I started working out seriously about three years ago.
My mother once - famously, to those who know us, and somewhat paraphrased - said “Derek, rich people have Therapy. Poor people have confession. And occasional outbursts.”
And to that, I’d add: The gay children of the working class, having attained middle-classdom, retained their ability to talk incessantly about themselves, and yet not managed to shed the fear of facing the nugget of sadness deep in their history, have drugs. Or Three years of Working out, with a small series of epiphinae along the way.
I know why I hated sports as a kid: ‘Cos I’d be crap, and people would laugh at me. And Death would be preferable to mockery.
I’ve worked with a couple of trainers in the time, and I’ve learned from them – the same way I’ve learned from some managers in my professional life; just when you think “I Can’t…” you probably can. Just once. Or twice. But you can. You. Can.
Last week, I was placed in front of another man and told to “Punch him.”
No headguards. No coppers waiting to nab me if I, by some fluke, paralysed the fucker.
And I wanted to walk away. Wait; I wanted to RUN away. Cos this was gonna go bad; He’d punch my lights out, or I’d fall over, or I’d go all “Oooh, I broke a nail.”
But I stayed, ‘cos, really, running away wasn’t an option.
And, after one hundred and twenty seconds of the two of us waltzing in double time around the floor, contacting occasionally, and ducking – simultaneously at times – it was over.
And nobody laughed. And I hadn’t fled. And I’d hit him a few times, and taken, in return, a few enervating whacks, and I’d thought – once or twice – “Oh, that’s a bit fucking hard,” and gone right out to get him back, then learned – all this in 2 minutes – that rushing to vengeance was dumb, if it made you drop your guard; and I’d wanted, by the end of it all, to do it again – for longer, with more at risk, with some Fucking PUNCH in it! Yes, folks, I was – in my mind for a nanosecond – Jason Statham.
And this week, on a session at the local gym, my trainer has me running shuttle runs (which, by the end, are more shuttle plods) and lifting weights I think are “Pshaw there’s nothing to this weight,” til the twentieth or thirtieth rep, when – though it’s gossamer light – the muscles are screaming for release.
And I realise how supremely happy I am.
I see how much of my life has been wasted running away from what frightens me.
I understand that confronting – and running to punch, bruiser-hug, slap, deal – with what scares me might result in horrifying embarrassment, terrible bruises, sadness, and occasionally people laughing at me; but ultimately, the sheer thrill of living with the knowledge that I can stand there – in an awful attempt to ape the classic Boxers stance – and confront the fuckers, and not go down, no matter what, is liberating and life-enhancing.
And then I went home and played Kylie at full blast, just in case I got too butch.
I drink alcohol like W.C. Fields when they’ve just called last orders. I eat what I want, when I want. I could “make so much more” of myself if I undertook some chicken and raw beef diet, but I don’t want to.
‘Cos the changes I’m seeing – and the changes I’m feeling – are enough, for now.
I like being me. It’s not bad.
Now, which of you motherfuckers wants some of this?