Muscle is Currency
A long time ago, I was in a relationship with James: a very muscular, worked out guy who all my friends adored for his Adonis-like physique.
James spent hours in the gym each week working every muscle group to failure. One of my friends (who rarely gushes over anyone) told me that he “had the best body of anyone he’d ever seen.”
His diet was strict. His collection of bodybuilder photos numbered in the thousands. He supplemented with amino acids and protein drinks several times throughout the day.
I admit, I was fascinated with James because he had the body that everyone (including me at the time) wanted. Perfectly rounded muscles, bubble butt, six-pack. “I love muscle,” he’d say. I was in the weight room twice a day, seven days a week, just to keep up.
One night at the dinner table, I asked him to explain how it was that he spent so much time and energy on his body. He reflected, and very serious look came across his face.
“Because” he said, “Muscle is currency in the gay world. It opens doors to people, places, and experiences you never would have otherwise.”
Muscle is currency? His theory was at once compelling and troubling to me. Yet, the statement has stuck with me over the years as I’ve evaluated it to see if it held up against situations and circumstances.
It seems true that for a man, masculinity is equated with the development of one’s body. The bigger or more developed your muscles, the more of a “man” you are.
The belief surrounds us. A glance over any magazine rack proves this: every cover of the major fitness magazines feature ripped, jacked-up men with chiseled abs, 16-inch arms and 50-inch chests. Straight male friends have privately expressed to me their growing frustration with the vainglorious male imagery that permeates popular culture, from the underwear aisle at Macy’s to posters for feature films like The Dark Knight, 300 and Superman. For women, it’s all about being that size zero. Thin is in. The more slender her thighs, the more desirable she’s thought to be.
Beauty is considered valuable—men and women, gay or straight. Maybe that’s the actual currency. But what if true beauty was taking care of yourself — taking yourself to a place of “optimum” health.
Isn’t it beautiful to be able to take your grandchild for a long hike in a national parks, and have endurance and flexibility enough to do so?
I say: beauty is finishing a yoga class, a tough hour in the weight room, or a triathlon. Beauty is fitting into jeans that you haven’t worn in years.
I say: true beauty is optimum health. It may not get you on to the cover of a magazine, invited to a pool party, or make you a celebrity—then again, it just might.