natural v. “natural”

August 7, 2000

Things just seem to be getting worse in this country, especially in the area of personal liberties. Let me give you an example. I just joined a gym and thank God, because I haven’t really worked out since I got to New York three years ago.

Normally, I’m a regular at the gym — started more than thirty years ago. Of course, back then the gym was the local YMCA and was strictly for the guys. Even as much as I support feminism, the gym had that going for it.

Anyway, they are called “health clubs” nowadays, not gyms. (It’s as though, in the old days, we went to the gym for reasons other than health…and actually, that’s probably true: the gym was the best hangover cure I knew of, but I digress.) Anyway, now I go to a health club to get healthy, and I must admit that I look at the buns of the few women in the health club who have buns worth looking at.

My workout routine has been the same for thirty years. It’s the same series of exercises, and I wear the same clothes all the time: sweat pants, sweat socks, sneakers, a jock strap and, these days, a fairly ratty Chicago Bulls muscle shirt. And it is really ragged — I don’t wear a $300 spandex workout health club outfit. Fer Christ’s sakes, I’m just trying to pump up my muscles; if I wanted to meet a gal, I’d dress up and head out to the local honky tonk.

So yesterday, I went to the gym to work out. I take my gym clothes along with in me my small duffel bag. I usually just keep them there when I’m not working out in them. When I finish working out, I usually put my gym clothes back in the bag till the next workout.

Yesterday, I was working out on one of those Goddamn Stairmasters between a spandex-clad gal and a yuppie spandex guy. And this gal actually has the nerve to talk to me. In the old days we didn’t talk — you went to the gym to get away from talking. In the old days, we grunted and we minded our own business.

So this gal said to me, “Do you know how badly you smell?”
Me, being no dummy, took note of her poor grammar and sarcastically responded, “No I don’t know how bad I smell, but I think my nose is in pretty good shape.”
Undaunted, she replied, “Well, I meant you have a terrible odor emanating from you.”
“Really?” I said. “You must be referring to my clothes, because I took a shower this morning.”
She came back with, “Yes, your outfit is disgusting. It stinks!”
At this point, I decided to help her out, so I told her, “Of course it stinks, it hasn’t been washed in three months and I work out in it five days a week. I’m a guy.”

Then both the spandex guy and the spandex gal gave me dirty looks and went to some other equipment. The spandex guy said something nasty as he walked away. These nouveau health club social stepsisters don’t get it: you don’t go to the gym to talk.

Lets face it, on any given day there is a hell of a lot of talk — way too much idle chatter going on. Life would work out just as well — and actually, a lot better — if, on any given day, there was less talk.

In the old days, we went to the gym to get away from talking and spent some quality time engaging in good old-fashioned grunting. Nowadays, I’ll watch one of these spandex kids looking to pick up a spandex girl while he’s bench-pressing 250 pounds. And the guy needs to grunt like hell, but no, not in a health club.

I grunt just bench-pressing sixty pounds. Why? Because grunting feels good. Sometimes, another old guy like me will grunt in support, but that’s it for the vocalizing when I’m working out.

If the smell of sweat and the sound of grunts bothers people they should go buy the Jane Fonda video, spray themselves with Lysol and get healthy at home.

Have you noticed just how things that are natural have become unacceptable? With 85 different deodorants out there on the market, the point is not lost on me that the smell of sweat is supposed to be bad. And now, they are even adverting feminine spray mists, because obviously the smell of you-know-what is bad.

If you believe the advertisers, you just have to get all those plug-in deodorants all over your house. For God sake’s, the place might smell like your cooking!

When did natural become bad? Even guys dye their hair nowadays because natural isn’t good enough. And when we want “the natural look,” we go to the beauty parlor and say, “Put some of them chemicals in my hair to give me the natural look.”

We use hair coloring to unnaturally make our hair look natural. Naturally.

Here’s another example: I live right above a beautiful lake. It is also a reservoir, so there are no gas-powered machines allowed on it. When I was a kid, on a sunny day, the lake was full of people. It was also full of snails, mussels, turtles, snakes, fishes and even some furry things — it’s a lake, after all, not a pool.

But now, on a beautiful, hot and sunny day, there are no people to be found in the lake. Where are they? They are in their chlorinated, highly toxic swimming pools. Apparently, most people can’t abide the thought of swimming in the same water that fish urinate in or something.

Hey, it’s all natural.

Do you know how hard it is to find an unscented candle? People nowadays don’t go outdoors because the air just doesn’t smell interesting enough.

All of this has an impact on kids — they obviously aren’t having fun anymore. I can tell because I never see any of them in casts or bandages. In my day, we broke bones and got stitched up while playing outdoors. We called that “having a good time.” But today, nobody gets hurt sitting in front of his or her video game eight hours a day.

Years ago, I was taking a walk in Muir Woods — that’s a park near San Francisco with nothing in it but big, hundred-year-old redwood trees. So there is this father and son there. The kid is about twelve. As he’s looking at this huge old redwood tree, his father asks him what he thinks of it. The kid says, “I like the one in Disneyland better.” If I hadn’t been so stoned at the time, I would have taken a styrofoam cup and beaten the kid with it. It’s only natural.

It’s unnatural how little importance we place on all things natural nowadays.

And, by the way, if you are wondering when I do wash my workout clothes, it’s simple: when my sweats can walk to the washing machine on their own!

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