“Well, you see… I was benching 300 pounds and felt something give in my right shoulder. It’s been hurting ever since.”
“How long ago was this?”
“Um.” He searched his memory. “Three months ago? Maybe longer.” He shrugged, then winced.
“Why the hell are you benching 300 pounds?”
Did he really do that? Or was he maybe exaggerating just a smidge?
I mashed around on his shoulder, bringing on another wince, and walked him through some range of motion exercises to evaluate the joint further. This was his sixth injury from lifting in past 24 months. I had already told him he needed to back off a bit.
“I need to gain weight. I need more muscle.”
He came from a long line of average height, thinly built people. He had already put on 25 pounds of muscle since the last time I saw him. Much more was going to be impossible.
“You are fighting genetics, you know. You are not going to be able to bulk up more than you already have without doing dangerous stuff.”
He look back at me, clearly horrified. “Oh, no, I’d never do that, Doc! But I’ve at least got to make my chest look good. That’s what the ladies want.” He puffed up his chest for effect.
“I’m a lady. That’s not what I want. I don’t think that is what most women want.”
He stared at me with a single eyebrow cocked up in disbelief standing out on his fresh-out-of-college face.
“So, what do women want, then?”
“Security. Respect. Love. Not necessarily in that order.”
He rolled his eyes and laughed.
Had no one said this to him before?
“Sure, Doc….” His reply held a hint of sarcasm.
“Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate a man who takes care of himself, who stays fit. That in itself is an act of love, but having impeccable pecs is really not necessary. Pushing the envelope is really not necessary. A guy who says, ‘You need to carry the groceries in yourself, hon, because I can’t lift the sacks with my jacked up shoulders and I can’t walk with this bum knee,’ isn’t really sexy if he did it to himself.”
There was silence as I ordered an MRI in the computer. Thousands of dollars already spent treating his injuries, what was a few more?
Then he laughed.
“I guess you’re right, Doc.”
Damn right, I’m right.
“Just take it easy on your body. It has to last you the rest of your life…”
I have had several conversations like this over the past year. I talk a lot about how body image issues affect women but there is a ton of pressure for men, for boys even, and it is getting worse. A distortion and misrepresentation of what is possible and what is desired is being perpetuated by media, by people selling lies.
Fight back, I say.