We’ve been at this stay-at-home thing since, what, March 15? A long time. And for gays, that means a long time since they’ve seen the inside of a gym. And every day since this whole thing started more and more gays on social media seem to be lamenting that.
What’s striking to me is we didn’t even take losing Pride this hard. Or for that matter having our summer plans thrown out the window. This weekend has always been the official start of summer. Come Friday, many of us should be piling into cars, beach bound. After that, the energy should be rolling right into Pride, our city’s largest, and best, celebration. But when news came out that these events were postponed, we sort of collectively shrugged with a ‘yeah, we understand’ nod that it was the necessary thing to do.
So what made losing the gym so special? Again, every week seems to be another howl of regret from social media of gays losing this particular space, wondering when it will be available to them again. And maybe this isn’t just a gay thing? Last week saw news reports of gym goers, straights presumably, staging a protest outside a Florida courthouse to pressure city officials to reopen their gyms. That particular demonstration had protesters collectively doing squats and pushups on the sidewalk, which seemed somewhat silly in that they were actually proving they don’t need the gym to work out.
D.C. gays wouldn’t go that far. We’re too classy and erudite. But still, going this long, and the prospect of going even longer without our beloved gym space is hard to swallow for a lot of us. And just why the gym as a space is so important to us could fill up dissertations. I, for one, always found it amusing that as gay kids we did everything we could to avoid gym, but as gay adults we flock to them.
For many of us the gym is certainly a social space. I have the luxury of going during the day, during what I call ‘bartender, Realtor, stripper hour.’ Even during this relatively sparse time I do enjoy interacting with others. At night, that is after most folks are done with work, the space is just as crowded as any bar.
But of course differing from the bar scene, the space is there for our physical health. And again, to say gays prize their physical health, or at least their physical appearance, could keep graduate students busy for years. But that’s the real prize, isn’t it? The self. That the gym exists so that we can strive for optimal physical health, that is strive for the possibility of our best selves. I think that, given the high concentration of type-A gays we have in this town, is the real reason we can’t stand losing the gym. Just Google ‘type-a’ and the first words you find are competitiveness, drive, impatience, need for control, and focus. That’s pretty much the gym on any weekday at 6 p.m.
I wanted this column to be a sort of shoutout to all the different kinds of gays I’ve been missing at the gym. Like the one wearing pristine gym clothes who just stands there, texting. I’ve still never seen him pick up a weight. Or the one gay who must be allergic to all types of deodorant. I wanted to but alas, it would probably be too easy to suss out their identities. That, and in a strange way, I do miss seeing these people.
With our city’s phased reopening, it’s my guess we really won’t see the inside of gyms until August. Until then, keep jogging, cycling, and doing those at-home yoga classes. I do miss seeing your faces, but we will see each other again.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.