Created In My Own Image

Anyone who has hung around me for any length of time has probably heard my personal take on fitness and diet:

In my 20s, I could eat and drink anything I wanted.  If I got fat, I just thought about losing weight and it happened.

When I was in my 30s, I could still eat and drink whatever I wanted but I had to work at keeping myself in shape.

Now that I am in my 40s, it doesn’t matter what I eat or how much I exercise…my body wants to be fat.

It’s a gross oversimplification of the situation…but it kind of encapsulates the basic experience I have had.  But maybe a 3000 word blog post will flesh out the reality of the situation and even exercise – ok…exorcise – a few of the shameful demons I battled along the way to how I came to be in this body I live in today.

First off, I was a scrawny kid who grew into a gangly 20-something.

 That’s me on the left.  I’m reasonably sure that the pants I am wearing were reincarnated curtains.  Just kidding.  They were Gar-Animals.  I’m also pretty sure that I could probably have worn that shirt until Junior High.

Oddly, I’m wearing a similarly colored baseball ringer as I write this.

Even more strange is the also similarly colored souvenir baseball ringer I picked up on one of my trips to Italy at the Rome Hard Rock Cafe.

What the hell?  I’m such a poser…I’m not even that athletic, which brings us back to that gangly kid.

Somewhere in my late teens – between leaving Manhattan and meeting my first boyfriend in Long Beach – I decided to get in shape.  Putting some meat on my bones was absolutely a byproduct of an unfortunate meeting between myself and a couple of shit kickers in my college days.  That’s all I’m saying about that, though.

For now.

I started working out with my buff college room mate on his Soloflex.

He swore he wasn’t gay.

He showed me some basic exercises and I pretty much copied what he did while trying to hide my involuntary physical response to him working out with me while shirtless and wearing his onion skin shorts from International Male.

He swore he wasn’t gay.

Whatever.  Neither was I, bro.

Once my family relocated to sunny SoCal and disintegrated into the California divorce culture – temporarily…like “two decades” temporary – I ended up in Long Beach.

I was fucking home.  Not home, like the feeling of home that Portland instills in me.  Home as in, I was in a place where I could let out the me that I had always tried to suppress as a closeted teen.

I joined a gym.  My first gym is my present gym:  24 Hour Fitness.  We’ve had a few trial separations over the years, but the thing – honestly – that keeps me coming back is their facility in Portland’s Pearl District.  It’s this enormous warehouse space.  In my opinion, it’s the greatest gym space that I’ve ever been in.  Probably in some part because of this picture that my tripping out of the closet self aspired to be:this guyYou know what I’m talking about.

So, I join the gym.  I run on the beach bike path down in Belmont Shores.  Obliviously running past the city’s two gay beaches and the cruise-y parking lot I would eventually come to name Le Boulevard de L’amour.

Loving the attention I received in doing so, even if I didn’t fully understand it.

Loving it way more than the attention I got in the showers at the gym.  You know that whoever designs gym showers is a total closet case.  Yes, I’m entertaining the idea that there is just one guy responsible for them all.  The only argument against?  Gym showers don’t actually have glory holes in the stalls.  Nor do they tend to have doors or shower curtains.

So, there’s 21 or 22 year old Xtopher…innocently showering at the gym.  Curiosity occasionally getting the better of me and causing me to glance at the aspirational physiques showering near me.

And the not-so-innocent things they are doing.

Learning to avoid the sauna and the steam room – ok, I can say that I understand people acting out in the relative anonymity and humidity of the steam room…their identity is fairly obscured, but the sauna?  It’s like broad daylight in there.  These guys got off on the public stuff.

Really got off on it.

Not that I would understand that for many years.  Nonetheless, learning to avoid those parts of the gym, ceding them – literally – into the hands of lonely, perverted gays.  Plus, Little Xtopher just doesn’t do extreme heat, which I think it perfectly normal as evidenced by the knowledge that I know what was happening in the steam room and sauna was decidedly not perfectly normal.  Also, take that, Shrinkage.

Sadly, I frequently still needed to shower at the gym before work or going on with my day.  It was SoCal…no one is making an unnecessary trip home to shower and change in that cluster fuck of traffic.

Necessary evil.

One guy who really loved showers hit on me one day as we dressed.  Asked me out.  He was a Doctor.

Oh!  A Doctor!

What?  I was a simple retail whore.  Ok…contextually the wrong word.  I just worked my way through a lot of different retail jobs building my resume and jumping for a full-time position, an increased responsibility and/or more money.  That type of whore.

So, a Doctor was a good get.

Just ask his boyfriend.

Oy.  Gays.

Obviously, somewhere along the line I not only came out to myself, but also began to nurture my sexuality.

I met another guy at the gym there in Long Beach.  He was 29…so old!  But also, so muscle-y and cool.  Definitely what I was aiming for with my efforts.

We started dating.

We also started working out together.

And other stuff.

We dated for quite a while.  Like, a year…which was a lifetime in my young 20s.  He introduced me to protein shakes – shut up, Diezel – to help build muscle and supplement the Taco Bell diet that both my wallet and metabolism would support at this point in my life.

I was a Salad Gay.  Chrisism.  Just a working-poor gay guy.

I also started working night shift, which allowed me to take classes in the daytime.

It allowed him to sleep with other guys in my bed while I worked.

What?  Why wouldn’t my boyfriend have a key to my apartment?  This so explained his approach to occasional sex to “keep it special”.  He had to conserve his *chi* in order to spread it around.

His surprise when I dumped him after walking in on him with another guy on morning…a guy who looked surprisingly twink-ish, was tall and had brown hair just like your favorite blog author.  On this blog site, anyway.

At least he had a type.

Men, it would seem.

Anyway, his surprise manifested itself as him beating me up.  Well, definitely knocking me around pretty good.

He and I disagreed on the types of marks I earned by standing up for myself.

Who wants to know his name?  Hehehe.  I tend to preserve people’s identity on my humble little blog, but I can actively picture some of my friends getting pretty riled up reading that and demanding to know.  Let’s say this pretty much unconsciously ended the appeal of older men for young Xtopher.

Clearly, I needed to be in better shape.

And alone.

I kept going to the gym.  It was a great way to detox from my “Yes, sir” days at work and my commute frustrations.  I’m kind of sociable – not sure if you picked up on that – and from Oregon…so, I would chat with people at the gym between sets.  This was before Super Sets were invented, so it helped pass the rest periods between sets.  I made several gym friends, one that was probably – oh…my age now!  He used to lecture me about using too much weight, telling me, “I never use more than 60 lbs, no matter the exercise” and looking at himself in the mirror.  Nodding appreciatively at his results.

Whatever, Old Person.

What?  You know you can’t tell kids anything.  Me included.  Ask my parents.

Anyway.

This went on until I ultimately met someone – who wasn’t a gym rat like me <gasp!> – fell in love and moved away with him to Florida.  Another blog.  Trust me.  But, I kept working out.  Whether it was an apartment complex gym or the real deal.  And running.  Wherever I was, Florida, Texas (yes…Texas), back in Long Beach once I returned to SoCal or in Oregon when I finally worked my way back to my hometown…I worked out.  By the way, I might have left SoCal for a guy, but when I say I worked my way back to Oregon…I mean it literally.  I was lucky enough to be hired on by a company while in Florida that was growing westward.  And I hitched my wagon right up, even if it meant an 11 month stay in awful Houston, Texas.

Ah, the days when I could get a friggin job.

So, back in Portland.  My hometown.  I’m 28 years old and this is where I first met the 24 Hour Fitness in the Pearl District, which was barely anything but warehouses along with a few that had oddly converted to row houses.  I don’t even think the road it’s on was paved.  Pretty sure it was gravel.

It’s also where – one night as I danced at Embers after work – I met the Sucks At Cheating Ex.  He literally walked out of the manufactured smoke on the dance floor as I leaned against the bar drinking a Sam Adams.

Yes, this was before the joke at our openly gay and unfortunately-named Mayor’s expense:

Q:  Why is Portland so great?

A:  It’s the only city in the country where an 18 year old can get a Sam Adams.

Yes, his name was Sam Adams.

Ok.  Is.

Google it for context.

Now, back to that smokey dance floor at Embers.

The smoke literally parted as he walked off of the dance floor.  Time slowed down.  That’s a sign, right?

He was all sweaty, so I offered to buy him a beer…because I had developed some wickedly good game in SoCal.

“Ok” he replies, “But I’m not gay.  I’m just here meeting friends.”

It’s last call.

We end up at my Jeep – which is parked right about in front of where I live in the North Park Blocks as I type.  I’ve taken a newbie gay guy to my car after picking him up in a bar.  Memories of Le Boulevard de L’amour swirl as we talk.

This post is full of weird little memory bombs.

He’s still sweating.  He apologizes for his drippy state, saying it’s just the supplements he takes before he works out.

Foreshadowing.

Ok, I thought you were just having a panic attack because you’re a straight guy sitting in a gay guy’s car outside a gay bar that your *friends* never showed up at and it’s 3:00 in the morning.

Whatever.

It’s 1997.  I’m 29.

 We start to date.

Awkwardly.

We work out together.

He comes out.

Over-dramatically.  Another blog.

He introduces me to his Agent.

I start modeling.

He moves in with me and my lesbian roommates.

We buy a house.

My agent calls me fat.

Remember this pic?

 I start using his supplements.

Yellow Jackets.

I’d made it to 32 before my metabolism fully betrayed me.  I was working out hard, but the results were slowing down.  I started with Yellow Jackets as a supplement and then worked in Creatine, Nos, Ripped Fuel…so many supplements.

My mentality quickly evolved or escalated, take your pick, into a dangerous “If the recommended dose gives me good results, then doubling it will be amazing!”  Sure, there was a pit stop along the way into mixing fat burners, recovery supplements, yada-yada-yada.

We worked out together at 24 Hour.  It was a fun date.  We made up nicknames for the people working out around us so we could talk about them.  Bad Ass Bitch.  Granny Face.  Bird Legs.

So that’s where he gets the whole nickname thing.

I was usually so jacked up that I needed – yeah, needed – a few martinis to effectively fall asleep.  But I looked amazing.  Who needed sleep?

Well, around 34 or 35, my stomach lining started eroding.  I got really bad heartburn that I couldn’t shake.  My body fat was so under control, I had gaunt cheeks and the fat had all but disappeared from my arms, legs and whatever I had that constituted an ass before this all began.

I quit drinking.

I stopped taking supplements.

My heartburn went away.  Cured!

The Sucks At Cheating Ex left me.

For a waiter.  A tall guy.  Muscular but slim.  Dark hair.

At least he had a type.

My heartburn turned into heart ache.

I started drinking.

I was 36.

Here we are, almost out of my 30s in this saga and just crossed the 2000 word threshold.

Right on track.

Unlike my life at this point.

And my exercise regimen.

I would still run to clear my head and heart, but I couldn’t go to the gym:  too painful.  I drank every night.  It’s not that I was a complete shut in.  I had EOGed the cable company at this point in my life, so I had to go to CCs on Monday nights to watch their rebroadcast of Queer As Folk after it aired on Sunday night.  I’m sure that was all on the up and up.  Whatever, it’s not like I wasn’t the only one there.

I was.

The bartenders and barbacks would bring me refills as I sat there on the dance floor watching the show.  Alone.

They would bring me snacks.

And drinks.

And drinks.

Eventually, they even let me order pizza from Old Town Pizza across the street.

Those angels delivered to across the damned street.

My waist size closed in on my age.

I met the Silver Fox around this time, too.  He wanted to date, maybe.  But, nononono.  I needed my time to grieve.  Plus, older guys…I still shuddered at the thought.  He and I became friends, though.  He would join me occasionally at CCs, as would one of my best friends from my prior relationship, Big Word Ben.

It was their friendship that eventually helped pull me out of my slump and get me and my fitness routine and my life back on track.

But, Seattle called.

Or put a gun to my head.

You choose.

It was the Bush years.  No, not that one, the second one.  10% of all Oregonians were out of work and my job in Salem had just been eliminated and relocated to Seattle.  Stay in Oregon with a severance package or move to Seattle and have a job?

The answer seemed so clear to me then.

Obvious, actually.

Plus a change of scenery would do me good.

Off to Seattle I went.  I had an apartment with a gym in it.  There was a 24 Hour about 10 blocks from my place – yes, mom…about 10 blocks! – and I was redeveloping my relationship with food and drink into a more healthily balanced entity.

My job there ended up ending a year after I moved to Seattle to save it.  That’s typical Chris luck, so I just rolled with it.  It wasn’t like a guy had treated me badly and broken up with me or anything.  This I could handle.  I bounced around to a few jobs that ultimately led to Sur La Table, where my cooking game really got on track and my diet came to exist in a good balance with my exercise routine, despite the universe and its attempts to make me into a fatty again.  I was making good money and working in a geographically undesirable place for exercising at 24 Hour, so I joined David Barton Gym, since it was right outside the door of my store.

It was good.  Very inspirational.

Then I got transferred to another store and DBG became geographically undesirable.

But

There was another gym close by.  About a block.  Not as good as next door, but I was trying to be reasonable as I approached 40.

Speaking of which, I committed to myself to get back into shape for my 40th…in a good way.  No destructive supplements and no abuse of the ones I do use.

Moderation.

I was being reasonable, after all.

Who the fuck was this reasonable person?  I must have killed off all of my crazy brain cells during my grieving period and this was what was left.

I joined X-Gym.

Their business model was “All personal training, all of the time”.  Their marketing campaign was “20 minutes, twice a week”.  It was amazing.  By 40 I was in the best shape of my life.  The coaching I received helped me to improve my form, grow comfortable with “new” exercise disciplines and re-evaluate my eating habits.  Totally worth the investment.

In myself.

Suck it, Former Agent.

The summer after I turned 40, I went to a nude beach with a friend.  Totally not my thing, but there I was.  He undressed and went into the bushes.  I undressed and laid down.

Flip.

No friend.

Flip again.

No friend.  Maybe a bear ate him.  I’d say “The Bad Type” but neither type of bear is really my type, so let’s go with the potentially lethal type versus the potentially leather type.

I am overheating, so I head into the water for a dip.

As I’m coming out, all Bo Derek-y, I see him finally coming out of the shrubs.  I’m walking toward my towel and he’s walking right toward me.  I didn’t immediately realize he was checking me out, with apparently favorable results, until he pulled a shocked face upon realizing he’s just sexually objectified his friend.

The rest of the day was a little weird.

But hopefully that will serve to highlight the results I had gotten.

Physically fit and healthy at 40.

Yay, me.  The hard work was worth it!

Then I meet Rib.  I’d been single for six years after a six year relationship…not that I hadn’t started trying to date, but Seattle.  ‘Nuff said.  He’s fresh off the boat and I hit it off-ish with this 24 year old.

We start dating.  Blog coming…maybe.  I get overwhelmed by all the feels I have for him and our time together, so who knows?

He’s quite the caretaker and we eat well.  He wants to overcome his twink-ish build, a pain near and dear to my heart, so we start working out together.

What?  There’s no pattern.  Shut up.

The food and drink kind of overwhelms my 40-something metabolism and I start packing on some spare lbs.  Rib is supportive and great, he says things like, “I kind of like a guy with a little bell-bell” as he pats my bell-bell.

Back to x-Gym.  I commit to get back in shape for my 45th birthday.

They’re great.

It happens.

Sure, I cry a lot.

That’s how hard they push you.

Sadly, I had also injured (exacerbated, but no one will ever get that story out of me) my shoulder and was in the process of making it worse as I exercised.

But I looked great!

Later that year, I developed shin splints as I was training to run the Seattle Half Marathon.  It was a long distance for me.  I had always been a 5 miler.  Fresh off my efforts with X-Gym, I powered through to my goal.  Once I reached it, I figured that I would see the Doctor if they hadn’t subsided.

They didn’t.

When my Doctor asked how long I had been feeling the shin splints, I replied honestly, that it had been about six weeks…no, maybe two months?

Blink, blink.

“Shin splints don’t last that long.”

I did a palms up.

“You need to go here and see this foot and ankle guy.  He’ll set you up for a bone scan, but stop running.”

No fucking way, doc.  I’ve been running for 30 years.

More, even.

“Well, you had a good run, then.  Didn’t ya?”

Ok, I set that one up.  That’ll teach me to leave a door open.

Sure enough, I had a stress fracture in my right tibia.

“You’re retired” my doc says.  “Find something else to do.  Swimming.  Cycling.  No more running.”

I figure going back to how it was before the half marathon would be a good compromise.

Plus, I hate being told what to do.

I fracture my left tibia.

“Retired.  Did you not hear me say that?” he says.

The third try was not the charm.  But it was the second time that I fractured my right tibia.  So there is that.

I got the hint.

Apparently, the supplements that I abused, plus just general aging and stuff had compromised my bone density and, well…no more running.

I missed it.  I had a real difficult time accepting the end of the 30+ year relationship that I had with running.  There’s nothing better for clearing your head than the ballistic action it provides.  I pictured my troubles literally being shaken loose and falling by the wayside.

My white rhythm never allowed me to succeed at simultaneously breathing and swimming, so that was a non-starter for broken old Xtopher.  Likewise, my ass wasn’t built for a bike seat, but it was at least a less lethal – if slightly less comfortable – solution to the middle finger my metabolism was giving post 45 year old me.

So, I tried it.

Oh, did I mention that I had broken up with Rib after 4 years?  Yeah, that grief wasn’t helping things along.

At all.

Also not helpful was moving back to Portland and finally – 20 years later – developing a taste for the ubiquitous Oregon IPA.

I needed to become one with the cycling.

I needed to develop a consistency with exercising more than just my drinking arm regularly.

And, there is effort involved.  I am investing in the process…and discovering that my original parts are simply wearing out.

The shins.  Not the band, the other ones.

The shoulder.  Nope, never gonna tell you what happened.

The knees.  Shut up, Diezel.

The back.  More shutting up, Diezel.

The bike tires.  What?  They just go flat for no reason.

Exercise these days is an exercise in making progress and then healing.

I need to – and am, I swear…or at least I’m making an effort to – develop a new sense of moderation in both my diet and exercise regimens.  What worked in the past no longer works for my pushing 50 self.  I need to get my routine to the point where it’s making progress and then recovering not healing.

But…I’m remembering an old guy that Twink Me used to see at the 24 Hour in Long Beach.

And I am beginning to understand his wisdom.

Stay tuned.

Ok, maybe I meant that a nearly 4000 word blog entry would flesh out some of the history I have with my relationship with fitness.  My longest post so far.  Thank you so much for reading.  I’m flattered by the time you put into checking into my little corner of the internet.  Feel free to share, if you like it, maybe your friends will, too!

Now, I think it’s dinner time for Myrtle and myself, chicken and broccoli for me and Mediterranean Feast for her.

Created In My Own Image

One thought on “Created In My Own Image

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