If you really think about it, the gym is strange.
It’s a place where humans are encouraged to divorce themselves from the higher functioning and more cerebral tasks of society, and are instead told to tap into their most base and animal instincts. It’s space dedicated to physicality, where the NATURAL (but highly gendered) ORDER is continually reinforced in the interest of motivating you to LIFT HEAVY THINGS and RUN IN PLACE.
As such, it’s also a petrie dish of some truly bizarre behaviour. I prefer to go to the gym early because toxic masculinity tends to stay in bed until at least 10am, but even in the wee hours, you’ll find at least a few… characters.
So use this as a guide to just some of the oddballs you’ll meet at the gym, and enjoy. Maybe you are one of these individuals, in which case… well, congrats? Or maybe you know them, and this list will fill you with pangs of recognition. Friend! You’re not alone in your suffering because I am suffering, too.
1. THE PEACOCK. This fella is all about the masculine posturing. Inhabiting space, whether it be physical or aural, is key to the peacock’s existence. Maybe he’s super muscular and already takes up a significant amount of space, or maybe he’s tiny and overcompensating. Either way, he’s in the gym, he’s working hard, and he wants you to KNOW IT. Maybe this means he’s projecting his voice across the gym floor like a cast member of the Broadway revival of RENT. Maybe he’s dropping his weights on the floor like he’s auditioning for The Incredible Hulk standalone. Or maybe he’s pacing around his workout space like a caged animal, clearing a full ten feet in all directions, flexing or aggressively texting, and covering every single nearby bench and mat with clothes, or water bottles, or foam rollers, or lifting belts. This dude is a MAN who inhabits SPACE and wants to be SEEN. I mean, isn’t he so strong and masculine? WOW.
2. THE SEXUAL OVERSHARER. Yes, yes. “Locker room talk.” But this particular individual doesn’t just confine the details of his sexual encounters to the locker room. Oh, hell no. Everywhere is fair game, and every moment is an opportunity for a very adult kind of peacock-ing. The lobby, the pool, the children’s play area, the weight room floor… It really doesn’t matter to this individual, as long as there is an audience. And it certainly doesn’t matter if there are women around. He’ll talk about the date he went on last night with the Russian stewardess who likes to give _____________, or how much he hates his ex-wife because she wouldn’t ___________ or the “girl” at the office who has nice ___________ or how much he wants to ____________ her ___________, ____________ and ________. It’s like Mad Men meets Entourage meets Donald Trump on a hot mic.
(And super weird how a dude who looks like a melted candle gets so much ass, amirite? Couldn’t possibly be overcompensation. Hell no.)
3. THE BRO. “Hey, Bro! Bro! Bro. Bro. Bro. See that, Bro? BRO! BRO! No way, Bro. Sick, Bro. Bro!”
4. THE GUY WHO DOES EXACTLY THE SAME EXERCISE AS YOU, BUT RIGHT NEXT TO YOU WITH FIVE MORE POUNDS. Oh, I see you there. We’re probably at a similar fitness level, but maybe you haven’t been lifting as often, or you are focusing on a different muscle group today. Either way, you see someone in your weight class (or smaller) who is doing something impressive, and you think to yourself, “Well, I can do that.” So you set up right next to me, don’t warm up, put on an identical amount of weight plus five to ten additional pounds, and then crank out like five reps smugly. CONGRATS! You did it. You beat me. I mean, I’m like four sets in, and am doing this exercise at the end of an hour-long workout, but I definitely want to commend you for how much stronger you are than me in this isolated display of masculinity.
5. THE PERV. The gym is an environment where folks are in a) various states of undress, b) fit, and c) doing strenuous activities that make them sweat, and moan, and call attention to their physicality. So this is the perfect environment in which to gawk, take creeper photos, or get handsy if you’re asked to spot someone, right? Or maybe stalk the showers like Norman Bates on a bender? Or hide behind the weight machine like a squirrel in the park and peer out every time the cute guy/girl does a squat? Get that nut, little squirrel. Also? Don’t be that guy. Read the vibe. And *please* don’t take photos of people without their permission.
6. THE MOANER. Yes, lifting weights requires exertion and coordinated breathing. And if you’re pushing past your max weight, you may let out a grunt or two. That’s perfectly acceptable. But, like, I don’t know any gym-related exercise that requires you to moan like a performer in a Bang Bros video. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I shouldn’t have to worry that there is an orgy just out of my sightline on the gym floor. I also highly doubt you’re putting that much into your bench.
7. THE CHATTY CATHY. You go to a specific gym enough, you’ll probably make a few friends along the way. But this individual is… different. It’s never just casual conversation. It always goes on too long, and possibly too personal. You start chatting with them about the latest movie, and ten minutes later you find yourself giving them career advice. And even as you make physical cues that you’d like to continue your workout, they KEEP GOING. This individual is also never doing any form of strenuous exercise, but seems parked in a place that will maximize their contact with other individuals. IT’S A TRAP.
8. THE “I DID THAT ONCE” GUY WHO ACTUALLY NEVER DID THAT. It starts as a compliment about your form, or your strength, and quickly turns into a series of tips on how to improve your form and strength. Because they used to do that thing you’re doing, but with way more weight and like twenty years ago. Until a tragic accident sidelined them. Mind you, this individual was never a professional athlete, and no photographic evidence exists to suggest that they were ever in vastly different or superior shape, but who cares? That doesn’t stop the mansplain, right?
9. THE BABY BOOMERS ON THE MAT. “Stretching the quads again, Bill? Where’s Frank? Oh. Hear about that Trump fella in the States? He’s doing a good job, huh. Getting rid of those immigrants. Not like that queer Obama. Also, I don’t believe any of the fifty women accusing Cosby of sexual assault. You know women. Always lying. Like my ex-wife and that black girl at the front desk.”
10. THE GUY WHO WANTS TO SHARE HIS MUSIC WITH YOU. Well, not really. But, boy, is that music blasting out of those headphones. Like, it might as well not be headphones. You should just plug them into the gym PA so everyone can enjoy Metallica or Eminem or whatever other band is on the Toxic Masculinity Top Ten. Hype.
11. THE YELLING AND SWEARING DUDE WHO COULD BE HYPING HIMSELF UP OR IS POSSIBLY HAVING A MENTAL HEALTH EPISODE, BUT NOBODY CAN TELL. Self-explanatory. Avoid eye contact, because this can go south real fast. Trust me.
12. THE “I’M NOT GAY, BUT…” GUY. “Hey man! Nice to see you again. Looking good! Keeping it tight. I mean, I’m not gay or anything! Ha, ha. But nice ass, though. Want me to give you tips on your form? Okay, maybe you should push your butt out. Yeah, like that. More… more… perfect. You must drive the ladies wild! Hot guy like you. I mean, I’m not gay or anything. I just love women. They are so sexy. With their breasts and hair and their other parts. You love women, too, I bet. Love to take your clothes off and get naked with them. Expose those pecs and that ass, huh? Show ’em who’s the boss, right? Nice thick beard you got there. I mean, I’m not gay or anything. I just want to grow a beard. Can I touch it? Ooooooh, nice. Say, do you ever use the whirlpool downstairs? I mean, maybe we can go together? Not in a gay way, though. Just to have sex with each other.”
13. THE WALKING, TALKING SELFIE. Look how fit I am, you guys. Here’s a photo of me on the gym floor, not lifting weight or on a machine, but standing coyly in front of a mirror in some impeccably branded fitness wear. Or maybe I’m in the change room shirtless, contorting my chest under the fluorescent lights and at the perfect angle to emphasize my pecs and abs. I just want you to know that this is a photo that really represents my journey from a dark place in my life to a position of enlightenment, and that I appreciate you guys supporting me. Also, this will definitely be my Grindr profile pic. #fitnessgoals, right?
I mean, what’s the point in doing anything if other people can’t immediately see and validate it?