Still exhilarated by my free gym pass—the charming man behind the Planet Fitness counter had refused my open wallet, defying the yellow pages quote of $20/day—I am standing under a sign that reads ‘Judgment Free Zone.’ A mere four days after my competition, and against the advice of QMR, I am ready to work out, heavy, hard core, American style. Last year I was reprimanded for sporting a tank top in an Ontario branch of this franchise, but here, in the good old US of A, my armpits breathe freely. No one tells Americans what to do with their appendages! (Note: Initially I wrote ‘they have the right to bare arms!’ then erased and rewrote it, with lingering regrets). In any case, I am excited to train chest again, to failure, so that I will feel it the next day and maybe even the day after that. As I start to warm up my pecs, I am approached by a fifty-something woman with cocoa coloured skin, high cheek bones, and a touch of silver in the curly hair that sweeps across her striking forehead. Smiling, I remove my ear buds. She flails her arms in and out, mimicking me and looking quizzical. ‘I am just warming up before training,’ I explain. She nods with understanding, and then suddenly grasps an inch of fat at her waist. Using her thumb and forefinger, she pulls it in a merciless fashion, demanding ‘What do you think of that?’ while looking me straight in the eye. I am totally floored. ‘Oh that’s nothing,’ I nervously shout. ‘You look fantastic.’ And she does; this woman is both beautiful and strong. She is nevertheless pleased to hear my pronouncement, beaming as she walks away. ‘I guess Planet Fitness patrons do want judgments in their zone after all,’ I think as I glance around, wondering if anyone else has parts they wish to show me. ‘Why did she select me to evaluate her body?’
As I begin my chest presses I notice another sign, faux spray painted above the faux chain link fence. The interior decorator of this gym was playful, placing weight machines in a setting inspired by both the glowing aesthetics of a fast food joint and those of a 1980s New York City night club, like The Tunnel. I found it a little disorienting: should I gulp a lukewarm burger or bust into urban-inspired dance moves? Aside: My actual experience of The Tunnel in 1988 involved drunkenly waiting in the ladies’ washroom to use the one stall that was not occupied by large men snorting cocaine. Anyway, the corporate graffiti in this Massachusetts gym defined the term ‘Lunk’ as a person who ‘grunts, drops weights, or judges.’ Apparently, the spare-tire pulling woman had identified me as a lunk. She had immediately associated my visible muscularity and knowledge of bodybuilding technique with such negative personality traits as clumsiness, rudeness, and an interest in fat rolls. ‘Well, that just takes the fucking biscuit,’ I murmured in an Anglo-Canadian way. Americans prefer to take the fucking cake, but I was not fussy during the days following my competition, jamming both kinds of confectionary down my pie hole (along with some actual pie), without abating the sensation of constant hunger. I was about to look up ‘binge eating disorder’ on line, when my cravings suddenly stopped. I am now on a reasonable post-competition diet that will return me to a weight of around 125 pounds. Or not. Who gives a shit. My real goal is to grow more muscle, and do other things that will be revealed next week in a post straightforwardly called ‘What’s Next for FFG?’
Speaking of my competition, below is an on-stage photo taken by the fabulous David Ford. More images are posted on the Feminist Figure Girl facebook page. I suppose these pictures feature me in a lunkish state, all judgy and stupid. Not to worry, I am fatter now. And therefore smarter.I did much of my post-comp overeating at hotel breakfast buffets, gorging on artificial foods I would normally abhor, like crunchy pink, turquoise and purple fruity-ohs. They are the bomb, my friends. Oh, and dare I mention my newfound love for mini wheats? Who knew that the sugar rectangles would live up to the commercial jingle that has been running through my head for about a year now: “Mini mini mini mini wheats!’ You already know how I feel about mascots, especially when they wear nothing but crunchy coating and a smile. The day after returning home from my American conference—conferences are when professors travel to work out at different gyms and complain about the coffee while occasionally listening to academic papers—I welcomed guests to Edmonton, and we hit the road for Banff and Drumheller. The visitors included my 18-year-old Little Sister, matched with me by Big Brothers/Big Sisters about eight years ago, and her identical twin sister. Here I must pause to declare that these young ladies are amazingly great, energetic, and funny. They are like The Wonder Twins but without that annoying monkey. Travelling with them and my partner, I sometimes pretended to be a normal nuclear family, drawing on my knowledge of TV sit-coms to confide in the hotel buffet attendant that ‘You will not see signs of my family for at least two more hours.’ Lazy asses. I played the role of a proud matriarch who savoured some rare time to herself, indulging in five of those soggy orange cake muffins from the mini fridge before stashing peanut butter packets in her purse to eat later, with a plastic knife-scoop. Though the Wonder Twins look nothing like me and my partner, we share an intellectual family resemblance by being fully engaged with the world and interested in everything, from the pattern made by staples in a telephone pole to the technology of hookah smoking and correct way to open a fresh coconut. Life lesson: just wrap it in a towel and hammer the shit out of it.
While sitting beside the cereal machines and ice maker, I read Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, a disappointingly light book with little original content. The upside was that we all took the test while driving to the Torrington Gopher Museum. My partner was certain that I would score high, revealing myself as a hearltess Dexter-like psycho. No shit, he sincerely thought I would. The test is more like a checklist, and I paste it below to save you the $25 purchase or the trip to your local public library. After all, that library might be riddled with bed bugs. I have a major bed bug phobia, carefully inspecting all sleeping spaces, especially in hotels, where I rip apart beds and unzip mattress covers. I confess this so that you will know what I am doing in your bedroom should I ever be lucky enough to receive an invitation. Please do not be offended, like those Holiday Inn employees who scoffingly insisted that the black specks I had discovered were ‘just dirt.’ Oh, that’s okay then.
Item 1: Glibness/superficial charm. Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth. Item 3: Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom. Item 4: Pathological lying. Item 5: Conning/manipulative. Item 6: Lack of remorese or guilt. Item 7: Shallow affect. Item 8: Callous/lack of emphathy. Item 9: Parasitic lifestyle. Item 10: Poor behavioural controls. Item 11: Promiscuous sexual behaviour. Item 12: Early behaviour problems. Item 13: Lack of realistic long-term goals. Item 14: Impulsivity. Item 15: Irresponsibility. Item 16: Failure to accept responsibility for own actions. Item 17: Many short-term marital relationships. Item 18: Juvenile deliquency. Item 19: Revocation of conditional release. Item 20: Criminal versatility.
I scored high on item 2, but only because I am sincerely fantastic, so that does not really count. I am indeed easily bored. I do not have a parasitic lifestyle unless you count my ongoing fascination with tapeworms, which form a chapter of my new book on early modern illness. To recap: bed bugs bad; intestinal worms good. Psychopath? Sorry, no. After we all passed (or did we fail?) the test, we entered the Gopher Museum, gleefully photographing stuffed rodent corpses dressed in Barbie clothes and posed in mock human situations. And there is nothing crazy about that my friends.