If you were to do an image search for “the ideal man,” and you didn’t mind having that in your browser history, you would come upon image after image of jacked-up masculine figures of steel, sculpted and gleaming, tightly packed with muscles like human sausages. Oh, and Patrick Dempsey.
The ideal man is buff.
But here’s the thing: We need to give muscles a rest.
As a society, we’ve finally come around to talking about how a man should act, but we rarely talk much about how a man should look. We’re in an age of emerging gender equality, and it turns out men feel equally bad about their bodies as women.
Like women, men have a tough time living up to the ideal. For those without a hope of ever achieving that ideal – or, in my case, ever bothering to try – it can lead to feelings of inadequacy, doubts about masculinity and fears of getting smooshed, because those dudes are big!
So it’s very simple: for men to feel good about their average bodies, Channing Tatum has to go. It’s time to accept the fact that the hyper-muscled ideal is not only unrealistic but unnecessary.
I’m not talking about avoiding exercise or sitting like a lump at a desk doing nothing, which, as we know, leads to high risk of becoming a Canadian senator. I’m talking about no longer building muscles for the sake of building muscles.
For starters, spending hours at the gym solely to enhance one’s quadroplex or delton johns is a drain on productivity, time that could be spent contributing to the economy, volunteering for the arts or making me cookies.
It’s also not practical; in real life, there is rarely a pressing need for squats.
In ancient times, muscles had their place. Strength was survival. If you wanted something, you had to work physically hard for it. But we are no longer hunters and gatherers; we are shoppers and mortgagers.
Where once our leaders were the strongest in the tribe, today physical strength is hardly considered. Take the Prime Minister of Canada, for instance, a normal-sized human with otherworldly hair. Yes, we’ve seen the photos of him doing yoga poses (known as the Downward Deficit), but everyone knows that yoga muscles are only in your mind.
And the President of the United States is 98% cream cheese. Nothing he has done has been achieved through physical strength but rather through thugishness, opportunism, deception, collusion, lies, boorishness, petty-mindedness, pandering, division, stupidity, narcissism, self-interest and hairspray alone!
But, you say, muscles can still contribute to survival, for instance if you were thrown off a ship in the middle of the ocean. Sure, those muscles might allow you to tread water for an extra hour, but it would only prolong the inevitable, for the sea will have its way and drag you into its watery crypt. So I guess you’re sorry now you ticked off those Kurdish sailors with the joke about the mung beans, aren’t you?
More proof that enhanced muscles aren’t necessary? Women can do anything men can do; women are less muscular than men; therefore anyone can do anything without muscles! That’s logic, just like it’s logical that many muscular women will now challenge me to arm wrestle.
In the end, why do we need six-pack abs when one pack will do, or even box-of-wine abs?
As a flimsy man, I can attest that most all basic human functions can be performed with only everyday muscles, including raking, shovelling, child rearing, home repair and marathon back rubs with no expectations of reciprocal sex.
Need to move something heavy? Call a friend! Social interaction is good for you, therefore living muscle-free improves quality of life, as well as the chances of borrowing a truck.
There are other benefits of having moderate to zero muscles: the ability to snake one’s arm up a drainpipe to retrieve a set of dentures (it happens); hiding exceptionally well in small spaces to avoid agitated Kurds; looking really good in drag. The list, unlike my endurance, goes on.
I’m happy that I’m not a super-muscular guy. The only thing I need to hammer out are columns like this, which can be like pulling teeth, and sometimes it takes all my strength to go on – yours too, I’m sure.
So let’s get rid of the muscular ideal. Call it sour grapes if you want, but be aware that’s also the term I use to describe my biceps.