This past weekend, I headed to Saskatoon for the National Figure/Fitness/Bikini Championships. It was a quick road trip, with my client Brent. The trip and show were great. Great to see lots of familiar faces at the show, and the competition was very tough. Lots of amazing athletes in the show, so it was fun cheering on all the Alberta women.
The vibe at the show was very good. I always enjoy running into all the people that I only get to see at the bigger events. Lots of laughs to be had, among a large group of like minded people who are involved in the fitness industry at some level. I am also very humbled at how well I get treated at these events. Everyone is very friendly, and it’s nice to be in an atmosphere where I feel respected and accepted. Might sound funny to hear me say that, but I needed to say that so the rest of the story makes sense.
SO…..after the show, Brent and I head to Earls to meet up with friends and have a meal. On our way into Earl’s, we see a couple women getting into a cab. The one woman says to the other, “There must be a bodybuilding contest in town, there’s all these juice heads walking around.” I’m sometimes amazed at how loud people are when they openly bash bodybuilding. They must think muscles interfere with hearing ability. We just brushed it off, and even laughed about it. Who cares what two drunk skanks think anyways, right?
It’s always a lot of fun at the restaurant after the show. Everyone who has competed is happy to be eating, and many people have a few drinks and relax a bit. Lots of people walking around from table to table, congratulating each other, and just trying to enjoy themselves. It’s one of my favorite things to look forward to with any show.
It can also be a bit of a scene if you aren’t used to it. Some of the regular patrons aren’t expecting 100 people, some ripped to the bone, and painted dark chocolate brown, to all come in the door and completely fill every empty seat. Lots of the women who’ve competed wear their favorite little black dress, and many of the men are very muscular or lean. Pretty much everyone through the door looks like they live in the gym.
I’ve been at so many “post show restaurant” parties, that I’ve got the whole thing sussed out. It’s a very interesting social experiment to watch unfold. Every “regular” person who is at the restaurant has a visual reaction to what’s going on. Some of the women look pissed at all the lean, fit, dolled up, “hot” looking female competitors that are there. You will see a few positive expressions. I watched one woman, grab her husbands hand and point out a competitor, clearly expressing that she thought the girl was stunning. The husband seemed to agree, which wasn’t a surprise. I had a guy at the bar ask if there was a “Muscle thingy” in town. He seemed nice, however, my ears are really good and I could hear him saying stuff to his girlfriend about all the “monkeys” that were coming in the door.
I watched two guys at a table mock a bodybuilder as he walked by, headed to the bathroom. They made the “imaginary lat syndrome” gesture, and laughed at each others impressions. Funny thing was, the bodybuilder in question is a very humble guy who walks quite “normally”. He’s 230lbs and lean , he doesn’t need to fake any lats…..he has huge lats that he can’t hide no matter how he walks.
One of the reasons I am so good at picking up on so much of this, is because I worked in bars for over 10 years. I can read lips VERY well, and have excellent hearing. It’s like my hearing, combined with even a bit of lip reading just magnifies everything. I often know exactly what’s being said.
Now at this point, it’s been a normal night, and that’s when I got blindsided. Pretty much everyone was gone, and we went over to another table to chat with a couple of the Alberta women who competed. At the table next to them, sat four women. THREE of them had competed that day.
Now, I was just standing there, with my hands in my pockets, chatting to a friend, when I started picking up some of the comments from the next table. I heard one of the girls, who had just competed, say “Look at this douchebag. I hate guys like this. They walk around all big and puffed up like it’s impressive. Always flexing their arms. Look at his veins, you can tell he’s flexing, they look so stupid, etc, etc, etc.” It was a no holds barred tirade. I was shocked at how loud she was, and as I looked out of the corner of my eye, I could read her lips and could see her pointing directly at me. It seemed to go on for a full minute.
-quick note….anyone who knows me, knows I don’t walk “puffed up” or flexing needlessly. I think I have as normal a walk as a 310lb bodybuilder can have. I also have very vascular arms, even when I’m in heavy off season. My arms are veiny, it’s not my fault.
Now, I have heard a LOT of shit about me over the years. I expect to hear stuff like this in many circumstances. I used to get it all the time when I worked in the bar. The younger me might have allowed it to get the best of me, resulting in a “scene”, but the older me usually finds a way to deal with it that doesn’t put me in a position of looking like the exact stereotype they were assuming in the first place. Big guys simply aren’t allowed to get mad.
Kind of that spot where, if I get mad, it just confirms their bias. So, I learned to turn it around on them. One night at the bar, I called over two guys who were talking shit about me, and told them how awesome I was at reading lips, then repeated EVERYTHING they had said (it was very rude and mean)…..I was very polite, and asked for the same respect they would give anyone else who was just minding their own business. I told them they had a right to make fun of me, but they couldn’t do it right in front of me. They said sorry, and that they felt stupid, I told them they should feel stupid, and gave them a shot of Jager.
HOWEVER…..this was different. I was blindsided. I NEVER expected to hear that stuff coming out of the mouth of a woman who just competed in a National Figure competition. For someone who is way more heavily muscled than the average woman, and lives in the gym, I’d expect some sort of feeling of alliance. For a woman who just spent the day in a bikini, covered in fake tan, on stage posing, I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about hearing hate speech because of how I look, or how I “stand”. I felt stabbed in the back. It was very surprising to me how much it upset me, and I was trying to keep any of it from showing on my face, as I was in the middle of a conversation. One which I was unable to pay very much attention to at all. I decided to take a walk to the restroom to cool down.
I was kinda mad at myself for not saying something, as I had actually opened my mouth to speak at one point and nothing came out. I think I was afraid of “going off” so my brain shut down the operation. I racked my brain for a way to handle it. Do I ignore it? Do I go up and confront her? Do I think of another way? I just wasn’t sure what to do, given the setting, and the fact that I hadn’t heard EVERY SINGLE WORD, so I thought there was always a 1% chance I got it wrong somehow????? Can I really trust my ears, eyes, and instincts that much, as to make a scene and call someone out in this situation? Was I too tired from a long road trip to make any of these calls?
I opted for the high road, and the safe bet. I walked out to our table, and asked one of my friends who the woman was. I was given a few details about her and that she had placed well that day. So I walked over to the table where the four women sat, and I looked my critic in the eye, and smiled. I congratulated her on her placing and wished her luck in her next show. I knew she was disappointed even though she placed well, so I said “I know you’re a bit disappointed, I know how you feel.” She smiled back and said thank you.
That was all I could really do. I guess I was hoping to maybe make her, or at least one of her friends, think twice about how she had judged me. Not sure if it made a lick of difference, and I may be too much of an idealist, but it’s all I could handle after such a long day.
The point of this whole story, is that I am really feeling like it’s open season on muscles. Bodybuilders are fair game it seems, with absolutely zero social repercussions when it comes to stereotyping, and openly mocking us. They know that they have us over a barrel. It’s gotten to the point where figure competitors are hating on us now? Really?
I expect the drunk women in the cab. I expect the table of guys to make monkey jokes. I even expect the guy in the hotel elevator at the end of the night, start to laugh when we get in the elevator, then turn to me and ask what I “take”. When I told him I had trained for over 20 years, he instantly looked bored talking to me. Seems everyone wants their heros in movies, cartoons, and sports to look like superheros, but just not people they may run into in real life. That’s gross. I get it when it reminds them of how lazy or fat they have gotten, but I don’t get it when a top Figure competitor has a hate on for me for no reason.
Part of being a bodybuilder is living with the fact that you are somewhat of a social outcast in many situations. So I’ve always tried my best to bridge that gap, and show people how silly all their assumptions are. I shouldn’t have to bridge the gap with another competitor.
Are things getting worse? Are we winning or losing the social battle? I often hear about fights breaking out in the crowds at MMA matches, so at least we don’t have that……yet, lol. Although….given todays lust for blood and violence, it would probably get bodybuilding on TV and pull the contests into the mainstream!
Let me know what you think.
I’m tired and very late for bed.
Train like HELL!