Hard work no longer gets much respect. That pisses me off, something easily accomplished these days. I am curmudgeonly, quick to anger as I carefully slide my swollen ankles—they are in fact cankles—across the icy sidewalks in Edmonton. Foetor is now quite large, weighing me down while throwing off my already precarious sense of balance. Without going into too much detail, every little thing—putting on my preggo tights, tying my shoes, cooking a four course meal for 11 guests—takes additional effort, drawing my attention to the hard work of simply living life. After some reflection, I have concluded that labour is now regularly taken for granted and even disdained. I am not really talking about the labour related to pregnancy, however. The problem is more general. In every domain, hard graft is no longer recognized or given its due.
Just the other night, a small, slim Asian woman was eavesdropping on me and PDDs as we changed in the locker room after working out. Upon hearing PDDs describe her ravenous hunger—she exercises strenuously and eats pretty clean—the unknown lady piped in, asking for fitness advice. “Lift heavy weights,” said my lovely and lean workout partner. “Oh no,” the young woman protested, “I do not want to be muscular. That is why I never do weights and am cutting the protein out of my diet.” A stony and stunned silence filled the change room. “Well then, you are just going to be skinny fat, not fit.” I bitchily declared. As I looked at the horrified woman, I noticed that she was already there, living the dream of taking up as little space as possible. She was misguided but that is not what angered me. I was perturbed by the fact that this woman assumed that she would get muscular and ripped at the drop of a hat, “by accident” if she did not carefully cultivate a soft and squishy appearance. Clearly, she underestimated the sustained hard work and dedication that growing muscle and maintaining fitness requires. That’s what burned my ass.
Something similar happened to me about 8 months after my figure show, when I still had visible musculature (right now I exhibit a 34-week protruding pregnant belly). Back then I was doing hammer curls in the “lady area” when a tiny newbie enjoying a guided tour of the gym gasped at my appearance before loudly whispering: “I do NOT want to look like her.” Now, under normal circumstances I would have cut her down to an even smaller size, asserting myself by saying something like: “Don’t worry bitch, by doing zumba classes three times per week and the odd 20 minutes on the elliptical you will never look like me. In fact, you will never look any different than you do right now.” Unfortunately, I was an employee at the gym, finding the extra $300 a month for teaching spin classes rather useful, so I remained silent. But I did not forget, and I will never forgive.
PDDs had another story, from a friend who wanted to start working out, but was afraid of getting “frog legs.” “What on earth are you talking about?” queried my workout partner. In response, PDDs’ friend sent her a photo of the ripped and muscular legs of a female heavy weight bodybuilder. WTF? Basically, the totally unfit woman was fearful that doing anything more than walking to the 7-11 would produce similar results. “You are never going to have legs like that, no matter how hard you work out, no matter what you do,” PDDs commented. “Seriously,” PDDs continued, “if it were easy to achieve those muscular legs, I would have them right now!” Shaking my head in disbelief, I confidently said: “Oh I might be able to grow those legs, given my strong lower body and short stature, but only if I dedicated myself to training and proper nutrition for the next 15 years. I would then use my giant flipper feet to kick that stupid idiot friend of yours right in the face.”
What is wrong with these women? Do they not realize how fucking hard it is to look like a bodybuilder? I think naive guys often make the same mistake, at least according to a local super heavyweight male bodybuilder who is regularly approached by young men asking for advice. They wish to enhance their physiques, but “without looking like you, dude.” They are never going to look like this gigantic, ripped man. He has invested decades of training and education into his body, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars in coaches, supplements, and high-protein food. His physical accomplishments were hard won, over many years, and with much sweat and sacrifice along the way. So fuck off you little twerps!
The belief that things come—or at least should come—easily pervades our contemporary culture. It sheds light on the recent cancellation of the Ms. Olympia heavyweight female bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas. It seems that the smaller and less muscular physiques of bikini girls are both more marketable and less challenging to sexist stereotypes about women as men’s “other,” i.e. their weaker vessel. But an insistence on rigid gender roles is not the only reason for the bias against heavyweight female bodybuilders. The official reason given for the change focused on the fact that the same competitors have entered the Ms. Olympia contest year after year. Of course they are the fucking same women. Who else could achieve these goals? Heavyweight female bodybuilders are elite athletes, taking decades to construct and perfect their bodies. Most people can barely make it to the gym past January 31, regardless of their initial resolutions. The long hard labour of female bodybuilders deserves to be respected! Instead, the easier categories are taking precedence, like bikini in which you can simply stop adding blueberries to your Greek yogurt for a few months before becoming a “competitor.” I know that many bikini girls are in fact strong, with muscular bodies, but the majority of them do not train or diet seriously, especially for entry level shows. Should someone take pride in half-assed dieting, a few months of semi-hard training, and paying crap loads of money to get their hair and make up done? I say no. I cannot even call myself a competitor, despite working out for 20 years, deliberately gaining muscle for 5 years, and then following a 20-week-long hard core diet to the letter before hitting the stage in 2011. Getting my nails done and wearing a posing suit were easy and count for shit. I am instead proud of my commitment and hard work, but that means little these days, right former Ms. Olympia hopefuls?
Convenience and speed of transformation are now equated with value. This expectation of easy results extends far beyond the fitness world. Many kids in their 20s assume that they should have a house, car, and leather sofa right away, after getting a short-cut education. I often face university students who complain about doing too much work, despite the fact that standards have never been lower and grade inflation is still on the rise. “Well, if you want a quickie two-year certificate at some lame-ass community college feel free to go there,” I advise. “When you later find that you have few career opportunities and need to retrain in order to move up, do not come crying to me.” Short term goals and general laziness are prized but are rarely fulfilling in the long term. The assumption that things should be easy nevertheless fuels the debt crisis: everyone tries to have it all without actually earning it.
That is the end of my rant, unfortunately. I could go on but have already been quite a pissy pants on Christmas day this year! In my not-so-humble opinion I worked fucking hard for everything I have without receiving financial support from anyone. Then I trained at the gym for years on end before I got on stage to do a figure show. It is true that I did nothing to achieve my current pregnancy; that was an accident. Yet I am pretty sure that some hard labour is about to come my way. I plan to buck the trend and embrace it. Who is with me?