence can be unsettling for those who aren’t “used to my kind.” But unlike those minorities defined by more uncontrollable features (disability, skin color), I chose my minority status.

I am a bodybuilder—and not just some sporty guy with a Gold’s Gym membership who wants to show off his boyish abs. I’m a bodybuilder with a capital “B.” You know the type. I’m a big, muscular guy whose proportions are a little more exaggerated than just your average dude who hits the weights. My back is almost as wide as some doorways, and my leg girth converts “loose fit” into “slim fit.” My measurements confound the suit tailors of the world. Everything I’ve done to my shape in the past seventeen-plus years has put me in a minority class. And, frankly, I’m happy to be there.

Unfortunately, some people don’t share my contentedness. I am often bumped—literally shoulder-checked—in crowded supermarkets and laundromats by hipsters and preppy girls who exude an attitude of, “Oh, I didn’t notice your massive frame directly in front of me! Hope the irony of that doesn’t BUG you, Mr. Big-man.”

People seem to want to talk about my body. Often it’s in a derisive way, akin to when people want to mock a silly tattoo: “And what does that symbol mean to you?” they’ll ask condescendingly. “Which tribe, exactly, does that tribal tattoo represent?”

There’s an undertone of blame to their comments. How dare I make people around me self-conscious about their own form?! No one actually says that aloud, but it’s clear from the tone. I hear everything from, “Well, obviously you want people to talk to you about your body” to “I wouldn’t want to go to a beach with you because I couldn’t enjoy my day.”

Statements like these, from friends and strangers alike, are where it gets political. I try to be courteous, but engaging people about body perception only fires up more heat. It’s as if they want to work through all of their male body issues in a cutesy two-minute interaction. My body is seen as an invite for a unique brand of sound-bite, body-image therapy.

The message that often ends up coming across is a weird, chilling Orwellian dictate: The body of a bodybuilder is not his own—it’s public domain, to be used for debate on issues relating to the body. The choice to be a bodybuilder is a forfeiture of unique perception. The bodybuilder has volunteered to become a tool for pop-psychology chatter.

Many people presume that a guy wouldn’t build his muscles past the point of “fashionably normal” unless he has a massive dent in his psyche. Ironically, that’s often true, but that’s a discussion for a future column. The point is that whenever I take off my shirt—or even wear a tank top—this argument breaks out, and opinions spring forth like geysers.

It’s hard for my size not to show. Dress loose, and I look bigger. Dress tight, and I look… well, you get the idea. I am visibly a bodybuilder, and I can’t hide that. (Nor would I, even if I could.) But should I choose to show a little more muscle—maybe a sleeveless shirt, or (gasp!) no shirt on a hot day—these derisively intoned conversations break out.

When the guy in a Starbucks starts play-acting that I’m going to beat him up if he accidentally cuts me in line, it’s not really a compliment. When the woman at a cash register wants to scold me for buying cheese and ice cream—every time I buy cheese and ice cream—it gets monotonous and obnoxious. It feels belittling, not victorious, when I get teased at the beach—at the beach!—for having visible abs, as if my goal is to intentionally make others feel uncomfortable. No one likes to feel like the villain if they haven’t committed the crime, but it’s enough to make a bodybuilder want to go back to being lazy.

I’m not sure when the heroic male form became such a common enemy. But, unlike real political views, the politics of the body are open topics triggered by the “poor slobs” who dare not dress in bags. I’d always though that if I were to be credited with radicalism, it would have involved exploding buildings, fringe political ideals, and clandestine ransom videos. But, alas, the fastest way for me to upset the American norm is to show up shirtless.

—Christian Matyi

About Christian Matyi

Christian Matyi is the founder of the physique sports foundations, PhysiQademy and "The Next Level," where he is a teacher, mentor and coach for men and women who are creating meaningful personal growth via their practices of athletics, wellness and fitness. He is also an artist, poet, actor, comedian and graphic designer, with a degree in Creative Writing and Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He is also a highly accomplished competitor in the sport of bodybuilding.


  1. I find that I get a similar negative reaction from being when I go jogging past some people. They behave like I’m being a jerk because they feel guilty they aren’t exercising as often as they’d like.

  2. Ah, man, I feel quite sorry for you. You’re starting to understand a little how women feel in their everyday life! If only I could take my shirt off in public without comments.

  3. Males have always wanted to believe that women are not visual creatures. In fact, it turns out women are MORE visual than men. Meaning… we actually care about looks even more than men do. I am not going to look for the source of the study, but it’s out there. Anyways… so it must be VERY unsettling for some males to think that in fact women DO love sex and DO want a good-looking, healthy or fit man. This bodybuilder is not my type per se (more into martial artist type functional muscles), but I will prefer him over any guy with a belly. Bellies make your penis feel shorter (to a woman). So don’t complain about your wives being bored in bed. Good sex requires work on both ends… if you are out of shape, your wife will have less fun with you. She won’t tell you though (we know the ego is fragile for most people). Only guys with ridiculously long penises should have beer bellies. I dated a bodybuilder once. Sweet guy. I’m 40 years old and because I always worked out and took care of myself, I am dating a 19 year old hottie now, who does not mind my age one bit. In fact, in tuns him on even more. A little young, I agree, but he was persistent. What can ya do. I can definitely relate to other people trying to sabotage or demotivate a body builder (in my book, anyone who is consciously trying to modify their body composition is a body builder). So f*** the haters.

  4. Hahahaha you were actually standing in front of preppy girls and they were like… jeez man make some room.. LOL…………. the way you turned that around in your head is classic.

  5. Sorry I mean ‘half-naked MEN’ lol…..

  6. That’s right! Women get confronted with images of other (better??) looking women all the time. I am all for fit men walking around naked. And I want billboards with them, magazine covers… I want them everywhere. I am not joking. That way men can just spend their time at the gym and worrying about their weight and I can stop buying make-up 🙂 We need a break. And we need to see more (half) naked women! Why is there no porn for women? I want to see dicks, nice ones!! Everywhere LOL. And REAL lesbians.

  7. You are not a bodybuilder if you do not compete on stage. You are a wannabe bodybuilder.

  8. Let’s be honest, here CM. Nowhere in your article do you mention the tremendous ego boost you get with the positive responses from the babes. And don’t you think of yourself as better than the rest of us that don’t measure up?

  9. Ross Steinborn says:

    While I understand your concern and don’t think it appropriate for anyone to treat anyone else like the way you’ve described some of your interactions with the less muscular inclined, I think all bodies have become political, ever since, at least, late 18th century. The work of Michele Foucault is largely framed around the politicalization. For Foucault as the medical disciplines became more pronounced so did an ideal healthy body. Now all bodies are judged in relation to this ideal body— this judgement is what Foucault called the medical gaze. Add to that a century of advertisement that uses the “ideal” body as a normalizing apparatus to sell products and its not jus your body that is forced into a political theater.

  10. Ember Rayne says:

    Meh. Put your shirt on and don’t be orange if you don’t want to act out stereotypes and be judged accordingly in casual interaction.

    I have little sympathy because you see, you are a white, American, affluent male. You have the power to make your self image in a LOT of ways.

    You can move fairly effortlessly between crowds simply by changing from a fedora to white tank and jeans to a great suit… To shirtless, either where appropriate (the beach, the gym, the backyard) to where you will get stares no matter what your chest looks like (the mall, the office, the grocery store o_O)

    As a thirty something black female you know what… I can’t put a shirt on to keep from being judged LONG before I open my mouth.

    I can’t hide who I am or change people’s preconceived perception.

    That sucks.

    How many times has a woman told you to your face, “I just don’t date affluent, shirtless heroic formed white males?”

    Because I cannot count on all my hands and toes the number of times I have been told, “You’re beautiful… For a black girl. Sorry. I don’t date black women. You know. Nothing personal.”

    I can’t cover up my connection to stereotype. That used to hurt.

    When I was six, I scrubbed my skin to try to get the black off after being teased at school. Didn’t help.

    I came to learn to live in my own skin and to consider those who can’t see me for my exterior fools, poorer for their loss.

    But you don’t see me wearing six inch fake nails, a lime green wig (matching lipstick and nail polish) and stiletto heels to my daughter’s private school interview and then getting irritated and going on a rant when I get hit on by guys with saggy jeans on the way getting gas, served thinly veiled distain with my Starbucks latte, and told my family might not be a good fit when I get there.

    Maybe I should.
    Maybe I should wear the loudest, most stereotypically niggerish shit I can find and go into town as an evangelical minister of equality and looking deeper.

    All tacky, ratchet exterior and well educated, polite and mature when I open my mouth. This would teach people to stop judging books by their covers!

    Instead, because I don’t like that sort of attention, I cultivate positive attention by dressing and behaving how I think I should based on the reactions I want to get. I’m in sales. I sell myself as much as my product.

    I know what stereotypes are alive in my community, and I choose my look to navigate them instead of expecting the world to change for me.

    Put your shirt on.
    Or know what you’re getting into when you don’t.

  11. I resent that men are “allowed” to take their shirts off in public when women are not. If I were to see you and your gorgeous body in public, my reaction to it would have everything to do with your taking the male privilege of being shirtless, not because your body is part of the Bodybuilding minority.

  12. Your article was well written, and I genuinely felt you had a reasonable gripe about the the way other treat you with regard to your physical being. However, this was all the way until your line that states “… it’s enough to make a bodybuilder go back to being lazy. ” The implication there is, if you’re not bodybuilding, you are lazy. No, you are normal … average … maybe even overweight or obese, but these things don’t necessarily equate to lazy. While pointing out other’s insecurities, don’t forget to acknowledge your own.

  13. Dude, I LOVE it. Feel free to take off your shirt anytime. I have no problem with this. I’m into fitness, too, and yes, people get weird around you when you get fit. And for everyone who thinks this article is trivial, the Good Men Project is not simply about emo, shy guys telling the world they want love too and they believe in feminism. No…it’s about good men. ALL men. Men speaking their minds on what it is to be a man. It’s okay to be emo, feminist, sensitive guy AND it’s okay to be confident bodybuilder.
    (And…you can have my phone number…just saying.)

  14. TantraWoman says:

    I’m sorry. Was there an article that went with this photo?

  15. Christian:

    Judging by your well-written post, you’re very intelligent. And judging from your picture, you’re ripped and in terrific shape. So perhaps your overall point was lost on me because all I heard in my head as I was trying to read was “Waaaahhhhh!”

    Sorry man, but whining about this is just absurd! So people make stupid comments about your body. People make stupid comments all the time, about everything. If it’s not your body, it’ll be some other godforsaken thing. But guess what? It doesn’t matter!

    If I looked as good as you, I wouldn’t give a shit what anyone said about my body. I would take my shirt of all the friggin time and soak in the attention. And anyone of consequence who actually bothers to take the time to talk to you will soon find out you’ve got more than dumbbells in your head, so you’ll impress on both fronts.

    But to ask me to feel pity for someone who seemingly has it made in the shade? Sorry, not gonna happen.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly feel the need to get my fat ass to the gym.

  16. I think the second half of the comments on this article proves the author’s point. People make assumptions about the motivation behind something even remotely extreme. And yet someone that spends over an hour every day completing Sudoku puzzles on a bus or train ride is completely acceptable. Aren’t both people engaging in an activity that is an exaggeration of what most people do on a daily basis? The difference is that one person’s “hobby” doesn’t invoke issues of insecurity, and the other does.

  17. Mark_in_Belgium says:

    LIteracy and eloquence on the web .. what a novel concept. Good luck to you, Christian .. you’ve worked hard to get where you are, and don’t owe an apology to anyone.

  18. “John B says:
    June 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm
    Poor Christian: he works and works and works on his body and then wonders why nobody loves him for his mind.”

    John, John, John…..poor, simple, narrow-minded John….lol……..

    To know Christian is to love him for the beautiful mind he has, and how he uses it the exact way he should and wants to!

  19. I linked to this from Towleroad and I honestly thought this was an Onion article when I first started reading it. I’m very tall and very skinny (genetics – I eat like a football player or bodybuilder to maintain my 6’4″ 175 pound frame) and I get comments about either or both of those attributes all the time. People generally don’t think before they speak, most people aren’t very smart, and most people are insecure about something or other. These are some of the most basic facts of life and I suggest you come to terms with them.

  20. Hmm… Thought-provoking article and fascinating array of comments. My thoughts, I confess, tend to lean towards the WTF camp on this one…
    1. Yes, statistically speaking, you are a minority. But, technically, almost all of us would qualify for minority status based on some choice we make in life (veganism, Star Trek fan, etc), so I don’t think your use of the term is particularly relevant here.
    2. Christian: In the spirit of “a picture is worth a thousand words”, did we really need an entire paragraph fawningly describing your physical appearance? I see the photo; it’s quite appealing (although not the cartoonish proportions and bulging veins I generally associate with a ‘bodybuilder with a capital “B.”’–I find Christian’s proportions quite attractive.
    3. Yes, part of the attitude you experience is due to the fact that some of his fellow ‘minorities’ are not the nicest, kindest, most sensitive (or articulate) people on the planet.
    4. That being said, it’s not entirely clear why you spend so much time working out. One assumption is “to show off”–but you don’t seem to really deny it, such as by suggesting “I want to develop a healthy mind and a healthy body” (for example).
    5. I’ll have to agree with a number of posters and suggest that the notion that the only feedback you ever get on your body–anywhere–is negative is rather difficult to believe (unless your ‘on the street’ personality is less intelligent and more obnoxious than portrayed here on ‘paper’).
    6. Uh, yeah, the last paragraph reeks of ego. Your “heroic male form” and not wearing a shirt is neither radical nor likely to upset the American norm.
    7. Don’t presume that your ‘choice’ is unique in creating pop-psychology cannon fodder. Whether you’re a Gleek or a cat-owner, people make judgments. Live with it.

  21. Yourleastfavorite says:

    Hey Christian, great article. A lot of what your saying really hit home with me, because I’m a feminist and spend a lot of time reading feminist blogs and such. This really ugly phenomenon of other people thinking that *your* body is somehow *their* business is a problem for men and for women, and it’s great to see a man standing up against it.

    I’m sorry this is something you’ve had to experience. Especially the hipsters who try to “catch” you for not having enough ~meaning~ in your tattoos! ugh. When my friend gets snidely asked, Why did you get this one?, he says that it’s to match the one on your mom’s ass.

    It sucks that if, say, a person is fat, strangers might make comments in the guise of asking about his/her “health,” like a waiter recommending a “diet” meal to a fat customer – as though his/her “health” or body is any of this random person’s business. Or based on what a woman is wearing/not wearing, what her body looks like, if she has a big chest etc, people feel like they get to interrupt her day with comments. Hopefully some of those people will read this article, and the feminist ones like it, to learn that it just makes them seem like self-conscious losers.

  22. @ Dave: the angel: fabulous. loved every word penned down by you 🙂 let me know where i could catch more of this

  23. What a waste of e-ink.

    You should hang with The Situation. He probably understands your douchy pain.

  24. Mike W. says:

    You had my sympathy up to the last paragraph. The phrase “heroic male form” stopped me dead in my tracks.

    Perhaps the questions you need to be asking of yourself are: What non-verbal cues might I be projecting? Is it a calm self assurance? Or cocky swagger? Do I treat all people with respect and a friendly smile? Or am I silently assessing their body mass index and wondering whether they are worthy of my attention? Am I projecting a warm personality? Or the chill of an Adonis carved from stone?

  25. If you feel you must go around with your shirt off all the time, could you at least pull your pants up? Or, are you trying to make sure we can all see, be amazed by and comment on the “V” heading into your groin.

  26. I have a similar problem to Christian. I get what he is saying completely. My problem is, I am very very very very very good looking. Strikingly good looking. Heads snap when I walk into a room. Women and men can’t keep their eyes off my ass as I walk by. I can just tell they are drooling and fantasizing of submitting to me sexually. It is such a curse to bear.

    People seem to always want to talk about how good looking I am. They constantly opine about how I must be dating a supermodel. How I must be an underwear model. How I must be a movie star. All of which are true of course. When the guy at starbucks drops to his knees and starts unzipping my pants because he is overwhelmed by my beauty and can’t stop himself from giving me a blow job, it’s not really a compliment. It just makes me uncomfortable. When the woman at the cash register at the grocery store asks for my phone number – again – it gets tedious and boring.

    You see, unlike Christian, this isn’t my fault. What happened was, on the day that I was born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true. So they sprinkled star dust in my hair and golden starlight in my eyes of blue. It’s a curse I say. A curse.

    • this. response. is. magic.

      btw- as a woman, to be honest- i wouldn’t touch a bodybuilder with a 10 foot pole. Give me the dude who has a quirky nose, imperfect body, and eyes that show he’s thinking about the weightier issues in life, any day. Thats partner material ,right there.

  27. Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…

  28. I appreciate your candor and approach. But unfortunately many of your brothers give you a bad name. They often insist on taking up far more personal space than they require, have a lack of courtesy for others around them because it appears they believe their size takes precedence over others needs/rights, and sometimes are filled with a kind of anger and vitriol towards others that is completely insensitive and antisocial. [Not to mention that they can be completely dismissive of others for no apparent reason, especially in party settings]

    That being said, I believe that isn’t the norm and it stands out because, well, they want to stand out like that in a bad way.

    I appreciate your words and while I could care less about what you do with your body, let it go or work it to death [there are far more serious issues to address in the world, unfortunately], I will think again before projecting any kind of judgment, until judgment is deserved.

  29. You are just some sporty guy with a Golds Gym Membership. I swear I have seen 200 of you in the last week. I couldn’t finish this article, if that is what you can call it. I shake my head when I see you and your friends at the gym, and I am shaking my head now.

    You guys who see value in driving Hummers in the summer, bulking up on protein shakes, wearing tank tops all the time, tanning (ugh!), and generally being bigger than everyone. I am sorry though, because I know you likely have a small penis.

  30. Wow. This guy sounds like a complete, self-serving narcissist.

    He’s complaining about being discriminated against for being a bodybuilder. Oh puhleez.

    Every single bodybuilder that I know of as a yoga instructor at a gym frequented by hundreds of them is an arrogant, hyper-aggressive bigot who constantly preens and says the worse things–constantly–about other people’s bodies. They are always putting down “fat” people and “skinny people and even regular sized people. Their skin is horrible because they use supplements and bronzers that break them out. And (surprise, surprise) they habitually crave attention and think people are either ignoring them or paying too much attention to them.

    Stop thinking about yourself and your looks, Christian.

    Take some of the hours you devote to your meat and start volunteering to help others in some fashion.

    And stop whining.

  31. Wonderfully written… and so unexpected from a meathead. Now see, I naturally stereotyped and didn’t even intend to do so!

    No, but seriously, this dude went to Carnegie Mellon. As a former Pittsburgh guy, I can say that he automatically rocks.

  32. This is a very eloquently written article, Chritian. Thank you for expressing in such a clear way a view point that I have struggled to find a way to express for many years.

  33. Sean writes: “A massive body like yours isn’t natural: comparisons would be someone like the bulemic or anorexic woman, the overly tattooed person, the heavily pierced person. There is an innate invitation to stare and to opine.”

    I 100% disagree. It is NOT an invitation to opine. I am one of those heavily body modded folks (who is a professional, go figure), and it is not an invitation for anyone to comment, suggest, debate, or, worst case, come up to me and just touch (I’ve had that happen, it’s quite intrusive and extremely annoying).

    Your insecurities do not give you the right to say what is and is not natural. Your biases and stereotypes do not give you the privilege to invade my personal space and self-expression. Ever. The fact that you think it’s ok tells me a great deal about you and those who think like you. And my only response is “mind your own bloody business, it’s MY body!”

  34. Good grief. Did you not do this for attention?

  35. Greg VA says:

    Wow. You spend hours and hours in the gym to develop you body in order to attract attention, and then you’re upset that some of that attention is negative? Welcome to the real world. If you don’t want to be noticed, lose 50 pounds. If you want to be noticed, accept that not everyone is going to give you the reaction you’d hoped for.

  36. ohplease says:

    So you’re upset that you’re not universally worshipped 24/7, no matter the lengths you go to in order to inspire that from the masses? Yeah, me, too.

    Sorry all you’ve got to fall back on is being young, healthy, and conventionally attractive. What is wrong with people that they’re not a rapt audience for your ego and exhibitionism? Why aren’t they as obsessed with you as you are?

    Perhaps a little less time in front of a mirror would help you see yourself a bit more clearly.

  37. Christian, this Black man would like to ask you a question: do people call you n****er?

    Feel better now?

    • EXACTLY!! Maybe he can try to ‘choose’ his skin colour the way he ‘chose’ his ‘minority’. Maybe he can complain about how he’s been turned down for jobs, or refused service, or pulled over by highway patrol for his ‘minority’. Maybe he can complain about how border patrol separate him from the crowd while travelling ‘for a few questions’. OH WAIT. THAT DOESN”T HAPPEN to his ‘minority’.

  38. Well Christian – welcome to the world of minorities.

    Just remember this, though – YOU CAN OPT OUT THE WAY YOU OPTED IN.

    No sympathy here, “bro.”

  39. This is basically the gay man’s version of “my face is up here.”

  40. Good article and keep taking your shirt off! Some of us love the view!

  41. This article belongs in the Onion.

  42. What tired essay that was! Yawn. Three words: Get over yourself.

  43. Christian, this is a great article, and it’s something that I didn’t even realize was happening. Now that you mention it, i know that I’m just as guilty as objectifying and, at the same time, demonizing guys who look like you do. like Brian Driggs says above, it’s easier than manning up. What’s just as difficult, though, is trying to find guys who look like you who want to help guys who look like me (your basic extra-pounds mid-30s schlub) look more like you. I’ve got the frame, I just can’t find anyone to help me figure out what to do about getting rid of the insane amount of weight I’ve gained in the last 10 years, somewhere in the area of 60 pounds that I’d love to get rid of. It’s just as tough to be fat as it is to be toned or muscled.

  44. I enjoyed reading the article and kept wondering when I’d read what the author would like or find useful in an encounter with others. What would be good for someone to say? What would be the positive aspects of any commentary?

    Instead of asserting a gripe about what others say, how about telling us what you find positive when you do go shirtless. Instead of posing the negatives of the encounters how about telling us the valuable exchanges the author encounters and or likes.

  45. I think this guy is confused. Good condition? Absolutly. Big? No. He looks more like a backstreet boy than a bodybuilder.

  46. Guido Jackson says:

    So here I go jumping into the fracas with my two cents…

    I can somewhat empathize with your plight, but like many others before have mentioned don’t entirely agree with your self designation as a “minority.” However, I will be the second or third to say that people are cruel by way of their own ignorance.

    That sword of unsolicited advice cuts both ways – if the chunky guy at the register is purchasing his ice cream, butter and fried something or rather and catches you looking at that pint of Rocky Road with lust full eyes, He too might think that that you’re judging him.

    When is the last time you said to large Marge, with a basket full of vegetables and fruits how much you admire something about what she’s buying. Or for to the scrawny kid at the magazine rack reading Muscle and Fitness drinking the Red Bull with the Mountain Dew Chaser that, that will be fun while it lasts but a better alternative would be a simple glass of water.

    So if people are going to continue to gut punch you with catty and belittling unsolicited advice, be the bigger man – shower them with genuine and heartfelt unsolicited compliments.

    You’ll fill out the “hero” jeans faster.

  47. J. Rigzin Tute says:

    I have to agree with those who say that i just don’t really get the point of this article. I can understand how what you describe would be an annoyance in your life and I can see how you might gripe about it to a friend or a gym buddy. But as I read it, it doesn’t resonate any deeper than that to me. You have a particular perspective as a result of the body you have chosen to cultivate. I’d encourage you to work as hard (as heroically, maybe?) on your insights about it as you do on your physical appearance.

  48. Greenman says:

    Sean, what an interesting definition of a minority. Does that mean the only minorities are racial, sexual and formative? Your definition rules out religious minorities. It rules out those who are tattooed or sport body piercings. It rules out those who play NFL football instead of soccer, those who are single or married (depending on the community), Democrats in Utah or Republicans in Hawaii. Get my point?
    Truth is i’ve been both grossly obese and cadavarously thin. Sure i bad mouth men like Christian and men like Wogan. Whenever we mock another, for whatever reason, we are only letting our prejudices rule. Are you vain? I’m not your judge. Am i jealous? Only of the end result not the work necessary. I just hope you enjoy this Summer’s workouts.

  49. David Wise says:

    I hardly ever quote the Bible, but this verse came to mind in reading this article: “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

  50. Christian,
    What do you think when you see a fat guy walking around in public without a shirt?

  51. I can’t say that you belong in an actual minority since you aren’t defined by nature to belong to a certain group based on an unchangeable aspect. As you point out, you are happy and proud to be as you are and arrived there by choice.

    When I look at a body like yours, it’s comparable to me to a woman with breast augmentation who wears a ridiculously low-cut and suggestive dress; or equally, a woman who spends the majority of her time developing those attributes that will most attract men. It is specifically there to invite attention. In the same regard, I know you spend the majority of your time pumping iron. That’s fine. Yet it really invites the question, “Why?”.

    I’m absolutely biased, yes. I would most certainly assume that you probably aren’t that bright because so much of your time and energy is spent on the way you look, therefore you and I don’t have the same priorities. I have a very ordinary and unremarkable body, but it doesn’t matter to me. That’s my choice, too. If I take my top off, lots of people comment too, and they aren’t going to be nearly as nice to me. I don’t feel you’ve made any point in this argument.

    You don’t complain of people making positive comments, yet the negative ones cut. A massive body like yours isn’t natural: comparisons would be someone like the bulemic or anorexic woman, the overly tattooed person, the heavily pierced person. There is an innate invitation to stare and to opine. It’s only unfortunate that every idiot who doesn’t like it feels inclined to tell you so. Telling them to keep it to themselves is one thing, but I doubt much sympathy will be forthcoming.

  52. suzanne says:

    Christian – You seem very well in tune with your environment and the people in it, as to their insecurities or jealousy. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the upside of having a nice body like yours and getting to take your shirt off, whereby people stare to admire your commitment and dedication to being very healthy and very good looking. I’m sure there is much good that surrounds you. We do live in a world of negative and positive forces, and I say your attitude and example to care for one’s self is positive. It’s not always easy being a pioneer. Nice to have met you here. – Suzanne

  53. By the way, Christian, you do look great.

  54. Agree with Paul Kidwell and John B.

    Benoit Denizet-Lewis linked to this article from his Facebook page and I was expecting a new perspective, not a cliché about appearances belonging to the “public domain” and certainly not what strongly comes across as a plea for pity. People judge, sometimes quietly, sometimes to your face. That’s not going to change.


    For those of us with immutable features (height, skin color, etc.), sure, a little sympathy might be in order. But those who are able to exercise a measure of choice in the way they physically present themselves (with clothes, with a haircut, with extra muscles, extra fat or neither) ought to have accepted that basic social fact in grade school, not preach it as some kind of revelation decades later.

    And, despite the anecdotes, I have a hard time believing the contempt Christian has experienced comes close to– let alone outweighs– the admiration. In the somatotype pecking order, muscular physiques come first. But I guess when one becomes inured to the barrage of compliments, an insult here and there especially stings.

  55. Paul –

    How’s the weather up there?…


  56. Poor Christian: he works and works and works on his body and then wonders why nobody loves him for his mind. I’m an avid weightlifter and can’t seem to muster an existential crisis about it, no matter how hard I try. As with fat people, tall people, skinny people, black people, etc., people make judgments without knowing the entire person. Stop the friggin’ presses! The difference is that all of those aforementioned groups are so much more interesting to read about than poor Christian’s travails. Cry me a river, Christian. Better yet, use what appears to be a passable intellect and more-than-healthy ego to ponder more interesting questions in life. Heroic this ain’t.

  57. paul kidwell says:

    When did the “heroic male form” become that of the body builder which clearly represents the smallest of minorities of men. To quote Shakespeare, your cross to bear, Christian, is “much ado about nothing.” I am 6’5″ and have been this height since I was 14 (I am 50). I suspect that I have heard more tall jokes, references and/or comments than you have about your over-sized body heroic. Despite the tedium of receiving and deflecting these remarks, they are benign, at best, and not worthy of me getting upset. I deal with it and suggest you do the same. Rising above the flotsam and jetsum of daily living; now that’s heroic.

  58. @Peter Pretty much all the time. Some people are quick to remind walking blimps like me that eating “bad stuff” makes people fat, and that fat is bad, and because my body processes fats slower than other people, I’m somehow a lesser person for it.

    You know, I’m not so convinced anyone actually has a “good” standard. Lose too much weight, and anorexia is bad. Become too fat, and you’re a menace to society. Not fit enough, and you’re lazy. Too fit, and you’re not paying other aspects of your life attention. Too pale, and you’re a nerd with no social life. Too tanned, and you’re a walking, radiating cancer risk. And in Christian’s case, gain too much muscle, and you’re obviously out to prove a point.

    It’s all human frailty, and in my opinion, should be completely disregarded. God made us who we are, and who we should want to be, and it’s nobody’s job to take offense over it.

  59. As a former fat person I can tell you that this goes both ways. Peter, yes, fat people are constantly derided, ridiculed, and marginalized. I’m not sure why it’s “OK” to openly discriminate against people for their physique, be they extremely fit or extremely fat. On the bodybuilder side, I would guess it’s jealousy and insecurity. On the fat person side, it’s probably fear that they may end up that way someday. It shouldn’t be OK to openly scorn each other based on our bodies, but such is the case.

  60. Peter –


  61. I wonder if fat people get the same snide comments about their bodies when they’re picking up a tub of ice cream or if they’re in the way.

  62. When I was dating my (future) wife, we lived in Venice near Gold’s and would often eat breakfast along side any number of muscled men enjoying enormous plates of egg whites and turkey between workouts. Feeling scrawny and insecure (I am both), I asked her what she thought of ‘body builders’. She thought for a moment, then answered with probably the nicest thing she’s ever said to me. “I could never be interested in a man who spends more time in front of the mirror than me.”

  63. As a schlub in his mid-thirties who struggles with eating right and keeping the dust off the exercise equipment in the spare bedroom, I’ll offer what you already know, sir. Seeing you with your shirt off reminds me of my own inadequacies. I don’t eat right, I’m not physically active, I don’t take the basic steps to look the way I want to look.

    And it’s sooooo much easier to transfer the blame – for lack of a better word – onto you than it is to accept responsibility, man up, and take care of my own business.

    Appreciate the opportunity to get your point of view. If only more people could channel the energy focused on your physique back onto themselves, we might not be a nation of morbidly obese cattle…

  64. Shavana says:

    great article. it is so good to hear this perspective. yes, we (and i) tend to attribute compensatory psychological motivations to men who body build – and it is unfair. i loved hearing this perceptive, clear, direct comment from an obviously intelligent and insightful body builder. i’m guilty of “typing” too, but no more. thank you. i’ll still feel insecure about not having the “perfect body” around someone like you – but that’s my issue, not yours. warmly, shavana

  65. Justin Haugens says:

    Pure jealousy.

    Hiding their own insecurities being jealous of your appearance through underlying criticism of your appearance.

    Do I need or want to be of your size and shape? No, but I’ll take a flat stomach and defined arms and legs.


  1. […] This Comment by Charly on the post I Know My Shirt’s Not On. (You Needn’t Keep Reminding Me) […]

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