Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hearts Melted In Sweat

Six months ago I joined a gym. I had never been to a gym before. However, this one is conveniently located three minutes walking distance from my house, so after a lot of waffling about, I decided to take the plunge. Every day except for Sundays, I go and I work out for an hour  just enough time for two episodes of Family Guy and half a music album. Hour's up and then I'm gone, much to the disappointment of Mr. Scale who has been desperately trying to get my attention ever since he laid eyes on me. "I'm sorry Mr. Scale, but frankly, I don't care very much for you. You're just a number, and I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it for the pumping adrenaline. So, um, yeah, goodbye." And with that, I leave.

Then today, while I was whispering my daily I-don't-care-for-you speech, which incidentally coincides with my cool down routine, this boy came in. I've seen this boy before. He's eighteen, maybe nineteen, and reminds me a lot of Chris Griffin (minus the hair), the socially awkward character from Family Guy. He burst in with this big sweet smile on his face, a smile that would melt hearts if hearts weren't already melted in sweat, and the first thing he does is joke about the pop song playing in the background. He seemed happy. I think he was having a good day.

But then something happened. He stepped on the weighing scale, took a quick look around as if he was about to witness something immoral or illegal, and then stepped off, quietly. He seemed sad, disappointed somehow. Gone were the dimples on his cheek. Gone was the sparkle in his eyes. Gone was the confidence with which he was living today. He passed by me on his way to the treadmill area. I gave him a faint smile and he beamed back. On my way out I noticed the girl to his left and the man to his right, who, unlike him, were running really fast on their treadmill. She was wearing a pink crop t-shirt and tight white shorts. Two treadmills down was the badly tattooed, contemptuous version of Ryan Gosling who flirts with anything that moves without batteries. And then it got to me.

This boy lives in a society where beauty, and sometimes even happiness, is measured by a number on a scale. Some might object and say that it's not, not really, but deep down you know that it's true. Having big biceps and a six pack, or perky breasts and a tight bottom, is considered eye candy, candy you would want on top of you in a game of who-licks-who. I, for one, would be lying if I said that I do not occasionally enjoy some eye candy. But here's what I also enjoy. Here's what I also think is attractive and deserves the same kind of attention.

Hazel eyes, widening up with joy, as they reread their favourite book. That brown tiny freckle in the middle of an ear lobe. The way a nose cringes when it's trying to associate a smell with a memory. An upper lip asking the bottom lip for moisture. Nail-bitten fingers picking up a sunflower from that garden at dusk. Imperfect hands writing perfect poetry. Slightly stumpy legs walking, slowly but firmly, towards something they really want. An inspired compassionate heart beating inside a beautiful soul. That big sweet smile that would melt hearts if hearts weren't already melted in sweat. You, healthy and happy. You, looking in the mirror and humbly telling yourself "I'm beautiful".

Because you are. You are beautiful. With or without those big biceps and/or perky looking breasts.

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