The great thing about going to a big school like Boston University is that we have great recreational facilities. Nickerson Field, the Case Center, the Track and Tennis Center, the fourth floor bathrooms of SMG — I’m a fan of all of them. But the most astounding and amazing place on campus has to be FitRec: two huge swimming pools, two floors of weights, machines and treadmills, an indoor track, basketball courts, squash courts, exercise rooms, a rock wall and those courts where international kids play indoor soccer — not to mention the Sargent classrooms and the glorious smoothie bar.
So there’s no excuse for being fat at BU. We should all be supermodels winning the Miss Universe pageant.
But in the eyes of the overly self-aware fat man, FitRec is a nightmare. It’s the sixth grade pool party, the clown under the bed, Dante’s fifth circle of Hell. If you’re fat, basically any gym — not just FitRec — is the worst place on earth. But not for the reasons one would normally think.
A lot of people assume that if a guy is fat, it’s because he doesn’t like to exercise. This just isn’t true. Nobody likes to exercise, at least no one I like. If you genuinely like to jog, lift or are just really into health, chances are I don’t care for you as a person. If you’re like the rest of us, however — you know, “normal” — then you know what I’m talking about. Working out is a pain in the ass but (alas) it’s the only way to stay healthy. And it feels great once you finally finish a workout — a runner’s high and a lack of oxygen really gets me in the mood to listen to Pink Floyd.
Fat guys don’t hate the gym because they hate working out. In all honesty, we like the feeling of accomplishment we get when we’ve finished running on the treadmill for all of five minutes. It really takes the guilt out of the steak burrito from Chipotle — more room for sour cream.
But you have to understand how a fat guy sees himself in the context of a place like FitRec. We’re intruders. We feel as if we’re not supposed to be there. Why? Because everyone looks great working out and we look like crap. What’s more, we think everyone is gawking at us while we look like crap. “Who let the bridge troll in here?”
The real problem is not being at the gym, but being seen at the gym. We don’t use the elliptical machines because they’re easier or because that’s where all the pretty girls are. We use them because it’s easier to blend in and not be noticed. The same is true for the first floor weights section — where fewer people means fewer judgmental eyes. Our fear of being seen comes from a skewed and self-conscious sense of what we look like compared to the rest of you skinny people. It’s just a fact that skinny people look good exercising and fat people do not. We look out of place and consequently we actually feel incredibly uncomfortable. Parts of our body that are meant to remain covered are revealed. Nothing about it is appealing. In our minds, we look like a block of congealed chicken soup that’s been sitting in the fridge for four days.
Put that image next to the girl wearing hot pants and has been running on the elliptical for 45 minutes — are you starting to see why the FitRec is actually Hell?
Now, in reality no one is paying attention. They’re all focused on their own workout. But there lingers a nagging doubt that maybe the girl behind you is staring at your fat calves and it’s making her want to puke. Suddenly you feel guilty for offending people just by being around and, all you want to do is go buy some unsalted pita chips. Our self-consciousness about how we look is completely exposed at the gym and it’s only getting worse as gym culture continues to evolve. The latest trend is to get dressed up when you go to the gym — ladies, you know who you are. Designer workout clothes, makeup and perfect looking hair — why do you have to make the rest of us more self-conscious than usual? It just upsets me. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good and wanting to have other people see you that way. But don’t dress up at the expense of others’ self-esteem.
It just makes the gym that much more hostile a place for those who want to get healthy. And if you think about it, it’s really unfortunate that the gym is so scary for fat guys because it’s the one place we really need to be.
So please, beautiful skinny people, for our sakes, put on the grey sweatshirt you bought at Walmart and look like a shlub — just for an hour. Then you can go back to being beautiful in the real world. Otherwise my kind will feel too intimidated to come to the gym and we’ll have to do P90x in our living rooms. And I am not that agile.
Sandor Mark is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a weekly columnist for the Daily Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.