In this post, I would like to explore my obsession with the perfect male physique and the internal conflict that this obsession creates with how I view myself.
The truth is, I spent a significant chunk of my teenage years, and later my adult life, obsessed with the idea of the perfect male body, and thus the role it played in making a man a man. In further truth, I am still battling with this masculine image in my mind today. I have always associated muscles, athleticism, and confidence with being a man. But of course, there must be more to what makes a man than his physical body. I know I am missing other important pieces. But this constant fear of my body being inadequate, weak and not sexy always haunted me. I will admit, this fear has gotten better with age, maturity and life experience. But I still struggle with my body not being good enough, and thus fearing I am failing in my role as a man.
Even scarier, what if it is my fault that my body is not more masculine or muscular? If I wasn’t so scared of the intensity of sports, competition, and masculine roughness than maybe I could have been more athletic and come across as more calm and collected. Maybe then I would have looked and acted more like a man.
In what felt like a side effect to all of this, the images I never felt I was living up to, the ones in my mind that were the most different from me, became the things I lusted for and desired. Football players with their silent intensity, and perfectly developed chests because erotic. I began playing ‘Where’s Waldo?’ games out in public, peeling my eyes for glimpses of the strong masculine back leading up to a pair of ripped arms extending from a sleeveless shirt, or a perfect ass reflected in cargo shorts leading down to strong muscular calves. Sweaty muscles, bulging biceps, and washboard abs became things that I would never have, but which would fill me with endless envy and obsession.
Straight men will never understand how torturous simply going to the gym can be for a gay man. I do not mean to over dramatize, but I’ve always been nervous about staring too much. If someone noticed me staring at them I could get my ass kicked or at the very least be shunned as not ‘one of the guys’ and in fact queer. All gay men have done it, as they rest between sets, they try not to make it obvious that their eyes are longingly gazing at the sexy bodies all around them pushing their bulging muscles to their limits. And what about changing in the locker room? The anxiety mixed with excitement of catching a god like body as it undresses, or exits the shower drying off and wrapping a towel around his waist…it is exhausting just thinking about it. While viewing these male bodies is fun, it always made me feel separate from something I wished that I was. These bodies where not mine. I was never sure if I saw this same raw masculine power and sexuality in myself.
This brings us to a confusion I began to struggle with my freshman year of college. At what point does longing to be this masculine, perfect male body, turn into wanting to have sex with this masculine, perfect male body? There was a point where I honestly convinced myself that I wasn’t gay. I convinced myself that I was misinterpreting my not feeling masculine enough, my longing to physically be manlier, for an attraction to men. Maybe I was confusing this ‘something missing’, for a sexual attraction towards those I envied and wanted to be. Where is the line between these two things? Where does one begin and the other end? Or do they overlap? Does this confusion make sense? Can anyone out there relate to what I am saying?
Do I want to become the perfect male specimen or do I want to sleep with him? I am really gay right?
So where do I fit in? Where am I at with all of this today?
I wish there was a simple answer to that question. I can tell you that writing this blog, thinking these thoughts out thoroughly, helps. This post has a lot to do with my past and who I was before I came out, but, if I am being honest, the fears and questions I included here are still a smaller part of Adam in the present. It helps to bring this all out into the light.
I can tell you that coming out has made me more confident in who I am as a man. I have been in a steady workout routine for almost two years now, so though my body is far from perfect, I feel stronger and more attuned with it than I ever have. These are all positive things. I am who I am, and at the end of the day, I can tell you that I am sincerely proud of the type of man I have become and that I am continuing to become. And I can tell you that none of us should allow ourselves to be haunted and tormented by an invisible, self-constructed ideal of what it means to be anything.
So, now I realize that I am attracted to certain types of male, physical masculinity. But I am also attracted to viewing myself in a similar physically masculine body, and that is okay. I can want these things for myself and for my partner at the same time. I am still working out all of the details, but I think as long as I try to be realistic in my expectations for myself and a significant other, then this will all turn out okay. After all, any type of unobtainable and unrealistic ideal placed too high on a pedestal can be unhealthy.
The older I get, the more I can envision walking off into my ‘happily ever after sunset’ within whatever body I have and with whatever vision of masculinity I project or lay next to at night. If I really think about it, my body’s outline, beside someone I love, would look fantastic in front of a beautiful sunset, just as it is, in whatever form it happens to take. And perhaps, Gentle Reader, complete self-acceptance is the real ideal we should all be striving for.