EPISODE I – CAPTAIN DADBOD: ORIGINS

Do dudes worry about weight too? You bet we do. 

Do we look in the full-length mirror and ask ourselves, “Do these jeans make me look fat,” just as much as women do? Absolutely. Maybe more. 

Take it from this failure-to-fly fat boy. Unless they live in the gym, the days of a metabolism fast enough to generate a six-pack with 2% body fat are gone for most guys by the time they graduate high school. That’s assuming they ever had those “symbols of health” to begin with. 

You know what I’m talking about; the features that telegraph to the object(s) of their affection that this man is mating material. To put it in a less anthropological way, chicks dig the muscles! They love the lean meat, the cut gut, the V-shape back and the sun-kissed skin that says this specimen must have moved out of his parent’s basement a while ago. Yes, indeed. That’s what most men assume a woman wants. But do they?  We’ll get to that. But, first, let’s take a trip to the past, a time when the internet was still dialing up, reality tv was new and video games were yet to take the crown as the dominant form of entertainment. It was a simpler time when… 

LIFE WAS THE PITTS AND MOVIES MADE THE MAN

Picture it: It was 1999, and there was no place for me to party with Prince. I was lost. Looking for a respite from a series of dead-end jobs, failed relationships, and a debilitating alienation from the benchmarks of adult life. Most of my friends had married, were busy having kids and building their careers. I felt as though I was the third wheel everywhere I went. I was miserable and alone. 

I did find escape, however, in the one place that embraced my newfound isolation. The movies. I’d always loved movies from the time I was a kid. Not just the stories, nor characters who inhabited them, but the details about how they were made, and the themes that inspired those who wrote them. So, now as an adult, I’d sit in darkened movie theaters for hours fleeing my bleak existence, all the while secretly clambering for some hint of meaning between frames of flickering light; inspiration in the hope that life could imitate art. What I got in return was a brutal lesson built upon a foundation of one undeniable truth. 

I hated Brad Pitt. 

Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme. Maybe hate is too strong a word. But, let me state it for the record. I had a really hard time NOT hating Brad Pitt. Not because he’s a lousy actor. He’s not. In fact, he’s pretty damn talented. 

So, why all the animosity? What unforgivable sin did the Pitt-ster commit? (Aside from dumping Anniston and leaving Jolie with all those adopted rug-rats.) 

I’ll tell you what! The bastard took his shirt off! 

Now, I know it sounds absurd, but stick with me. I am going somewhere with this. 

It was the opening night for one of the best “dude movies” ever made, a twisted little story called Fight Club. The theater was packed, and there were more women in the house than you’d expect for a flick so obviously directed toward a male audience. But I didn’t care. Fight Club was dark. Brutal even. I loved it. Right up until the point when “it” happened.

“It” was the moment Brad ripped off his Oxford button-down, starting pummeling people on screen, got all sweaty, and stepped into the light. 

I’ll never forget that sound: a collective gasp from every woman in the theater. The air filled with the pungent scent of female arousal dwarfing even the sweet stench of my buttered popcorn and I felt something sweep over me, a cold flash of harsh revelation. In a matter of moments, this guy has become the modern embodiment of a classic adage: He was the man every man wanted to be, and the man every woman wanted to be with. 

And I realized at that moment, a moment of sheer indignity and self-induced emasculation, that I was nothing like him. I had no such presence and I sure as hell didn’t look like him. 

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t try. Oblivious to the fact that most women loved him for the pretty-boy face just as much as his body, I’d allowed a not-so-subtle message to saturate my brain that night. 

I know! I know! You’re thinking “Spare us the flowery self-loathing, DB! Just get to it.”  

Well, the gist of it was this. I thought if I could have his muscles, have abs of my own to glisten, women might dismiss the fact that I wasn’t quite so pretty. Who knows? They might even forgive me for having Ben Stiller’s face. 

So, ever the reactionary, the following day I signed up at my local gym. I started working out. 

HARD. 

In fact, I overworked out. I killed myself trying to force this future dadbod into submission. And, at the end of the day, I’d come home hurting, sometimes even injured. And why? Because even though my logical mind was telling me the idea was too shallow to be true, my lizard brain had taken over. Fueled by emotion, and a crippling lack of self-worth, I submitted to the reality of my situation: THIS is what women want, and there was no way I could live up to it. 

How Could I? I was no Superman! Or was I? 

See what I did there? That’s called foreshadowing folks. 

Anyway, for the next decade, I would fight myself, a man of dual identities circling each other in the ring of his mind. On one side I was the mild-mannered dork with no game who would try every fad workout he could find to achieve physiological perfection. I was powerlifting, rockin’ P90 X, Crossfitting, binging Billy Blanks, Bowflexing, doing step aerobics, getting my “move on” with Zumba. Yes, I even attended a yoga class, which looked promising considering the male-to-female ratio. But, eventually, even that turned on me when I farted. 

So, in my desperation, I retreated to the only thing I was ever any good at, aside from producing buckets of sweat. 

Running. I’d been running since I was fourteen years old, and I was good at it. Plus, it was the only way I knew I could drop the pounds.  So, off I went. And I didn’t stop for hours.

Not my smartest move, but to make matters worse, when I was done, I’d hop off the treadmill and, driven by starvation, cut a path to the local Chinese, Mexican, or Italian Restaurant. There I would pack it all back on by eating what I never realized was the equivalent of two servings!  

But that’s cool. I deserved it, right? I’d “killed it” at the gym. I run for an hour and a half in the cardio theater. I’d suffered through Notting Hill – AGAIN. Yes, I’m looking at you 10 Fitness. 

So, frustrated, I returned to step one and consulted with “the experts.” Personal trainers. 

They gave the orders, and I obeyed their commands. 

Drink more water! Up the protein! Kill the carbs. Increase the weight! Drop the reps! Eat more carbs! Increase the reps! Drop the weight. Have a shake and don’t get hungry! 

Talk about stop the insanity!

Eventually, my frustration bubbled over.  I’d had enough. I was done with this workout crap! It was time-consuming, financially unsustainable and the results were demoralizing. 

This is when the other part of my duality reared his ugly head. He was an angry cuss. Bitter and sarcastic, he began eyeing the fairer sex with cynicism and spite. Every attempt to make a connection was soundly defeated, reinforcing the thought that I was unlovable. As the narrator put it in that famous Disney flick, “for who could ever love a beast.” 

Yes, indeed. The Dark Side was strong with this one. Buying into mental distortions of my own making, I embraced my final option. I gave up on myself and submitted to being hopeless and helpless forever. 

But fear not my brave and exhausted reader, for this was not the end of my hero’s journey. The big finale of my movie was about to take a step into the light of a third act. And the age of Captain Dadbod was about to begin!

END OF PART ONE. 

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