Monday, January 11, 2010

Of being an individual and self-censorship

There’s a new workout class at the Quincy Athletic Club. It’s called BodyPump. It’s all the buzz. It was introduced this past weekend, and suddenly there were all of these buff, good-looking people strutting around in black Lycra. Before there was a weight class taught by a woman named Carolyn. She was a South Shore Girl complete with accent, thin and taunt and a scrawny little butt, a bit rough and she drove an SUV with a Harley sticker on it. I liked Carolyn and I liked Carolyn’s class. Sometimes I might have been the only guy in the class, or maybe one of maybe three. But she’d kick my ass. I learned a long time ago from road running that the sex of an athlete doesn’t mean a thing. The road or the court or the mountain doesn’t care what you carry between your legs. And Carolyn’s class was a good workout, and it got me on the road to slowly getting back in shape.

But as of last week, Carolyn is gone and a multi-million dollar corporate extravaganza has moved in. There’s a stage and on the stage is a buff blonde with one of those little mikes that all the pop stars use, and the music—if you want to call it that—is throbbing and loud. She exhorts the class of (mostly) out of shape endomorphs who less fashionably dressed than she, even the ones who think they’re fashionably dressed for the gym with “Come on, squeeze it” and “Whoo!” Thank God for iPods that I can drown it all out with John Fogerty and the Chili Peppers. And people are standing outside the class, curious, to see what it’s all about. You see, everyone is curious because, it’s all the buzz.

And I’ll probably start going to the class, eventually. After all the buzz has died and the early adopters have moved on to something new. Something else to sate their thirst for the buzz. For the scene. I’ll go because I’m sure it’s a great class and I do believe that Eric, one of the guys who runs the place, is dedicated and passionate about health and fitness. And Sue tried it and it kicked her ass, and she’s in pretty fair shape. She was working out and Eric came over to her and told her there was an extra spot she could have in the class if she wanted it. Sure Eric has to eat and run a business so it behooves him to make BodyPump successful, but he’s also thinking of his clients. You get that kind of personal service there.

It’s the buzz I can’t stand, and every time I hear it I start looking for the money and the big corporate juggernaut behind it because that buzz is the noise it makes as it comes crashing in. Like the noise I’ve heard missiles make when they come out of the sky; they make the sound of a piece of paper tearing.

And that’s exactly the sound I heard last week on Facebook when women were writing down the color of their bras. I heard that buzz. But I didn’t say anything because it was about breast cancer—a very liberal cause—and I knew if I said anything like I’m doing now I would be branded a jerk and a chauvinist or worse. I would be shown for what I really am, and what I’m not. I’m not a liberal. I have learned that in this country you have to watch the left as much as you watch the right. And truth be told I thought I’d be branded by a lot of people who I not only like, but want to like me to. So I censored myself, a horrible thing to do.

I heard that buzz last week because breast cancer is right up there with saving the whales and the children in the liberal world, just like saving the flag is to the conservatives. And just to try to stem the hue and cry, I think breast cancer is a horrible disease, and I really like whales and children. I was once a child myself and I actually raised two of my own. And I wish breast cancer could be cured and I wish whales wouldn’t be going extinct and I wish every child a great future. I just don’t like it rammed down my throat in the same way I don’t like Christianity rammed down my throat.

I don’t like breast cancer rammed down my throat because, frankly more women die of heart disease which takes more women (and men) than breast cancer. (It killed my father.) Cervical cancer kills more women. Lung cancer does, which killed my mother. Breast cancer is in the forefront of our consciousness I’m willing to bet because of some really good PR work. It ranks seventh in terms of mortality in women. Breast cancer also kills men, too, a fact that reminds me of 9-11. People died in the Pentagon and in that field in Pennsylvania, but the World Trade Towers get all the attention. While breast cancer does kill more women than men, by giving all the attention to women are we saying the men just don’t count?

I just have a real aversion to really good PR work, along with lobbyists, even when the buzz is for a really good cause, like breast cancer. And that feeling comes from my very soul. Who I am. I hate to be manipulated, which is exactly what viral marketing like the breast cancer/Facebook campaign tried to do, but in a “cool, fun, hip way.” (The campaign wasn’t even that successful, if you look at the numbers presented in a Washington Post article. This blog on certain days posts better numbers than that.) I hate it when anyone even tries to manipulate me. I’ve never been a joiner, never wanted to be a part of the crowd. The crowd frankly, gives me, in the words of Mark Twain, the fantods.

And you know, I think society needs more people like me. Someone a bit cynical. A bit distrustful. The devil’s advocate. A contrarian. Someone who, when everyone is zigging, instead zags.

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