Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pumpin Iron... Again

A long long time ago, in a very far off land, I wrote a blog about lifting weights with very nice, yet condescending Indian men (click here).

Things have changed. I'm no longer in the same life circumstance, but I find myself frequenting gyms... still... you would have thought I would be cured by now.

No such luck.

So, now I'm going to American gyms. The place I currently have a membership at is called the Kroc center. It's a mega building. Inside this modest behemoth of a shelter lies two swimming pools (a competition pool and a “fun” pool), an indoor track, a climbing wall, a weight room, an aerobic room, various fitness studios, a giant auditorium, a church and three basketball courts (I'm sure I'm missing things... oh yes there is a coffee shop too).

Currently, I would like to focus on the basketball courts. They are great. I played basketball in high school and following graduation was pretty sure I would never partake in the game again. I was tired of it. I moved on to other, better things. Like Bike Riding, swimming, needle work etc.

But, like an ill advised love affair with a rich golfer, I just couldn't give up basketball. So, after two months of longingly glancing at the Kroc's basketball courts I took the plunge. I went to shoot hoops.

It was a steep 'remembering' curve. I was rusty, but luckily it comes back pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I was never that skilled to begin with, so there just wasn't a whole lot to come back.

But I did remember how much I loved the sport. And something else changed. I wasn't competitive about it anymore. Sure, I love to win. And I work hard to beat whatever team I'm playing against. But I don't care. I don't have anything invested. My team wins... great. We lose... great.

This is new. In high school I cared. Deeply. I was intense. I was competitive. I once got in a fight during a game.

Now, when people talk shit to me I don't really care. I'll do my best, and we will see how it works out.

And there is a lot of shit talking.

In sharp contrast to my experience in the Indian gym, most men at the Kroc aren't interested in talking to you, or helping you. This doesn't mean they are unfriendly. I've met some great guys there. But something happens when us males begin lifting weights, or playing basketball. Some switch is turned. We take one step closer to being just pure animals, fighting over a slab of mammoth or something.

Of course, it's all nicely contained. It's all based around this game called “basketball”. People don't completely lose it and rip each others throats out. It's still civilized. But you can see the darker side of it. The pure aggression and ferocity.

And you know what? That is part of the reason I love going. It's a chance to just run all of that out of myself. To get all that latent aggression out in a safe, socially acceptable manner. As opposed to a dangerous, socially acceptable manner, like free climbing, or the running of the bulls.

And so far, I haven't let it get personal. I get aggressive, I dive for the ball, I push people, but it's not personal. None of it. And I don't let it effect my feelings (so far). I don't associate the intensity of the situation with a person.

So many of the men there do. It's personal to them. Either they are blaming another player or they are blaming themselves. You can see it. And it gets heated. Fights have almost started. Elbows have been thrown (it's when you hit someone with your elbow, not actually throwing elbows at each other... that would be sick).

And I guess that is all part of it. So far I haven't gotten sucked in. I don't think I will. I'm going to keep it all in it's proper perspective.

Seeing this reality in American gyms and contrasting it with Indian gyms makes me wonder what causes this huge difference. The best explanation I can come up with is that as a culture we are more aggressive and driven to succeed. So, when us American men (I'm just focusing on men, because as of yet, I haven't been cussed out by a woman) go work out, we carry over this aggressive, success driven mentality.

Meanwhile, our Indian counterparts are saving dumb white kids from falling metal bars...

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