My muscles may be bulging from my neck down to my calves, but that doesn't mean my heart isn't soft.
All too often, people must look at me––a cool, fit guy who wears activewear to the office––and think, "Man, that guy looks like a raging d-bag." And sure, if you subscribe to an '80s high school movie mindset whereby pasty geeks are the resilient underdogs and large, thick lads are the brainless bullies, I can see why you'd pin me as the latter. But that's why I'm here to teach you a lesson, and it's not the kind where I stuff you in a locker.
People who go to the gym are human, and we have feelings, too. I repeat: Gym Bros have feelings. So next time you see a meaty gent in track pants and a breathable tee and get the sudden urge to punch them in the gut (emotionally), here are a few reasons to think again.
1. We lift to stay healthy.
Shutterstock/ IAKIMCHUK IAROSLAV
Many people mistakenly think that dudes who spend their mornings in the gym, and then talk about it for the entire day afterwards, are doing it to showboat (or peacock, as a zoologist might say). That might be true, but bragging about working out is just a secondary benefit of pumping iron. The main reason we lift is to stay healthy. When you worship in the Church of the Iron God, your body is the only temple you have. The stronger your body, the better you'll be at staving off illnesses and the detriments of old age. The higher your lung capacity, the longer you can blow kisses to your loved ones. Being healthy isn't just about taking care of yourself; it's about taking care of your family and friends, too. I bet that beefy slab of knowledge challenges your "selfish lifter" stereotype.
2. We just want to be loved.
No, not all of us look fully human. Our humongous shoulders jut out from our collar bones like meaty basketballs, and our strange veins that you probably didn't even know were contained in the human body are prone to random spasms. But the blood that flows beneath all the heft and vascularity is just as red as yours, and at the end of the day, all we want is to be loved (and to improve our lifts). This may come as a shock to you, but many of the gym's most confident bad boys were once insecure. I know I was. I viewed myself as a weak little potato, unworthy of affection. Hitting the gym didn't just sculpt my body; it sculpted my soul. The more pounds I could pick up off the ground, the worthier I felt I was. Now I view myself as an entire sack of potatoes, and the world is my McDonald's.
3. You really don't want to see a massive man cry.
If you really do insist on continuing to make fun of bulky boys in short shorts, there will be consequences, and those consequences will be you witnessing a massive man cry. Few things are as unsettling as watching the pulsating heave of fully sculpted lats, like a trembling mountain, coupled with the deep moan of a sobbing manly man. This is the true horror of hurting our feelings. Snot gets in our beards. It's really awful and really gross. Please don't make us do this.
So next time you're at work, on the train, or even at the gym, and you overhear a strong, veiny dude say, "WOW, I really could chug a peanut butter protein shake right about now," while prominently flexing, think before you judge him. Is he trying to brag? Absolutely. But as we say at the gym, dig deeper. What does he really want? To be his best self? To be loved? Try to spot the muscle man's soul. Only then can we form a connection between average potatoes and giant potato sacks.