This is Part I of a 3-part column I will be posting over the next several weeks. Comments are open, and private emails are also welcome so long as they are mindful and constructive.
Is A Picture Worth
A Thousand A Million Bad Choices…?
I’m highly susceptible to images – it’s my disease. Well, it’s one of them. Since my adolescence, many images have collected in my mind to influence the millions of individual choices which have unfolded to make me the me I have become. The image below was the first image to truly impact the direction of my life.
I first saw the image above when I was 13 years old, BSE (before Schwarzenegger exposure). Though the existence of Arnold Schwarzenegger would become central to my life in later adolescence, and kept me at its draw for nearly a decade, the picture above was the gun that started the race. To this day that race continues, though I now run it half-heartedly, and care much less about crossing the finish line. Still, every so often the picture above gnaws at me.
In the era of Seattle Slew, Dave Draper looked part human, part race horse and I wanted what he had badly. I just had to have it – I just had to have this look of lean, vascular, muscularity. From the moment I first saw that image, everything else in my life would become secondary to the pursuit of achieving that aesthetic – especially all the people and all the things which should have come first.
Qualification Of The Aesthetic
It’s simple, one can’t get that extreme, lean, muscular, and vascular look without the use of drugs – in particular, the steroids of that era; Primobolin, Deca Durabolin, Testosterone Cypionate, Winstrol V, and similar vehicles for enhancement. No matter how hard one might train, and how clean one might eat; that look required drugs. I just didn’t know.
For too many years I hit the gym like maniac, ate like a lunatic, and lived a life of social celibacy in belief that I would look like Dave Draper. The bodybuilding magazines of my youth told me I was on the right path, and that steroids were not required – but their protein powders and supplements would make all the difference. I had just enough want, and just enough youth in me then, to believe the lies those magazines told me.
My Identity Mask
Though I never achieved that lean, muscular, Dave Draper look, after several years, several thousand eggs, countless cans of tuna, and a lot of squats, bench presses, and pull-ups, I was able to build a respectable physique. Those puffy arms, flared shoulders, and swollen quads would become my calling card. Being the gym guy, in an era when there weren’t too many gym guys around, became the identity by which all around me would know me. Though I was not Dave Draper, I felt like I had arrived in this world, and that I mattered because my arms filled out my shirt-sleeves, my chest heaved, and my physical peers were few. And then… skydiving set in…
Life Outside The Palace
From 1993-1996, unable to workout due to fractures in my vertebrae from my skydiving accident, and no longer giving a rat’s ass about such niceties as saturated fat and sugar, my waist swelled from 31 inches to 42. My arms shrank, my chest began to sag, and the only identity I had ever known would soon be lost. As my double chin grew, so did my shame. I became relentlessly apologetic to anyone around me for my poor physical appearance, and did so at every opportunity. Simply put, I hated myself because I hated what I looked like – or what I didn’t look like.
No matter that I was a great father to my toddler girl during my overweight period, or that I coveted my life like a diamond, and that I was kind and giving to anyone around me – I wasn’t the arm guy anymore and therefore I felt as worthless as shit on a shoe. My depression would only lead to more depression.
Perception Of Loved Ones; Lessons Learned From Rocky I – Rocky III
In my life I have been fit, fat, and fit again. Through all phases of my form, those who have loved me have loved me, and those who have loathed me have loathed me. My physicality has never mattered to them. Sadly, I have only come to know this recently – and it’s still hard to accept. I am always apologetic of my appearance when I am in anything less than tip-top shape. I am apologetic, not so much from vanity, but from insecurity – but mostly because when I was 12 years old, I saw Dave Draper and came to believe that anything less was not acceptable.
During my out-of-shape period, I had a wife who loved me, Buddha belly and all – and I didn’t believe her. I had friends who had appreciated me, arm size notwithstanding – and I didn’t believe them. I now have a fiancé who I apologize to every single day of my life because my abs are currently more like a 4-pack than a 6-pac and she could care less and still, I don’t believe her.
I hate myself most days, even now, because despite my physical accomplishments, my current condition (which is way ahead of the game), and my fitness acumen, I still don’t look like Dave Draper, and it’s not even the goal anymore. It was an image that captured me in my youth and never let go. That’s on me – I’m an adult now and I own it, but I’m just not sure, all these years later, how to release it.
To be continued… rc
Please check back in a week or so for Part II of,
My Dyslexic Body Image; I Need A Kind Of Therapy Which Does Not Yet Exist
Oh, and there is this very trippy tune by New Texicans. Please take a moment to enjoy this gem…