At the gym where I frequently workout, I often see a sight that I’m pretty sure many of you can also recognize.
I see a huge Gym Bro who looks like he spends way too much of his free time lifting weights and avoiding cardio (not to mention Leg Day) drag his girlfriend (or wife) to the gym with him. She may or may not be in shape. She may or may not even want to be there. Perhaps she’d rather be at home watching reruns of The Bachelorette or reading a book. Or going out to drinks with her friends. Or going to the gym, but not five times a week.
Gym Bro clearly loves working out. You can see it in his huge arms, enormous chest, and cocky strut. The Reluctant Girlfriend of Gym Bro is a different matter. She could be skinny, a bit overweight, or perhaps quite obese. But the body type she isn’t is “muscular.” And you can tell, whether he is willing to admit it or not, that he’d love it for her to become as muscular as he is.
He teaches her how to deadlift, squat, bench press, and shoulder press. She does as she’s told, but you can tell she does it with little enthusiasm. When she uses improper form, he lashes out, or at the very least aggressively tries to correct her “errors.” Not wanting to upset him further, she does her best to please him. It’s a sad sight to see. It’s pathetic. You feel sorry for her and secretly desire to punch him in the face.
I could very well be misinterpreting this situation, or maybe I’m spot on. I don’t see this all the time, but it happens enough that I feel compelled to write about it. Long story short, Gym Bro secretly – or not so secretly – wants his girlfriend to look a certain way. He thinks she’s too skinny, too fat, or too average. Regardless, he wants her to bulk up. He wants her to look like Michele Levesque, even if she has no desire herself to look like that. For those of you who don’t know who I’m talking about, Michele is a gorgeous fitness model who possesses the ideal look: she’s fit, unquestionably feminine, as gorgeous as a supermodel, and has built enough muscle to turn people’s heads – but not so much muscle that she upstages the man she’s with.
Our friend the Gym Bro understands that women who look like Miss Levesque, Julie Germaine, Autumn Cleveland, Lauranda Nall, and Sheronica Sade Henton don’t just grow on trees. They are far from a dime a dozen. They are a one-in-a-million rare specimen that must be treasured because they are few and far between. However, Gym Bro secretly dreams about possessing a girlfriend with such a treasured physique…and will not sit around idly and wait for it to happen.
Therefore, he must take matters into his own hands. Even if that requires “forcing” his girlfriend to put a pair of dumbbells into her hands.
Thus, he nudges her in the direction of bulking up like him. He tells her it’s a healthy choice. He reassures her she won’t start “looking like a man.” He insists she’ll develop more confidence, curves in all the right places, and unsolicited compliments from complete strangers (naturally, the flattering kinds of compliments, not the creepy ones). She sort of goes along with it. After all, she wants to spend quality time with her boyfriend, right? Who wouldn’t?
She goes to the gym whenever he goes to the gym. They lift together. He “trains” her and cheers her on. He gives out advice as if it were candied apples on Halloween. She learns how to lift. She’s taught the proper form, breathing techniques, and recovery methods. He makes post-workout protein shakes for the both of them. She begrudgingly drinks it every single time. Maybe she likes the taste, maybe she doesn’t. But it’s all to keep their relationship intact, so it must be worth it.
If this scenario doesn’t seem familiar to you, don’t worry. Sooner or later you’ll witness something like this up close. And it’ll make you squirm. Or at the very least, feel sorry for her and all involved. You might start to ask yourself whether this behavior crosses into the territory of abuse. Does it? You sure hope not, but how can these thoughts not come to mind?
Essentially, Gym Bro wants his Reluctant Girlfriend to become Human Clay. He wants to sculpt her into becoming a Perfect Muscle Goddess who will fulfill his every lustful carnal desire. He wants her to become an Amazon, a strong confident young woman who takes life by the horns and never relents in pursuing her goals. He wants the ultimate arm candy. He wants a sexy flesh-and-blood trophy he can call his own and show off to his fellow gym bros.
Meanwhile, you get the sense she doesn’t really want to do this. She’s all for living a healthy life and looking good, but is it worth the soreness and agony of going to the gym all the damn time? It goes without saying that one does not simply become a Muscle Goddess overnight. Nor does it happen by accident. You only look like Cindy Landolt if you put in the effort to look like Cindy Landolt. If you don’t want to look like her, then you won’t ever look like her. It’s as simple as that.
The scenario described above troubles me. But unfortunately, I see it – and hear about it – all too often. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening to see. But alas, it’s quite common. When you start to “force” somebody to do something they don’t actually want to do, that’s problematic.
As I’ve written before countless times, I love muscular women. But I would never pressure my significant other to ever become a muscular woman unless she genuinely wanted to become one. And if that were to happen, I’d enthusiastically support her 100%. But if not, I’d understand completely.
It’s perfectly natural for straight guys to be attracted to muscular women. It happens more frequently than a lot of us are aware of. And it’s also understandable why many of us dream about having a muscular girlfriend. Who wouldn’t want to come home every night after a long day of work to a woman who looks like Minna Pajulahti? I know I would!
And you can share a bed with her every f*****g day? Count me in!
So the awfully awkward situation where guys start to treat their girlfriends like Human Clay seems sort of inevitable. Isn’t that the logical next step? Isn’t this just a natural progression for anyone who appreciates fit women? Well, no. It doesn’t have to be this way.
I fully believe that a woman has every right to pursue bodybuilding and fitness if they choose to do so. Many women find participating in the sport empowering, uplifting, and worthwhile. Yes, it’s a cliché to use the word “empower” when we’re dealing with women and their physical appearance, but clichés are formed for a reason. For many women, bodybuilding has helped them deal with trauma, overcome emotional obstacles, and provide them with a renewed sense of purpose. The list of benefits goes on.
However, women also have the right to not pursue bodybuilding if such a lifestyle does not totally appeal to them. This seems obvious, yet this is not really at the heart of the problem. I don’t think too many women are forced to lift weights at the gym at gunpoint. But pressure (both overt and subtle) from a loved one can be just as coercive. The desire to please your partner will drive people to do almost anything. The same goes for the fear of losing a loved one – and by “losing,” I mean that person choosing to find a different lover, not death.
I understand why a guy would want a sexy muscle goddess for a girlfriend. Trust me, I daydream about this all the time! But, I’d like to think I would never cross that line and pressure my better half to torture herself at the gym just because I want the shape of her body to be more pleasing to my eye. But this is not about me being “holier than thou.” All I want to do is send a warning to those of you who might (or already have) cross that line, either intentionally or unintentionally.
There’s nothing malicious about wanting your partner to look and feel healthy. After all, don’t we all want to be with our loved ones for as long as possible? Of course we do. But this goes deeper than that. This is about the ethics of female muscle fandom. This is about being a decent human being.
No person is Human Clay. No person should ever feel obliged to do anything against their will for any reason whatsoever. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a muscular girlfriend. It’s quite another thing to use coercive measures to make that dream come true. Even if you’re a Gym Bro who thinks they have good intentions at heart, odds are not everyone around you will agree. Being a Reluctant Girlfriend is like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Of course you want to look fabulous and sexy. But what are you willing to sacrifice in order to do that? And who is allowed to define what “fabulous and sexy” even means?
If I could snap my fingers and magically make a Sexy Powerful Muscle Goddess appear right before my very eyes, I wouldn’t think twice about doing it. But alas we don’t live in a universe where such miracles are possible. While it never hurts to dream, it can hurt the ones we love if we bully them into fulfilling our dreams – regardless if such a thing is even feasible in the first place.
At the end of the day, the awkward relationship between Gym Bro and Reluctant Girlfriend is probably never going to go away. It will always be here with us until the world comes to an end. Or until we discover a secret potion that miraculously transforms a humble bumpkin into Muscle Cinderella. If that ever happens, instead of a glass slipper, would the Handsome Prince go around town seeing whose torso is muscular enough to handle a weightlifting belt that was left behind?
In conclusion, we all want Cindy Landolt to be our girlfriend. But women who actually look like her are not so common. So accept that. Understand that we can’t always get what we want, just like The Rolling Stones once reminded us. But, as they also remind us, we get what we need:
A loving companion who joyfully goes to the gym with you but doesn’t want to lift super heavy. It may not fulfill all your dirty desires, but it’s much more realistic. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
The lesson to be learned is this: don’t pressure her to be a bodybuilder. Let her get her workout in, kiss her on the cheek, and tell her “I love you the way you are.” And if she’d rather stay at home and play Candy Crush Saga while you’re across town busting your tail at the squat rack, let her…even if you’d rather watch her bust her tail while jealous onlookers stare at you with envy in their hearts.
Let her be who she wants to be. Period.
That is how you live happily ever after.