"Of course, you're a jock," said a colleague of mine, a man in his fifties, like me working out in the gym around 8 am.
What part of this statement, I wondered, was most absurd? The classification as a jock, the certainty of that "of course," or the fact that this was evidence of a further assumption that my over-indulgence on the 4th of July surely would not be any concern to me, jock that I am and, therefore, easily shedding pounds with all my athletic endeavors--if such things as calories could even stick to such things as me.
Would anyone who knew me from elementary school through my freshman year of high school have put me down as a jock? That pudgy kid whose central competitive endeavor in all athletic occurences was vying to not be the last one chosen? Oh wait, I forgot desultory jogs with the junior high track team before going over with the shot and discus kids--where I was also hopeless (I was only in track because my friends were--I was never in danger of scoring even a single point for the team).
Or in high school, the skinny, nerdy kid who did band, choir, drama and--for crying out loud--quiz bowl? Who didn't take up a sport until his junior year and then took up tennis, the sport that at most public schools--and mine was no exception--contains the lowest concentration of actual athletes? Would any of my classmates have dreamed that I might ever be "a jock," much less classify me as such back then?
Nor was I ever, in college, mistaken for such a creature. Nor in graduate school. When I finally put on muscle in my mid-to-late 20s, I sheathed it in sufficient fat that I still wasn't likely to fool any jocks into accepting me into their fraternity, not even as a has-been.
And so it was faintly astounding to hear myself proclaimed a jock with such certainty. But then, I was talking to this man in the weight room, where he's seen me before, and it just so happened that after completing that workout (chest and back, plus abs), I would come back later in the day for a second workout (plyometrics), and then spend over 2 hours on the tennis courts later that night.
Maybe the idea wasn't as crazy as I thought.
Part of it, no doubt, is that thanks to diet and exercise I am leaner now than I have been at any time in the past decade. I'm not prepared to say "stronger," but I'm probably at least close on that score. Around the first of the year, I was at my heaviest ever, at 200 pounds, but since then I've dropped 30 (give or take, depending on the day).
Perhaps it's the weight of the years upon me, yet even though I can see how someone attach that label to me, I have a hard time fitting my mind into that role, fraught as it is with so many other assumptions: a "dumb jock," a big, insensitive brute, a physical presence with little intellect or depth. I know, of course, that those stereotypes aren't true--in fact, despite not being one, I was friends with a number of people who would naturally have drawn the label jock and even embraced it, while still being good students and decent people. Well, at least one or the other. But my point is that I might suddenly be in serious danger of being stereotyped. I will henceforth be unlikely to get any respect for my opinions unless the conversation is about protein, creatine, l-glutamine, or another non-rhyming sports supplement, or about the proper way to perform a squat or deadlift.
Or, as the colleague who sparked this blog entry did, people may assume that I will be competing in such things as the triathlon that's coming up next summer. Which means I have to either come up with a good lie ("I lost my left kidney in a triathlon once and vowed never to do another. Even though, naturally, I won, even as I left one of my kidneys somewhere on the course.") or admit that my 25-pound dog who's a little nervous around water--and won't go in for anything less than chasing a duck--is a far better swimmer than I am.Seriously: if there was a club swim team for adults, I wouldn't be on it; a club drowning team, I could probably captain it. For one meet, anyway.
And if I admit things like that very many times, I will--you understand--lose all credibility as a jock.