It was Independence Day! Invited by my friend, Alex, I went to the Freedom Beach Party at Laguna Beach. Knowing this would be a gay-ish occasion, I was expecting a fun celebration of our community. Who knew the event actually was an Annual Achievement Ceremony for Bodybuilding?
Alex led me down the stairs to the beach, and immediately I was struck by what came into my view: under the blazing sun, swarms of gorgeous male bodies inhabited along the ocean.
I passed by a volleyball court, watching the ball hit by monster arms the size of a huge roll of Bounty Paper Towels. I looked out on the beach. The firing sunlight kissed easy-to-draw abdominal muscles, as shimmering and reflective as the skin of a dolphin.
These Magic-Mike-looking bodies seemed delicate, unattainable, high-end, and prettier in every way — like every item you come across in a Whole Foods Market. 70% of the men on this beach would be marketed as Top Sirloin, lean and flawless and juicy, with shining silver skin. 28% of them would be ideal candidates for New York Strip, some fat throughout but still refined and sculpted in its texture.
I would fall into the last 2% category of “expiring goods.” Thin and inadequate and undesirable, my stature would be labeled as a bamboo shoot. Even the best copywriter could only come up with, “Organically grown in Taiwan, this bamboo shoot is more than bony!”
Looking at my withering triceps and shy, flat belly, I felt like I was a fearful soldier surrounded by an army of Spartan warriors, ready to be crushed anytime.
I felt small and powerless.
If those Spartans were to kill me, the only way to save my own life were to point out that how lucky it is that we are all homosexual. “I like exactly what you like too.” I’d plead, “Could you kindly spare my life so I would serve you in return?” Then, they would ruthlessly slay me, for they couldn’t understand my Taiwanese accent.
In my life, there are quite a few occasions I feel I am deposited to a place I don’t belong. Once, in a 19th-century Spanish style cowboy costume party, I looked at my cowboy costume, thinking, This doesn’t make sense. Back then we Asian people were too busying building railroads to even buy a cowboy hat. It was memorably weird.
Also on the long list of feeling displaced is whenever I realize how different my body image is from other people around me. Even if I think I am in an okay shape, a bunch of muscular dudes will make me an insecure Charlie Brown.
Am I too thin? Too skinny? Too yellow?
Should I cover my legs with long jeans? Should I pull up my sleeves to show my arms? Should I suck in my stomach to get the abs, worried that people might notice I just finish two pieces of Ralphs fried chicken?
Is my round face considered sexy, or just good enough, or forgettable? Should I take off my glasses so maybe my face will look more pencil-shaped?
Is my body still my body?
Alex invited me to the edge of the water. Though I’ve always felt violated by the sudden coldness of the ocean, the pressure to have fun pushed me to comply. I followed Alex into the water. While we dipped our toes into the wet, dark sand, Alex performed his usual duty as a loyal wingman: Watch guys around us and pick one and proclaim to me, “I found you a boyfriend! That white guy!” Alex jutted his chin out at a huge guy standing in the distance, talking to another guy.
Following Alex’s direction, I squinted at the dude Alex caught on — he had tender muscles that ran down either side of his spine, from neck to hip, so perfect to be true like a Tarzan, yet I hardly smiled.
“Huh, not impressed,” I grunted, looking at Tarzan who kept flirting with his cute friend.
“Being high maintenance is not gonna get you men,” Alex replied.
I said, “First, my ideal boyfriend should not have been talking to another guy.” I grimaced, “Second, if I am taking a bath, I don’t want to share it with a colossal boyfriend who probably would occupy the whole hot tub.”
Is this supposed to be a Freedom Beach Party? I wondered. My freedom to be a normal human being is deprived!
I was ready to move on to another subject, while Alex is the chatterbox who always continues the most impossibly dead-end conversation.
“Look at his package, his weapon! He will make your hole so big!!! Isn’t that what you have always wanted?” Alex, with door-to-door salesmen’s enthusiasm, provided this information like reading the “Product Feature” section of a new Apple product.
I could easily imagine the following conversation between a couple.
“Honey, I would be so-ooo happy if you could just buy me that Apple huge beefy guy for our anniversary,” the wife would say, “Tim Cook said it will conveniently make my down-there so big!”
I was not sold at all.
What really turned me off was that this muscle-bound guy who equipped himself with ridiculously big pectoral muscles and oddly small eyes wore an American-flag speedo with three red letters “USA” in the center of his butt.
Seriously? I know it’s the Fourth of July, and you love your country, but honoring your patriotism with your gigantic ass is undoubtedly something that makes me concerned. If we got married and I died, would you remember me by wearing my portrait between your round and firm cheeks? Then you would point at my face, enlarged by two of your symmetrical spheres, between your crack, and say to people at my funeral, “It’s so sad that Oliver never got to lose his baby fat.”
All that said, I admire the speedo guy, not only for his courage to wear his country on his beautiful lower body. Also for his perseverance.
If there is one thing harder than licking your own elbow, it would be bodybuilding.
It is not something you do to expect an immediate result. It takes time to transform into a John Cena. I have been working out a lot since last January, but after every gym session, I still look at myself in the mirror, murmuring, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, just kill me with a dumbbell.”
Why am I still the same person after five sets of the fucking chest press? When can I become Channing Tatum?
Working out is never a quick game. To play it well, you have to keep telling yourself, “Someday, I will be able to lift up a 100-pound barbell like one of those assholes!” That Tarzan guy — and all the other guys on this beach — play this game very well. It must have taken him lots and lots of workout sessions to grow his sturdy pole that will hold up a flying American flag. Probably with gallons of protein supplement milkshake too.
At best, that Tarzan is the hero I should learn from. At worst, he is just a dumb jungle beast.
Tarzan and his cute friend ran into the ocean. He then thrust himself in the waves with freestyle stroke. Surfacing the water, his American flag faced the bright blue sky. So brave and proud. Nothing to hide. Tarzan owned it. It was his grand gesture of dignity to worship the nation he belongs to. How noble of him to show his love for his country by being a power-bottom good citizen.
Alex turned to me and said, “I found you another boyfriend! That one. The Asian guy. With his orange ponytail.”
This time, this guy was much thinner, perhaps a Pacific-Islander.
I pondered, arm crossed, and said, “But he looked like a bamboo shoot!”