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Weight Room Humiliation, Thanks To One Los Angeles A-Hole Of Anaheim

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If you're in college, in a dorm, and your roommate is a bigger twerp than this -- change rooms. Now.

Macho, macho men.
Macho, macho men.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Some TTers are mentioning starting at new schools, often a stressful experience. So I thought I might share this college story. It's not strictly about sports, although it involves a jock. A roommate, from slightly south of Anaheim. There: ramble justified.

I first went to college in Los Angeles, at USC, then a major jock school. (Maybe still is; ask Tommy Milone.) It had lots of hideous, unsavory characteristics, too, which I won't go into. But basically we're going to talk about my dingbat SoCal jock roommate.

My randomly assigned roommate put pictures of himself shirtless, flexing his muscles, on our dorm door. He was not an unattractive young man. He was, however, the kind of moron who shares pictures of himself flexing.

This roommate -- let's call him "Zach," after a "Saved By The Bell" character he resembled -- was convinced he knew why women didn't like him. My fault, naturally.

Here was his logic. Girls, in Zach's mind, were drawn like moths to his tannned, ripped pecs. Girls came by our room to prepare for sex with him (not just, you know, being polite when he asked them over). Girls saw his roommate (me). Girls recoiled at how un-ripped, and especially, how pasty-white I was. Hence, didn't screw Zach.

(I came from Oregon. Where the sun shines five months per year. The only way an Oregonian gets tanned is when winter skiing above the cloud line, or by wearing ski goggles in a tanning booth to convince everyone you ski. I did not do these things.)

Zach wanted me to get more tan. I had no interest in becoming more tan. I lamely said I was embarrassed to lay out in the sun because I was scrawny. This was/is true -- I'm built like Nerdy McGeek -- but even if I had Hugh Jackman's body I would not wish to lay in the sun and tan. The sun and me are in detente; I respect its right to exist, I just don't like it very much and it doesn't like me. I was at a Saints game two weeks ago, I stayed in the shade religiously, I got burnt to a crisp merely walking once and back from CHS Field.

Tanning; not my deal. So I lied and said I could never go tanning with my body shape.

Zach had the solution! My insanely debt-dealing tuition paid for membership in the school weight room! I'd build up pecs! Then I'd go tanning! And, then, Zach would, finally, get laid!

Well, I couldn't back out of that lie. Or I could have. But I couldn't.

When you go to college far from home, the most powerful emotion is being separated from your support system. Jokes & stories which bonded you to family & friends don't necessarily work anymore. So, with most students away from home for the first time (this applies to anyone who's made a major change, be it by joining the military, moving to a new town, whatever) there's a huge adjustment. You try the old standards and they fail.

That's the main reason I attempted to appease Zach; I didn't have any friends. Maybe he was right, and I would benefit from getting ripped and tanning. Hell, I would have tried anything (and did, though those are other pathetic tales.)

What's really important here is how experiencing different situations, and failing to fit in at first, doesn't mean you have to become a thoroughly new person for anyone to like you. You just have to add more pitches to your arsenal, since we're all baseball nerds here. When a pitcher tries that new grip, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it's only effective in certain situations. Never hurts to expand the repertoire, though.

But back to my Weight Room experience, because it is fun.

So the USC weight room had many different machines, and, since it was a state-of-the-art jock school, those exercise machines weren't balanced by stacks of dumbbells. (Well . . . ) They used hydraulic air-pressure resistance. Press a pedal to increase the workout difficulty of that machine, another pedal to make it easier.

And every time you pressed the pedal to make that machine easier, it went "hisssssssssssssss." Loudly.

You can see where this is going.

I tried machine after machine. Each one, whomever'd been on it before left the setting too difficult for me. I had to make the machine go "hisssssssss." At first, this caused some rude snickering. Eventually, it amused the entire weight room.

Jerk people pretended to be nice and suggested "you should use this one, it's easy, you can do it!" I'd try the machine, have to reduce the hydraulic resistance, and it predictably went "hissssssss." Everyone would burst out laughing.

I've had many humiliating episodes in my life, usually due to my flaws -- but this was not one of them. Instead of feeling shamed, I became majorly annoyed. What a bunch of shitheads. It was actually the first time I can remember where jock torment didn't make me hate myself. Only weight rooms. (And I've never been in one since.)

Nope -- I didn't get ripped/tanned. This caused massive friction with my roommate; it remained my fault he wasn't having copious, or any, sex. After the year ended, and I went home for the summer, I discovered tons of subscriptions to weightlifting magazines someone had signed me up for. Wonder who?

And guess what? I tried other things, not trying to please Zach (barf!), but because I wanted to try them. I made friends with one much better athlete than Zach across the hall, an intellectual I'm still in touch with 25 years later. He taught me how not all jocks enjoy picking on gawky nerds, and how watching sports can be fun. I'm glad I met him. What did we bond over? At first, Zach's simplistic, rather sadly pathetic jockass self.

Did Zach ever have sex? Likely. Will I ever go within 100 yards of a weight room again? Barring a court order, no. Would I trade away what I learned from Zach being such a wonderdummy? Absolutely, positively not.