The Year That Was 2016: Muscular Women Will Bring Us Together

Debbie Leung would like to wish you a happy new year!
Debbie Leung would like to wish you a happy new year!

If you were to ask a random person on the street whether 2016 was a good year or a bad year, I’d wager a guess that the vast majority of respondents would say it was an atrocious year.

What would prompt someone to say such a thing, you might ask? Let’s count the ways why 2016 could be considered a disappointing year for all of us:

  • Beloved celebrities passing away
  • Political and social unrest
  • Undesirable election outcomes
  • Mass shootings, riots, bombings, terror attacks, and random acts of violence that threaten our sense of safety and stability
  • International conflicts like war, famine, genocide, territorial disputes, religious conflict, etc.
  • Terrorism, despotism, and rising civil conflicts
  • Technological advancements that threaten the job prospects of working class people
  • Uneasiness about environmental issues
  • Eroding distrust in governments, media, and academic institutions
  • Economic insecurity
  • Rumors of war, belligerence, and frightening socio-political trends
  • Dissipating freedoms of speech, choice, religion, and association
  • Disintegrating sense of “national unity” and “common culture”
  • General feelings of anger, anxiety, and cynicism on a global scale

Yikes. You may not necessarily feel all of these things, but certainly if you’ve been paying attention to the news – regardless of where on planet Earth you live – you must recognize at least a few of the tribulations listed above. Some historians (and quasi-historians) compare the times we’re currently living in to the 1930s when we were on the cusp of World War II, which caused devastation on a scale never before seen in human history. I tend to not buy into a lot of that hype and fearmongering, but I sympathize with people who do. That’s not me being snarky or dismissive.

I’m not an expert in international relations, social psychology or foreseeing the future. However, I am someone who is keen on attempting to clarify the unexplainable. Perhaps this is why I started my blog in the first place. Yeah, I wanted an avenue for publishing my fiction writing, but as it turns out my essays are what drive traffic to my humble website. My audience spans the globe, a reality that still has not set in yet. Can you believe that? Wow!

Wow, indeed. So in a futile attempt to wrap a somewhat positive bow on the year 2016 Anno Domini, which hasn’t been so positive for far too many of us, I’ll try to talk about how muscular women can bring us together. Maybe not all of us, but certainly some of us.

Muscular women are, in many respects, the ultimate symbol of postmodernism. In case you need a quick refresher, “postmodernism” was essentially a social, artistic, and cultural movement in the 20th Century that rejected and challenged previously held assumptions about the world. It’s unfair to think about postmodernism as being over, because it definitely is not. Even in the 21st Century, we’re still questioning how we traditionally think about things like gender constructs, science, political movements, sexual identities, philosophy, religion, aesthetics, and social cooperation. So postmodernism isn’t dead and buried by any stretch of the imagination.

I hope Annie Rivieccio becomes famous one day.
I hope Annie Rivieccio becomes famous one day.

If you want to point to one facet of modern life that encompasses so much of the conversation surrounding postmodern thought, it would be the world of female bodybuilding. The existence of muscular women challenge so many of our previously held assumptions about gender, biology, sex roles, femininity, masculinity, identity, and lust. A woman with big muscles would have been unthinkable 200 years ago. Or 100 years ago. Even today many of us have a hard time believing a woman can get that muscular without freakish genetics or a comical amount of steroids.

Let’s spin this another way: Consider the way our culture celebrates the concept of the “strong independent woman.” It’s a motif that we see everywhere: novels, movies, comic books, television shows, music, political campaigns, social media, and everyday casual conversations with friends. We saw Britain appoint its second ever female prime minister. The United States saw a woman run for president for the first time. Tsai Ing-wen was elected Taiwan’s first female president, a country that exists in the shadows of an increasingly confrontational China.

Yet, the concept of the “strong independent woman” has more or less been watered down by pop culture to mean a woman who uses the right hashtags and properly criticizes Donald Trump. It’s more of a rallying cry than an actual archetype that’s justifiably acknowledged. Most of the women in the world who are creating significant social change are scientists, teachers, engineers, data analysts, and investors whom most of us have never heard of before. The visible “strong independent women” celebrated by pop culture are usually pampered celebrities who don’t actually deserve such accolades.

How funny it is that real “strong independent women” like female bodybuilders are largely ignored by our society while a pop singer like Beyoncé is heralded as the lady version of Alexander the Great or William the Conqueror. I have nothing against the Queen Bey (her music is okay), but being a major celebrity isn’t that much of an accomplishment considering there are countless anonymous female scientists out there who are working to find cures to cancer.

Isabelle Turell is a genuine strong independent woman.
Isabelle Turell is a genuine strong independent woman.

Likewise, female bodybuilders are, for the most part, anonymous. Not to readers of this blog, of course, but to the general public. It’s too bad that women like Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande will always be more famous than Shawn Tan and Annie Rivieccio, but that’s the way it is. There’s no use complaining about something that’ll never change.

However, that’s not something worth fretting over. Seriously. Muscular women may not be able to change the entire world, but they can definitely change our world. As we transition from 2016 to 2017, this is a fantastic opportunity to remind ourselves that at the end of the day, we are in control over our own destinies. It may not always seem that way, but it’s true for the most part. Consider the lessons female bodybuilders can offer us:

FBBs live in a hostile world. They are women who break convention, defy our traditional definitions of femininity, and forge their own paths despite what others say. They face obstacles that are both seen and unseen, spoken and unspoken, obvious and not-so-obvious. They are at a biological disadvantage, as well as a social disadvantage. How many times have FBBs heard the pestering question “do you really want to look that way?

Well, yes they do. They do in fact want to look that way, thank you very much. But despite the peer pressure to resist building up muscle mass, there are plenty of women in this world who ignore the noise and pursue their dreams regardless of what others say. We should applaud them, as many of us often do. Let this be a crucial lesson to all of us that you can do whatever you dream of doing – no matter how many people tell you it’s unacceptable, irresponsible or improper. I completely understand that there’s a fine line between doing foolishly stupid things (like dreaming of becoming a world famous stunt motorcycle driver) and things that are merely “frowned upon” in polite company. I get that. But there’s nothing terribly risky about being a bodybuilder, unless you recklessly put God-knows-what kind of chemicals into your body to get “gains.” That’s a whole other matter.

Female bodybuilders don’t aspire to attain the impossible. They strive to attain the possible, though far too many of us think it’s impossible. There’s the difference. It is possible for a woman to be both irresistibly sexy and ridiculously muscular concurrently. Most of us don’t think it’s possible, therefore we look down upon those who pursue this path. That being said, no matter how rocky the road will be and how choppy the waters will seem, FBBs prevail at the end.

Kim Perez is like she's from my dreams.
Kim Perez is like she’s from my dreams.

They exist. Female bodybuilders exist. And that’s all they need to do to defy an unsympathetic society that treats them with unfair skepticism. In this regard, FBBs personify a thought-provoking paradigm: Muscular women aren’t supposed to be real. But they are. Period.

This is the essence of the postmodern worldview. Whatever assumptions we previously held about the nature of femininity, biology, and human sexual attraction must be questioned and subsequently tossed out the window. Not only do muscular women exist, but they should exist. They need to exist. It’s critical that the world be able to bear witness to a group of human beings who’ve chosen to ignore thousands of years of conventional wisdom and cultivate a new reality. There isn’t a logical reason why a woman (or man) should choose to build superhuman-sized muscles, but there doesn’t have to be. People do things because we can. We create goals and try to reach them even though it doesn’t provide any apparent utility.

We climb Mount Everest because we can. We sent a rocket ship to the moon because we can. We landed a spacecraft on Mars because we can. We don’t need to, but we want to. Want. That’s all this is about. The desire to accomplish something awesome and the will to go for it.

I’m not naïve. Female bodybuilders won’t become more popular in 2017. I don’t know if they’ll become less popular (as if such a standard can be adequately measured), but certainly I don’t foresee muscular women popping up everywhere in the media. But that’s irrelevant to this discussion. FBBs will never – although it may be imprudent to use the word “never” – achieve a high degree of popularity in our mass culture. However, they’ve been able to carve out a fine little niche with folks like you and I. It’s better to have a thousand passionate supporters than one million casual onlookers.

This is how female bodybuilders continue to exist. The support from their tiny army of rabid fans will sustain their lifestyles more than being featured as a token extra on Game of Thrones or the next Avengers flick. This business arrangement won’t be radically different in 2017 than it was in 2016 (or 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and so on), but that’s just fine. It doesn’t have to be. Economic prospects for female bodybuilders could always be better, naturally. The same could be said for any industry. But until we reach a point of financial unsustainability, I wouldn’t sweat it too much.

Will Jennifer Thomas be a breakout star in 2017? One could only hope...
Will Jennifer Thomas be a breakout star in 2017? One could only hope…

The truth is, the changing of years don’t really matter all that much. The universe won’t look profoundly different on January 1 than it did on December 31. A year is just an artificial benchmark we use to signify when the Earth makes a full rotation around the Sun. So for as bad as we think 2016 was, it makes no difference whatsoever. Events (both good and bad) happen to us regardless of what day, month, or year it is. That’s just the way it is. The concept of New Year’s Day is just a fun excuse to party too much, drink too much, and watch a crystal ball drop in Times Square. For what it’s worth, that’s okay with me.

Contrary to the title of this blog post, muscular women won’t actually bring us together. At least, they won’t bring billions of people across all cultures, languages, religious convictions, and skin colors together. Realistically, they can bring hope and joy to certain individuals who are feeling down on their luck. Sadly, there are way too many folks in this world who are feeling that way. Perhaps when it seems like optimism is lost and everything is spiraling out of control, we’ll suddenly remember ladies like Denise Masino and Brandi Mae Akers who are unapologetically sexy and don’t seem to be ready to quit anytime soon.

Remember what they have to go through every single day to achieve their dreams. Keep in mind how emotionally and physically strenuous it is to maintain a muscular body – especially for a woman. When the going gets tough, FBBs worldwide don’t just get going…they look damn good while doing it.

Oh yeah, they sure do. So here’s to another year of female muscle fandom. May 2017 bring you peace, love, joy, and unbridled sexiness.

The Adventures of Ryan Takahashi: Chapter Twenty – Tales from the Unemployment Line

Fired? Holy shit.

Really? Me? Fired from my job???

This doesn’t happen to people like me. This happens to OTHER people. You know, people who are lazy, incompetent, under-qualified or rude.

Not smart, studious, polite Asian guys like ME!

Motherfucker…

It’s been nearly two hours since I was fired from my annoying but stable job at Wellford Fitness Center. Here I am, lying in bed, eyes glazed over and a million thoughts running through my mind. Did I really just get fired for doing what I just did?

I mean, I got fired because I was caught having sex with one of my fellow employees. And not just any employee, for the record. I got caught by my boss having sex with Michelle, a hot perfect blonde. Michelle is the type of girl I could NEVER get in a billion years. She’s the type of girl every guy fantasizes about. She’s the type who gets muscle jerks like Big Danny, not awkward Asian guys like Ryan Takahashi.

I wonder what Michelle is thinking right now. Is she thinking “Gee, I’m such an idiot! I got fired for screwing Ryan! WTF????”

Or is she getting drunk right now? Or did she decide to go back to Big Danny out of desperation? Gosh, I hope not…

Oh well. She’s a wonderful personal trainer and one of the most gorgeous human beings on planet Earth. I’m sure she won’t have any problem finding another job.

Me, on the other hand, will have a much tougher time. I’m not as cute as her or as skilled in the fitness industry.

If only there were jobs for history majors just flying off the shelves. That would be convenient.

So, the next day I immediately start applying for jobs. I wake up at 8 a.m. sharp (which, believe it or not, is sleeping in for me!) and search the usual online job databases for attractive openings. Twelve cover letters later, I look up at my clock and see it is 11:27 a.m.

Time for lunch!

Because I’m strapped for cash, I’m going to have to resort to a boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich, baked potato chips and whatever cheap beer I have in the refrigerator. Ah, yes. The life of being unemployed. Oh joy. I can hardly contain my excitement.

Blah.

It’s a very surreal experience. I’m still – even 24 hours later – completely in shock over how I lost my job. I lost my job at the peak of orgasm. I was fired the moment my boss saw me and Michelle nearly consummate our impromptu coupling session. Even thinking about it gives me the chills. I still wonder what Michelle is doing right now. Is she agonizing over her poor decision to let her vagina (and my penis) get in the way of maintaining a paid job? Or has she been hired right off the bat by some other gym?

God only knows.

After lunch, I decide to take a stroll down the street and inspect the local businesses. I might strike gold and discover one of them is hiring. Stranger things have happened. There are plenty of cute little boutiques, shops and restaurants around here that might be hiring this very instant. This could be my lucky day.

Enjoying a sunny but chilly early afternoon, I see no one has a “NOW HIRING” sign hung up on their door. Well, shoot. Seattle is a large city after all, so there’s no use being down in the dumps quite yet.

Of course, I always have Sam’s proposition on the table. You know…being a high class drug dealer.

Holy shit. The fact that this crossed my mind is making me shudder. I need to stop thinking about this! Because the more I think about it, the more likely I’ll end up rationalizing a reason to take him up on his offer. And thoughts have a funny way of becoming reality if you’re not careful.

Hm. Nothing is around here. Just endless businesses with all their employment needs met. No signs of desperate storeowners needing a helping hand. No damsels in distress willing to pay me a million bucks to save her from danger. Nothing of the sorts.

Damn.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a business called “Cascade Temporary Staffing.” Uh huh. Temporary staffing. Well, I guess a few temp jobs here and there wouldn’t hurt. I’m not hurting for money, but a little extra green in the bank certainly could help me get through the holiday season. This could also be a great way to get my foot in the door with a great company. Gee, maybe I should inquire within and see what opportunities they have available!

And that’s exactly what I do.

I walk inside the building and see a long line. A verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry long line. Holy cow! There must be at least 40 or 50 people here! All they’re doing is waiting, carrying their résumés and hoping for a shot at a decent job.

Wow, it’s really sad in here.

This economy definitely is not improving at the rate we’d all hope. This explains the long line. Although I didn’t bring a CV or anything, but I’m here and I have some time to kill, so I guess there’s no harm in waiting in line with the rest of these folks. Who knows? I might walk out of here with a job interview in my pocket. You never know…

(Time passes)

25 minutes later, I think I’ve moved maybe nine feet. There’s about four or five dozen people here and only two Cascade Temporary Staffing employees helping us all. Gee, how ironic is it when a staffing agency is understaffed?

Meanwhile, I have nothing to do but overhear the colorful conversations of the people both in front and behind me. I must say, random people talking about random nonsense can be the most entertaining thing you’ll ever witness. For example, here’s a sample of a conversation between two teenage girls, one dressed like a biker chick and the other looking like she bought all her clothes at a Value Village blow-out sale.

Girl 1: You’re not going to believe this. Holy fucking shit.

Girl 2: What is it?

Girl 1: You know that guy I was with for a while? Craig?

Girl 2: Yeah. What about him?

Girl 1: He got arrested yesterday. And he just texted me. Do you know who his cellmate is?

Girl 2: Who?

Girl 1: My baby’s daddy. Holy fuck! That shit is fucking messed up.

Girl 2: Fuck.

Girl 1: My ex is cellmates with my baby’s daddy. Holy shit.

Girl 2: Yeah, girl.

Seriously. This is the crap I have to listen to in this God-forsaken unemployment line. I don’t want to sound too condescending, but I’m going to guess that neither of these ladies (both of whom couldn’t be older than 16 or 17) have a college degree or any employable skills beyond gossiping, getting pregnant and texting.

SMH.

Oh my God! Am I using Internet-speak? Am I degrading two people I don’t even know for having no “employable skills” when I just got fired for doing it doggy-style with a female co-worker? I am in no position to judge.

This is what unemployment does to you. It kicks your sense of self-worth out the door.

Finally, after what seems like a whole hour (but it was only about 40 minutes), I get to the front of the line and have the chance to speak to a staffing agent. The guy is named Stephen and he looks bored to death. Hey, I don’t blame him one bit. This place is a depressing cesspool full of desperate, jobless folks who would rather be somewhere else. If I worked here, I’d jump off a bridge in no time!

“Did you bring your résumé with you, Mr. Takahashi?”

“No, I did not. I came here on a whim.”

“In that case, fill out these forms and turn them in to window #5, please. Then we’ll process it and schedule a real face-to-face interview sometime next week.”

Stephen points to window #5, which is being manned by a guy who looks even more depressed than him. Boy! This place is giving me bad vibes.

“Thank you.”

“Yeah, yeah. No problem. Next!”

I walk away and find a chair in the waiting area. I thumb through the application papers, looking for what type of information they need from me. Holy cow. There must be at least thirty pages here! They’re asking for all my employment history, school records, criminal history, opinions about workplace ethics, professional AND personal references and writing samples. It even includes a math quiz (Really? Just because I’m Asian doesn’t mean I can do math!) and a personality test.

Oh. My. God. I REALLY don’t want to fill out all this crap. Seriously. Can’t someone just give me a job already? It’s only been one day and I’m already sounding as emo as a middle school kid playing with a razor blade in my mom’s minivan. Do they really expect me to fill out all this today?

You know what? Screw this. Screw this!

I get up from my chair, dump the application on the floor, give Stephen the “evil eye” and storm out the door. I don’t need this. Seriously, I don’t. I’m not going to fill out my entire life’s history just so I can get a temp job being an accountant at some disease-ridden hellhole. I need to be doing something where I feel useful, not where I’m disposable.

Yes, I just burned a bridge, but it’s nothing major and I’m sure this will not come back to haunt me anytime soon. I’ll just keep strolling down this street and see what else comes up.

Hm….

Nothing much yet. Now I’m outside the business area and moving into a residential neighborhood. I don’t think anyone around here is hiring. God…I’m depressed right now.

Like, really depressed. I don’t know why, but this entire week has been one big blur. One moment I have a stable job, the next moment I’m having sex with a gorgeous female bodybuilder, then all of a sudden I’m unemployed and on the verge of being broke.

Whew. I need a drink. I need some whiskey.

As I sulk around this particular neighborhood, I’m instantly reminded of a time when I was a child and I was the last kid picked to play kickball during recess. As I stood in the field, waiting for the ball to ever get to me, I didn’t feel happy that I was playing with my “friends.” I was sad because they thought so low of me that they chose me last, even after all the girls! I forced a smile and did my best, which wasn’t much.

I feel a lot like that now. I feel like Life has chosen me last to play kickball. I feel like Life would rather take any of those people waiting in line in front of me back there than little old Ryan. I get the sense that Life is looking down upon me and laughing at my expense.

Life would rather help out those two girls and the incarcerated baby’s daddy than me.

My melancholy daydream breaks when I hear a dog barking at me. Furious that I’ve trespassed onto “his” sidewalk, I turn around and decide to go back home. There’s nothing for me here. My best chance of landing a decent job is finding one online, not wandering around aimlessly hoping to win the employment lottery.

And to think I wasted 40 minutes of my life waiting in that bloody unemployment line. I could have been doing something more productive like watching TV, jogging, eating, sleeping, masturbating or taking a long crap.

Speaking of taking a long crap (which is such a pleasant thought, by the way), I REALLY need to pee. It truly is time to go home.

But this time, I’m not going to wait around for anyone to pick me for kickball. I’m starting MY OWN team!

Onward! And onto bigger and better things!!!