Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thou Shalt Never Meet a Gym Crush

Brad Liberti
Writer, traveler and pop-culture junkie
Entertainment Editor, 'BELLO Magazine
Posted: 11/14/2014 3:03 pm EST Updated: 11/14/2014 3:59 pm EST

There are certain rules in our dating culture that even though never formally stated, still somehow become ingrained within us all. Don't sleep with a neighbor or a co-worker if you can help it. Don't make yourself readily available in the beginning if reciprocity isn't shown. Don't talk about an ex until they do... For the gays, these same unspoken conventions can govern everything from who buys dinner, to who's on top, but whether homo or hetero, they remain ephemeral codes; behaviors learned, not by explanation, but only through trial and error.

Which is why I feel the need to break the silence -- to spare you the pain of making the same mistake that I recently did... Yes folks, added to this tacit list of romantic do's and don't's should be another decree. Thou shalt never meet a gym crush.

Alas, I'm getting ahead of myself... It's not hard to see why gays and straights alike refer to the gym as their church. Many of us attend the place religiously and in the case of those fancy urbanites who refuse to sweat anywhere that isn't David Barton, we often tithe more than 10 percent of our paychecks to it. Of course, the reasons for this are wholly individualistic, varying from wanting to get laid more, to good ol' vanity, to just plain health-consciousness (those people do exist you know) but at its best, what the gym really creates for each and every one of us, is the opportunity to check out the most robust specimens in the herd.

I, myself, might decry the fact that posting a shirtless pic on Facebook warrants double the likes and comments of a soul-baring piece, or that dumbasses are allowed to continue being themselves simply because they have big tits or barrel chests, but give me a runway -- aka the walk between the free weights and the leg press -- and I start strutting like I'm Tony Manero. What?... I can't fight biology?

Unfortunately, courting attention like this can be wonderful when you're feeling confident and on-point, but on those inevitable days when you feel like Star Jones pre-gastric and or Popeye pre-spinach (yes, it is possible to feel both simultaneously...) promenading -- or even working out among the other animals for that matter -- can be torturous.

Which is why the universe has bestowed upon us the glorious gift of the gym crush -- a handsome, well-built man, or attractive, toned woman (whichever you like, I'm not judging) whose mere presence in the room is enough to raise your spirits and make your heart skip a beat. Out of the corner of your eye, you see them on the treadmill, or perhaps next to the ab roller, and instinctually you know just where they are in their workout (aka how much longer you have to stare at that perfect tuft of hair casually protruding from his t-shirt, or at each gorgeous butt cheek rising and falling ever so slightly when she walks). Occasionally they even wander close enough to catch their scent, and though obviously, you push yourself through your routine- after all, he or she could be watching you at any given moment -- you think only of how you can get more of this fix.

Clearly, this perceived bond is as much of a reason as any for why we all flock to the gym with stringent regularity. But what makes the connection even more powerful is that nine times out of 10, we know absolutely nothing about this person. Perhaps you've fished around for their name to friends of friends, or seen them far across the room at a bar one time. You may have even caught each other at CVS while shopping for toothpaste, but for all you know, he or she is married, or from the burbs, or straight and not exactly "questioning" (though the twinkle in his eye -- and the length of his gym shorts- - hints otherwise).

You imagine that he's an ambitious artist, sick of the gay games, dedicated only to his work and to the temple that is his body. Maybe she's a kindergarten teacher, done with assholes, searching for a profound, lose-the-rest-of-the-world connection. Or perhaps he's an overworked but soulful stockbroker, cheated on by his ex, but still looking to bring the right guy home to his conservative but loving Irish Catholic family.

Whatever the case, the thought of this person and the fake life that you've built together can always bring a smile to your face. What's more, on those shitty days when the world seems to be conspiring against you, and nothing will just freaking work out, your eyes lock long enough to send chills down your spine, and suddenly all is right with the world.

Honestly, in what other situation does such profound satisfaction come with a calorie burn?
Ok, ok, I can think of one, but I warn you, as tempted as you are to turn this visceral fantasy into a reality -- to rip away the veil that separates you two and for lack of a better phrase, bump uglies, I implore you, please do not. I attempted to make contact once, and rather than the man of my dreams, he turned out to be a shrink with a superiority complex. I had ridiculously mistaken snobbery for shyness, smugness for quiet confidence, megalomania for mounting interest! Four years of an imaginary relationship and like a tween girl meeting Beiber for the first time, my vision of love was instantly pulverized.

That took a while to get over. Eventually however, I realized that there was nothing left to do but to appreciate the good times (his ass, those forearms); to pick myself up and find another soul-mate... and then never, EVER meet him.

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