Everything is so bright and shiny when you first enter; the white plating of the machines, the glimmer of silver beams, the electric glow from the monitors. From the outside, the wide windows offer a glimpse into a world where everything is fresh and polished, and from the inside create a cascade of sunlight that bathes everything insight with a healthy glow. Each apparatus offers its unique use, beckoning to be abused. Each can help you achieve your goals. It is all at your disposal with a wave of a card. Everyone around you looks fabulous; you can tell they belong from their peak physique.
This place of worship is a staple part of any community. It is, of course, the gym. Within these hallowed halls you can build and tone, do cardio and Tae Bo, and perfect the temple that is your body. But for gay men, it is our church, the holy place we got to find absolution from carbohydrates, where our innocence is baptized in bulimia and steroids, and where we flock to pursue salvation and perfection. It is where we find self validation through comparison, and inadequacy through vision. Where we once sought refuge to break stereotypes has now become a nexus to perpetuate the myth of our narcissism.
The original appeal was simple; the gym offered a place to train our bodies, so that one day at our high school reunion, we could show Billy Weston how we had traded our garish glasses for bulging biceps while he had traded his pigskin for a paunch. It is where we could go to transform ourselves from the oppressed Urkels to envied Adonises. With every pound of iron we pumped, we were not just increasing muscle mass, but inflating our self-esteem to recover from the damage dad dealt when he made us throw a ball. Much like Pat Benatar and her menacing cadre of prostitutes, we would show the world that we were strong, and that no one could tell us that we were wrong. We were given the chance to change our status from victimized weaklings to master of our physical domains.