“You’ve got a sweat spot on your butt,” my training partner says, halfway between our giant sets of biceps curls and our heavy sets of close-grip bench. “On the curve underneath your waist.”
“And what are you doing looking at my butt?” I ask, making my voice sexier, just this side of in-the-throat. In-the-throat isn’t like us. Usually, it’s all about grips and shoulder tilts and how much rest between sets. “Everyone else is,” he laughs, “thought I could give it a look, too.”
I feel a rush, just a little. I’d also been looking at my butt, and the slightly roughened tone in his voice showed my scheme had worked. The day before I’d seen a girl with long blond hair in her early twenties lifting in one of those pearl-gray sexy spaghetti-strap bra tops designed to look all femme, a pair of New Balance trail shoes with those roughed-up stomp-on-me soles and a pair of new Adidas tights, tights that fit her so right you just wanted to cup that little globe of ass right up in your hand and really squeeze.
It was the tights, I decided, as much as anything. Boot-cut tights like the ones I’d bought last year and wore all the time because of the way they made my ass look like Jennifer Lopez’s. Except according to the ass I saw before me now, they’d added a little innovation, Adidas had. It made all the difference. Last year’s didn’t have the three stripes anywhere. The cut was low, so the material came to that key position slightly under the navel in front, and dipped nicely in back so the small of the back was exposed, a taut hollow beckoning out of the tight swell of fabric. But this year, the three stripes had made an appearance in exactly that same spot, right where you sweat. Three stripes that draw the eye to that indented curve, and then to the tight rounds of ass standing out like grapefruits or in the case of my ass, honeydew melons underneath. I knew those tights would look perfect on me. She wasn’t going to mess with my space. I made a trip to the sporting goods store just as soon as I finished my legs. I didn’t even need to try them on I knew.
There’s something fundamentally titillating about the solidity of one’s own ass reflected in the gym mirrors, especially when it approximates a vision like hers. She’d gotten the black tights, but I got the black, blue and gray. She did a double-take when she first saw me in the gray, the waist-band hugging me just right, displaying my ass made thicker than any slab of meat by twenty years of squats and heavy lunges. Without meaning to, she looked right at me, my ass, my chest, all over. Then she straightened her back and looked away. For the first time after weeks of training in baggy surf-shorts, I’m pumped. Oh bring it on, babe, I’ve got the tights. People think they’re getting off on abs and tight behinds, but it’s all about how the clothes frame them.
Two days and all my colors of Adidas later, however, I realize she’s got me beat. I watch her making easy conversation with the gym owner, and with the hottest college boys, who look at her like the sheer sight of her will be enough to keep them in bliss for life. Her legs and waist are more slender than mine. Her honey-blond hair is much, much longer and thicker. Her upper body is more slight, rising up with a saucy ‘tude from her small waist, the sculpted V of a bodybuilder without my bulked up back and biceps like fists.
She’s the girl and I’m not. The gym guys don’t talk to me like that. None of them. Nope, I sure don’t light them up. I’m confused at the way my shoulders droop and I feel like somebody just let all the air out of me, a plastic clown punching bag drained.
The only guys I’d talk to, the ones who’d asked me to compete on their bench-pressing team and train, thought I was a little strange at first but what the hell, I could train way harder and my biceps were almost the size of theirs. There I was week in week out kicking their asses in training and three times as strong as any other woman in the gym. I was Lester, the guy/girl benching two hundred pounds-plus; I was their bud. And that was what I wanted, that was all right, just as long as I imagined that they wanted me, too that I was the buffed-up, puffed-up porcelain princess they cried for, that images of my straining thighs kept them tired and groaning and touching themselves in their sleep. I knew they did. Didn’t Chris used to sniff my crotch and squirm when I stood above him at the decline bench waiting to give him a lift-off on days when he was rowdy and yelling and generally making himself seen and heard? Didn’t Billy sometimes call me on a monster drunk night to ask, What if?
But they don’t light up around me like they do around her, not like this, and neither does anyone else. Just look at them over there. Shining at her, letting her know in the roll of their shoulders and slow honey voices that she is it, and they are on the rise.
But yo, Les, you don’t want that, do you? Isn’t that why you’ve spent days and months and more years than you’ve spent on anything building yourself thicker, slabs of back, tight rounds of hamstring, bicep, leg, stopping just this side of the line that would make no one look if you decided to wear something like those tights. Look, don’t touch. This is sex that isn’t. Those walls of pec that make it difficult to feel your heartbeat, your shoulders wide like wings they are what protect you, don’t they, from the very thing the girl with the blond hair and that sweet ass most definitively is.
So here we are, facing each other across the gym, watching people watch us, or at least I’m watching people watch her, and my partners buzzing around her. She laughs at my partners, raises her face and looks to the side in what I’m sure is my direction, and as she does she shakes out her long hair and ties a sweatshirt around her waist. I start to get paranoid does that mean she thinks the tights are too much? That I look ridiculous in mine and she doesn’t want anyone to link the two of us in their minds? That she’s Miss Thang, and I am . . . what? The guys’ tomboy sister grown big? That I am . . . not it? This thing I’ve spent years trying to be and not be? Am I too big for them not my partners, even, just generic, in-principle guys to want me? Have I gone from “whoa!” to invisible?
But then I feel a drop in my blood pressure, and the way my skin is cooling off lets me know it’s been too long between our sets. Blond hair, great ass, whatever, I turn toward the mirrors and pick up the weights. I feel the gnarl in the iron, the fifty-five pound dumbbells I use for flyes, dig into the calluses that spread the top of the palm, just at the base of the fingers. I yell out, “Townsend, Graham, let’s go!” and they turn from her as from some pleasant breeze, salute me, “Yes, sir!” and we all settle down and dig in, weight, lift, breathe, heave. Our pecs spread perfectly in time, our breathing the same deep infusion of air and blood and lungs and I smile to myself, back in synch. In the mirror, I watch their movements mirror mine. This is my house, and everyone else can damned well wait.