Steroids or ecstasy? Maybe GBH? The many daily decisions of a male model.
The Gym life is a strange life. It is not a natural fit with my typically easy breezy motif. It is indoors and sweaty and smells like a perversion of the spirit. House of Pain plays at loud volume. But I knew that I would have to work. My will is strong enough to obtain a lover and an agent but it is not strong enough to make my muscles grow while sipping ’61 Imperials under a palm.
I stared, confusedly, at the pulley machines, rowers, dumbbells, barbells, stairclimbers, stationary bikes and thought, “Fifteen pounds of muscle but how? If I ride the stationary bike don’t I lose weight? If I row what happens? Bigger shoulders smaller chest?”
A kindly trainer approached and I told him my dilemma and what I needed. He spent the next hour explaining somatotype, set point theory, the ratio between intensity and volume and stress. He told me that I needed stress, barking, “Zero impact, zero stress, zero adaptation.”
I needed to stress to adapt my 160 pounds into 175. Then he pointed at the bench press.
That first set felt like the end of the world. My arms quivered as I lifted the bar off of the rack and lowered it to my chest. Blood coursed through my temples. “Breathe,” my trainer barked. He had me do push-ups, as many as I could, in between each bench set and then gave me a sledgehammer and told me to hit a giant monster truck tire outside. I was dying. House of Pain implored me to jump around but I could not. I could not jump around.
And when I really could take no more he gave me a towel and his congratulations and then made me drink a protein milkshake. I vomited it away in the bushes outside. That night I could not sleep. Every muscle ached and the next day they ached worse and the next next day worse still, but I had another gym appointment and so I forced myself out of catatonia and back into the end of the world. I would not be undone by physical discomfort. Anne Bronte once wrote, “But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” I craved the rose and would grasp the thorn. I needed 15 pounds of damned muscle and, if it meant catwalk and print campaign and doe eyes then I would suffer. I would fight through affliction and brutes wearing Affliction.
Onyx played at loud volume.
I worked on my legs, this time, squatting and whatnot. During a brief rest I asked my trainer how long it would really take to get my muscles. He told me six weeks. It hurt to hear and it hurt, again, when I drank my protein shake and it hurt yet again when I went to bed and could not sleep. But I could not stop now because stopping now would be admitting defeat, ceding the beautiful ground to others. No, I would do the work. I would fight.
The days stretched into weeks and after five I had put on seven pounds of muscle. I was constantly sore. I did not feel, at first, that I was growing but sometimes I would catch glimpses of myself in a mirror and see swells that had previously been absent. I would flex. It was working but it was working so damned slowly. My trainer had lied. This was going to take longer than six weeks. It was going to take 10-plus, if current projections held.
One day I was so frustrated that I punched my treadmill’s “energy output” screen. The well-ish built man running next to be asked me what my deal was. I told him, “I’m not getting big enough fast enough. Opportunities are passing me by.”
He guffawed, “I got a guy.”
“Who does what?” I replied.
“Fucking HGH,” he responded.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
This is what I needed. I was not seeking to wear the maillot juane in the Tour de France for even one second. I was seeking to become beautiful. I took the man’s business card and forwent the protein shake on the way out.
Later, I called a male model friend and asked him how many in our business (it was now ours) do HGH or steroids. He told me, “Not many steroids or other supplements that I am aware of. Everyone is using cocaine, GHB and ecstasy. Doing all the drugs and getting sucked into the nightlife. It is almost as if the agent is the dealer telling us we need to play the game and to be social and mingle with the power players in our industry.” (Yes. Our industry).
I thanked him for his candour and realised, of course they do not need HGH. They have won the genetic lottery.