By Alex Berger
There I was, singing in the shower, when Gloria suddenly and deliberately barged in, parted the shower curtain, viewed me in my altogether, glanced at my expanse and horrifically exclaimed, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing! Tomorrow you and your midriff are paying a visit to the health club.”
So the next day, with Gloria leading the way, I began one of the most disturbing and distressing experiences of my lifetime.
Following registration at the Queens health club, Gloria patted my inflated belly and pointed me toward the men’s locker room. Upon entering that elbow-to-elbow inner sanctum, I was immediately enveloped by males of every shape, form and dimension, prancing around in their birthday suits. And what most of them had in common were muscles, muscles and more muscles.
Why, even their muscles had muscles. I sheepishly undressed, hiding myself behind the door of my locker when laughter rang out. One of the behemoths noticed the noticeable bulge of my “abs” — that means “the stomach area” in gym talk. I was so humiliated I quickly dressed and ran to Gloria, who was waiting outside.
“Gloria, I don’t like this place. Let’s go home,” I implored.
“Nonsense,” Gloria answered. “But to make you feel more comfortable, I’m going to buy a pair of chartreuse-colored gym shorts — just like the boxer shorts you wear for good luck whenever you’re faced with a complex problem.”
So she brought me a spiffy, chartreuse-colored pair of gym shorts and it was off to the health club once again. I was beaming with confidence when we arrived. Gloria saluted me for my act of courage in returning. This time, with shoulders squared, head held high and eyes blazing with defiance, I was ready for the big time.
But, alas, misfortune awaited me. As I sat down to change, I was nearly smothered by a gentleman’s mountain of flesh as he was bending over me from the adjacent bench stark naked. It was not a pretty sight, but I was reminded of my mother’s words of wisdom: When is a fat man happiest? When he sees a person fatter than himself.
So I laughed out loud.
Mr. 5-by-5 then proceeded to walk to the full-size mirror, still naked, to blow dry his hair from head to toe — literally. Ugh! I would rather have been watching Barney Frank doing the Twist. After a few minutes of this unsolicited horror, I threw him a towel. He merely smiled and continued to parade around in the buff. The scene was too much for my shell-shocked eyes to further behold, so I ran out again.
“Gloria, there’s a fleshy guy in there that everyone’s laughing at and I’m afraid they’ll laugh at me, too.”
“Pay no attention to him or the others,” Gloria said. “Just remember: The boundary between nakedness and immodesty in a locker room is a tricky one. Everyone there has to take his clothes off before exercising and preening is practically a bedrock of gym culture. Every time anyone lifts a weight or pedals a bicycle, he will at one point gaze at his reflection, in head-to-toe glory, and bask at the sight. Asking the flasher to cover up will get you nowhere.
“He doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong and enjoys strutting around as much as movie actors do.
“It’s a locker room, after all, so just grin and let him ‘bare’ it if he must. He probably thinks you are a wimp, so show him up by going back in there a winner!”
Well, I steadfastly and resolutely re-entered, still in my spiffy, chartreuse-colored shorts and, despite Mr. 5-by-5’s continued naked antics I observed from the corner of my eye, I made it safely to a treadmill.
An elderly, gray-bearded gentleman was on the next machine and we exchanged greetings. I fleetingly glanced at his speed gauge. He was walking at a 2.5 pace. Not to be outdone by this senior citizen, I also set my gauge at 2.5 and began walking briskly. I observed a sneer and there was Mr. Gray Beard increasing his speed to 3.0.
“Humph,” I said to him and increased my acceleration to 3.5 and began jogging, whereupon the old goat upped his to 4.0. Panting and wheezing, I left in bitter defeat.
A few days later, as I was sitting at home, morose and forlorn, I heard a knock. A treadmill was delivered. I jubilantly kissed Gloria, got into my spiffy gym shorts and began work to win my battle of the bulge.
Contact Alex Berger at email@example.com.