Stimulate, Don’t Annihilate
Ron HarrisEpisode 38
When do you know you’re getting old? That’s tough to say. You hear all types of tired clichés: “You’re only as old as you feel”; “Age is just a number.” Other markers let you know when you’re really stepping into your golden years, such as pulling your pants up to just under your nipples (what’s up with that?) and buying giant, boatlike sedans built by GM.
I think I’ve come across a far more accurate indication of when you can be sure you’re getting old: You suddenly realize that you consider the current crop of teenagers a bunch of shiftless, illiterate punks. The worst thing is, I’m still in my 30s. I like the latest hits on the radio, and I still spend an average of $1,500 a year on Nike Shox and Air Max sneakers. What geezer would do that? Even so, I have to accept that I’ve at last aged enough to reognize a generation gap between me and today’s youth. Here’s why: my distaste for the two big cliques of kids at my gym. No, they aren’t gangs like the Jets and the Sharks, and they don’t rumble, but they’re distinct groups with a style of dress that sets them apart.
The first group’s name was assigned to them by my wife, Janet: the Gotti Boys, after the reality show “Growing Up Gotti,” which follows the filthy rich grandchildren of infamous Mafia boss John Gotti. They struggle with typical adolescent problems—whether to take the Ferrari or the Lamborghini to pick up those supermodels for a night of decadence, which club to go to, as they’re on the VIP list at all the night spots in Western civilization, plus some happening joints in unexplored areas of the Amazon rain forest and Antarctica. The Gotti Boys—maybe six or eight of them—at our gym all have hair that’s been slathered in industrial-strength gel and spiked up to form a nest of daggers jutting up from their skulls. They wear Adidas pants, white wife-beater tank tops and thick gold or silver chains. The look is completed by trendy tattoos they’ll all surely regret later in life, such as tribal bands around the biceps and Japanese kanji characters that could well mean “pansy white boy” or “egg roll with pork-fried rice.” Their age range is 16 to 20. We used to called that general look “guido,” and it went along with certain brands of cars: Monte Carlo SS Turbos and Iroc Z-28s. These days it’s little imports tricked out with tinted windows, fancy rims and spoilers that make them resemble small aircraft—not forgetting the neon lights below so that police officers have an easier time pulling them over at night.
Their rivals: the Abercrombies, today’s version of what we used to call preppies. Back in the day they wore tight Izod golf shirts with the collars turned up and painted-on jeans with the hems rolled up. The group at my gym all either work at Abercrombie & Fitch or do a great deal of shopping there. You see a lot of cargo pants and T-shirts with the sleeves ripped off, carefully faded to look like they’ve been worn for 10 or 12 years. Did I mention the backward baseball caps?
Both groups annoy me for several reasons. Number one, they’re the laziest bunch of twerps I’ve ever seen disgrace a gym floor. I happen to think a gym is where you’re meant to train and train hard, not socialize. Those brat packs lounge around and yap, half to each other and half on cell phones to other brats. When they do train, it’s endless sets of bench presses and curls—horrible form and weight my wife would laugh at. The Gottis and the Abercrombies both look emaciated, so skinny that I wonder if they’re so busy trying to look cool that they genuinely forget to eat.
Out of the entire mélange there’s one exception: Scott. He’s probably 19 or so and is the only kid in either bunch who has any type of physique, far from complete though it is—close to 6’ and 170. He has decent arms and chest, and his shoulders and traps aren’t too shabby. From what I’ve observed, though, those are the only bodyparts he trains—and far too much. Sometimes I come into the gym to train something like back or legs, muscle groups that take me roughly an hour to finish, and Scott is working biceps. When I finish, he’s still not done. It’s only when I do my cardio that he’ll wrap it up, meaning that he’s spent about 90 minutes just on biceps, performing eight to 10 exercises for four or five sets each.