Max Andrew Dubinsky wonders why we can’t direct our anger and our energy in a less destructive direction.
I don’t like gyms. I don’t like the sterilized smell that can’t quite mask the sweat. I don’t like the group of three forty-year-old men always there no matter what time of day I arrive. I never see them pick up a weight or break a sweat. Yet they know everyone’s name, laugh too loud, always have a tan, and drink out of fancy water bottles made from 30% recycled water bottle. Also, there are too many mirrors. I don’t love myself enough that I need to see from every angle what I look like when I’m flexed. Not even when I’m having sex with my wife is the idea of that many mirrors appealing.
I don’t like my body. As a result, one would think I should get myself to the gym. But I don’t hate my body either. I think I’m too skinny and chances are good I’d be about as useful as wad of cookie dough in a fight. But my wife tells me every day how sexy she thinks I am and even though I don’t see it, she does, and, well, who else am I trying to impress?
And I feel healthy. My diet is gluten and dairy free. I don’t eat fast food, consume soda or drink beer. I take walks and jog every day. I go hiking once a month. I enjoy physical activity. I’m not against exercise, but I cringe and will always find something better to do at the thought of standing around in a large room with fifty other people all looking into mirrors and lifting weights.
Cavemen didn’t lift weights or work out. The simply braved the elements, worked outside with their hands, and I’m sure they did plenty of running if they ever spooked a T-Rex.
Yet we flock to gyms because a physically fit man is necessary. For something. Men were designed to hunt, gather, and protect. It’s in our DNA. But what are we to do now that there are no more velociraptors stalking the streets of New York, and we live in an age where everything can be done for us? Our food is delivered right to our front doors. We date online. We make money from home. We have public transportation and central air. We barely have an excuse to go outside anymore.
What compels us to exercise and care for our bodies in a world like this? Is it women? Perhaps, but men sailing ships across oceans for a woman and waging war against an entire country for her is a thing of the past since the successful integration of pornography into every home with a computer. With a new standard of beauty created by the entertainment industry, women are now the ones competing and fighting against each other for our attention. A role they were never meant to fill. A role that men desperately need to relieve them of.
Is it our own image? Are we that desperate to prove our own self-worth that we must fight to be the strongest and fastest? Are we fighting to obtain a standard of beauty that Hollywood and the entertainment industry has set? I’ve got bad news for you, that image is not achievable because it doesn’t exist. I am screwed if I am the only thing to live and fight for. We’re all screwed if that’s the case.
When there is nothing left to fight for, we start fighting each other to prove ourselves.
I often think about having Jason Bourne-like abilities where I can apprehend villains with one blow to the neck without messing up my hair even though my threshold for pain is zero. I’ve never been in the military, I don’t do Crossfit, and I’ve only been punched in the face once. (And it wasn’t so much the face. It was the ear. In the middle of January during a blizzard while outside in the cold. Which hurts about as much if not worse as getting punched in the teeth. Or so I’m told.) But it’s the only thing that could get me going to the gym on a regular basis.
This is how men are programmed to prove their masculinity. We fight. Or we threaten the possibility of a fight. It’s often not our intellect, or our wit, which make us feel proud and manly. (Though those things certainly help Bond. Why they aren’t more of a priority for us, I don’t know.) It’s the ability to take down those around us. Look at boxing, wrestling, Ultimate Fighting. Three international sports built upon the theory that men enjoy beating the piss out of each other because people are watching.
And those men don’t have an ounce of body fat on them. They must workout, lift, and exercise daily to maintain a body that can survive in a fight.
It goes all the way back to the Bible when Cain murdered his brother Able. The first murder ever committed was a power move. Able was better and more successful than Cain. And Cain knew it. So he crushed his brother’s head in with a rock and probably said, “How do you like me now?” when he was finished.
And from that moment forward, we’ve been proving our worth with violence and physical strength.
We crucified a man on a cross because he claimed he was our savior. Because the way we saw it, he was better than us, and calling out all our flaws. There was no reasoning with him. So the Pharisees murdered him.
Hitler was an incredible artist, but he isn’t remembered for his paintings. It was easier for him to prove himself by waging war than it was to fight for his passion.
A display of strength is the final word. I made fun of a school bully my freshman year of high school and in return he broke my hand. The end. He won. Nothing I could say would do any harm. My only other option was attack or retreat.
So I ask you, are we as men fighting to PROVE something, or are we fighting FOR something?
What if all the energy and time we put into the fight to prove ourselves as men, we put into the fight against pornography, against abuse, against hunger and homelessness?
The guy slamming on his horn and giving you the finger in traffic, the woman in line at the post office who won’t leave until she can return unused stamps, the man complaining about his order being wrong, the homeless man screaming in my face? We look for fights when we aren’t in one.
When we are at the gym trying to achieve that Alpha Body, we need to make sure we are doing it for something. Not to prove something. Because if we’re doing it to prove ourselves, we’re going to end up disappointed. Disappointed that the fight never came to our doorstep, disappointed that we just can’t seem to be big enough, tight enough, fit enough by the standard of beauty set before us.
I believe in exercise and taking care of our bodies. I believe fighting is good. That it was built into our DNA for a reason. And that going to war is sometimes necessary. But when we don’t have something worth fighting for, we start fighting to prove that we can fight.
And that is a dangerous fight to pick.
—Photo Tulane Public Relations/Flickr