Why am I spending time at the gym?

OK, the ships all have great little gyms . . . and it’s fun to try and walk three miles every morning on deck, but why, if . . .

THE NEW YORK TIMES, that great arbitrator of everything, points out that the “burgeoning potbelly” is in, hip and cool! AT LAST! I’m trendy!!

Too pronounced to be blamed on the slouchy cut of a T-shirt, too modest in size to be termed a proper beer gut, developed too young to come under the heading of a paunch, the Ralph Kramden is everywhere to be seen lately, or at least it is in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, the McCarren Park Greenmarket and pretty much any place one is apt to encounter fans of Grizzly Bear.

What the trucker cap and wallet chain were to hipsters of a moment ago, the Kramden is to what my colleague Mike Albo refers to as the “coolios” of now. Leading with a belly is a male privilege of long standing, of course, a symbol of prosperity in most cultures and of freedom from anxieties about body image that have plagued women since Eve.

Until recently, men were under no particular obligation to exhibit bulging deltoids and shredded abdominals; that all changed, said David Zinczenko, the editor of Men’s Health, when women moved into the work force in numbers. “The only ripples Ralph Kramden” and successors like Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” had to demonstrate were in their billfolds, said Mr. Zinczenko, himself a dogged crusader in the battle of the muffin top. “But that traditional male role has changed.”

As women have come to outnumber men in the workplace, it becomes more important than ever for guys to armor themselves, Mr. Zinczenko said, with the “complete package of financial and physical,” to billboard their abilities as survivors of the cultural and economic wilds.

This makes sense, in a way, but how does one account for the new prevalence of Ralph Kramdens? Have men given in or given up? Are they finished with asserting the privileges that have always accrued to men. Or is the Ralph Kramden Barack Obama’s fault?

Hipsters, by nature contrarian, according to Dan Peres, the editor of Details, may be reacting in opposition to a president who is not only, as the press relentlessly reminds us, So Darn Smart, but also hits the gym every morning, has a conspicuously flat belly and, when not rescuing the economy or sparring with Kim Jong-il, shoots hoops.

“If we had a slob in the White House, all the hipsters would turn into some walking Chippendales calendar,” Mr. Peres said. Instead, the streets of Williamsburg are crowded with men who are, as he noted, “proudly rocking a gut.” Mr. Peres’s magazine has a term for these people: the new “poor-geoisie.” But the people lining up for $13 lobster rolls at the Brooklyn Flea last weekend hardly looked as if they were worried about making the rent.

“I sort of think the six-pack abs obsession got so prissy it stopped being masculine,” is how Aaron Hicklin, the editor of Out, explains the emergence of the Ralph Kramden. What once seemed young and hot, for gay and straight men alike, now seems passé. Like manscaping, spray-on tans and other metrosexual affectations, having a belly one can bounce quarters off suggests that you may have too much time on your hands.

“It’s not cool to be seen spending so much time fussing around about your body,” Mr. Hicklin said.

Fashion in the Big Apple . . . or the Big Apple with the worm in it, Brooklyn.

What’s happened to the “metrosexual”? If I owned stock in a company pushing face creams and moisturizer and nail polish for metrosexuals, I’d either sell quickly or go gay.

When I worked for 24 Hour Fitness the trainers all told me that in reality I had a six-pack hidden under my fat belly. Unfortunately it never found its way out. And to all those guys who spent hours doing crunches . . .

One thought on “Why am I spending time at the gym?

  1. Well let’s see…if you walk three miles a day whether on deck or on a treadmill and then drink at night, it really doesn’t make much sense. Ou are defeating the purpose of exercising. Ditto for those who smoke. If you like the look of “dunlop”disease where your belly dunlops over your belt then you are “in” with the big belly look. Do women like that look…not really! Saying that because we are older is an excuse doesn’t really cut it either. You can be old and still be fit but the same goes for women as well. Blaming your extended stomach on low estrogen is a cop out. We all know as we get older it is harder to lose weight so we should be paying attention to those few extra pounds all along. Most people don’t gain weight overnight and they won’t get rid of it that way either. But if you are happy with your look that is all that counts. I do think though if people could see themselves in a three way mirror they would run to the gym and lay down the fork.

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