Charles Atlas Kicked Sand in my Face!

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Those of a certain age will remember the Charles Atlas ad that ran in comic books showing a poor, skinny dweeb having sand kicked in his face by a bigger, stronger boy at the beach (and, worst of all, in front of a pretty girl). I’m not sure if the wuss wore glasses (a Google search says no…). I’m positive he was me. After all, I lived just off the beach in Del Mar, California, and spent a lot of time on the hot, thick sand. At thirteen I weighed about one hundred ten pounds and had pipestem arms and legs.  I don’t remember having sand kicked in my face by some cruel, over muscled brute. I may have blocked it out. I did worry about it, though. A lot…

In the comic book ad the hapless weakling vows to get revenge and spends god knows how long working out like a fiend on juice. Soon he’s a pussy no more, has muscles on his muscles, and bench presses hundreds and hundreds of tons. Triumphantly, he returns to the beach and destroys his erstwhile  tormentor.

That’s the part I never got around to. The only things I lifted much were books. At least they were hardbacks. The only muscle of mine that got daily exercise was in my shorts.

For reasons still obscure fifty years later, I went out for the freshman football team in high school. It was a small school and every one made the roster. I played end. My stats for the season were not impressive: no catches, one tackle, maybe three blocks in six or so games.

I was going to try for the varsity the next year. The head coach, a kindly man who also taught social studies, took me aside and told me I was just too valuable to the marching band, I was first chair clarinet, to play football instead.

I nursed a fantasy of going out for the football team at Swarthmore College, a small, elite liberal arts college near Philadelphia. It was a division III school known for its academics. I imagined the football players were all really bookworms like me. They weren’t. They were good enough to have a winning record my freshman year. Several years after I left the team set some kind of record for consecutive losses. In 2000 the college abolished the team despite the  howls of  older alumni.

A suppressed memory just bubbled up: at some point as a kid I did work out with weights. I actually recall the rough texture of the reddish round weights that fitted onto a tubular bar. It is not a fond memory. When the hell was it and how long did it last…?

The irony is that now, at sixty-four, I lift weight all the time – about two hundred sevent-five jiggly pounds. And I don’t even use my hands!

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FLICKR GROUPS

Hot Female BodybuildersBlack Women with MuscleNude Women with MusclesShirtless Skinny Boys –  Big Bellied and Older Men

Photo credits: body – Fausto Fernoshead – Bill Frazzetto, all three images subject to this creative commons license  

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