Old Guy Schools Me At The Gym

I’m no expert on guys, but here’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as one of ‘em:  men hate, hate, HATE to ask for help.

Near as I can figure this is a combination of nature and nuture working together.  It’s probably somewhat hard-wired into man-dom from back in the days when we were hunting saber tooth tigers with nothing but a rusty arrow point tied to a damn stick but I also think it’s fair to say that we learn that asking for help is a sign of weakness from society and its messaging too.

Remember watching your Dad drive around aimlessly for 3 hours completely lost when you were a kid?

That’s just one obvious example of this phenomenon in action.

I get this sense that when you get down to it, the fundamental difference between women and men is that women don’t have this overwhelming need to feel like they can control anything and everything in the Universe, whereas for men, admitting that this can’t be done is relatively the same as copping to the fact that every once in a while, you squat to pee.

It’s as if men expect that whatever obstacle currently confronting them can be overcome by sheer force of will.  Failing that option, we’d rather spend our whole lives staring at the damn obstacle than asking someone for help on getting around it.

All this dime-store philosophy masquerading as deep thought popped into my head at the gym today.  (Note:  When I say I was at the gym you get exactly 3 seconds to make your “he goes to the GYM?” shocked face.  That’s it.)

I was sitting there on some sweaty-ass workout bench getting ready to do curls with a pitifully small amount of weight when this old geezer, must’ve been at least 80, walks right into my domain.

He was wearing a white fruit of the loom crew neck tee shirt (I get this sense that he probably wore it under his tie and collared shirt back when he was a working man) and a pair of old guy cargo shorts hiked up to mid-rib cage and supported by a black dress belt.

The tube socks (and you KNEW they were tube socks, didn’t ya?) were touching his knee caps and if I had to guess by the dark green stains on his tennis shoes, they were previously used for mowing the lawn before being relegated to “gym” duty.

Some old guys carry themselves like maybe they used to be sorta big and burly back in the day but this guy didn’t come across that way.

He was rail thin with spindly little legs and elbows so sharp he coulda sliced cheese with them but in fairness, there was a slight spring to his step, one that took fair account of the somewhat ridiculous nature of an 80 plus year old guy meandering around a gym surrounded by a bunch of snot-nosed hose bags like me.

He put his face right up in mine and in deference to the ipod buds in my ears he shouted with impressive volume “Is that a 15 there?  15???”

Given how rare it is for anyone to actually make conversation at the gym I was caught completely off-guard, and after setting down the 120lb barbells in each of my hands (give or take 100lbs) I pulled one ear bud out and said, “I’m sorry.  I couldn’t hear you.”

So the old guy turned and pointed at the endless row of shiny black barbells on the rack next to him and said, “Can you show me which one of these are 15lbs?  Only one of my eyes works anymore and that one doesn’t work so good.”

Sure”, I said, and grabbed a 15lb barbell and handed it to him and then sat back down on the bench.

Old guy gave me a nod and then a quick smile that seemed to say, “I realize that seemed like a pitiful question for me to have to ask you, but just you wait, kid.  You think life is hard NOW?  Wait till most of the people you know are dead and you wake up every 20 minutes because you have to pee.  THEN you’ll be looking at life the way I look at it now.”

I don’t care if you’re 20 or 80.  Ain’t no guy nowhere who wants to ask anyone for help EVER.

But what I learned in my brief interaction with the old guy is that eventually, if you’re lucky to live long enough, you don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks of you anymore.

As I was leaving the gym it occurred to me that all of us who are under the age of 80 could probably use a big heaping dose of that in our lives.

In fact, in the long run, it might be more important to our well-being than anything we do at the gym.

(And it involves a lot less shared sweat too.)

One Comment

  • Aunt Buddy wrote:

    Great story, Mike. I am old also and I love seeing members much older doing their thing at the gym! Ain’t life grand — to be 80 and working out. I love it!!!(:>)

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