When I first met Tom, he was more or less “in shape.” He ran five to six miles a few times a week around London, and before that, Manhattan. He also lifted weights at the gym. Two weeks after we met, he hiked the Grand Canyon with his friend Anh and sent me a photo.
He was wearing a sleeveless shirt, pretending to read R.L. Stine’s Red Rain,* which I’d given him, the Grand Canyon doing its thing in the background.
“Whoa,” said my friend, who happened to be visiting, “Tom’s buff!”
“Yeah, I guess so,” I shrugged. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it,
I didn’t and still don’t like when guys are too buff. To me it implies they spend too much time looking in the mirror and not enough time reading, thinking, or making money to support their bum girlfriends. The first few times I met Tom in the flesh, he was always wearing a shirt with sleeves and looked like a normal if somewhat lean man. In the photo however, it was clear he spent some time working out.
That was four years ago.
Since then, Tom has let himself go. I was going to say, “slowly,” but he swiftly implemented a few changes once back from London. Inactive action at its finest. He stopped running in Manhattan because he’d done the Central Park loop and the West Side Highway too many times to count, and cancelled his membership to the
New York Sports Club Crunch Fitness.
At first, I didn’t notice too much. Tom is naturally lean, with a metabolism some people take drugs for. Between the two of us, I was clearly lazier and more out-of-shape. Tom likes hiking and biking and while there isn’t much hiking to do around Manhattan, he enthusiastically gave up a monthly subway pass for an annual Citibike key and forced me to sign up as well. Once, we biked the six-mile loop around Central Park in under forty-five minutes and my lungs burned for hours afterward, until we ate a giant sour-cream-laden Mexican feast. To me, living in New York as a driverless peasant was exercise enough. To me, Tom was “very active.”
Two years into our relationship, I revisited that photo of Tom at the Grand Canyon.
“Your arms,” I said one night, looking first at the photo and then at Tom, and then back at the photo. It seemed the person I was dating was not who I thought he was.
“You’ve lost your biceps.”
He looked down from the crossword at his arms, “Ah yes. I’ve shriveled a bit.”
I didn’t think I minded, but the change was pronounced. No one looking at Tom now, with or without sleeves, would use the word, “Buff.”
“Maybe you should start working out again,” I poked him where a bicep once stood.
“Naw, bruh, I look good.”
Now, two years later, I saw the photo again. Tom’s arms have softened even further while I have, uncharacteristically, joined ClassPass and discovered the joys of pilates, which is essentially working out while lying down. I’m probably not doing it right but I can say things like, “I work out.”
Two weeks ago our friend Kumar agreed to take a boxing class with me, and suggested Tom come along. I have tried for the past three months to get Tom to join me but to no avail. Kumar suggesting the same thing was apparently all the motivation he needed. I rolled my eyes. Whatever works.
A few hours before class, Kumar checked in with Tom.
“I just realized I don’t have shoes,” Tom texted.
“I’ll bring them from home,” I said.
“No, I don’t have any workout shoes. I threw them out in Australia.”
That was in January. Tom and our friend Paul did a crazy one-day hike in the Blue Mountains, after which his sneakers were too beaten up and muddied to warrant their return, which meant…
“You haven’t worked out since Australia.” Kumar pointed out.
Tom did not make the boxing class. He also has yet to purchase new workout shoes. But at least he doesn’t have to worry about buying new pants. In case you’ve forgotten, Tom bought unisex A.P.C. jeans two years ago in one size down from his usual, since they were known to stretch considerably over time.
“They were way too tight, so I never wore them,” Tom said, “But maybe I’ve shriveled enough to comfortably fit into them now.”
Happy Thursday, and thanks for reading.