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Back-to-school shopping sure has changed since I was a lad. My twelve-year-old daughter is about to start the seventh grade. On an average of twice a week since sixth grade ended, my wife has accompanied her to the mall to painstakingly peruse Abercrombie Kids, Pac Sunwear, and Limited Too in search of not just the perfect outfit, but roughly fifty perfect outfits, as well as numerous shoe stores and shops with accessories to compliment them.
You would think, from the amount of money being spent and the time invested that she was entering Beverly Hills Middle School and that I was some sort of corporate tycoon or rock star.
My darling little girl has unfortunately had her developing mind warped by shows like MTV's 'My Super Sweet 16,' in which spoiled-brat princesses alternately whine, brag, and shriek as they prepare for Sweet 16 parties on the scale of royal weddings, complete with bands with current hits in the top 40, formal wear, male models jumping out of cakes and dancing around in thongs, and luxury automobiles that the little snot would probably total in a drunk-driving accident later that evening.
Half of them don't even have driver's licenses yet. All of this is financed by wealthy dads that are almost certainly tough S.O.B.'s in the business world, but at home are simpering wussies whose bratty daughters have them wrapped so tightly around their fingers, they might as well just skip their own death and hand everything they own over right now so little Brandi can party away her life in her own tropical beach resort with her 'posse' of airhead friends.
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My Wife Has Accompanied Her To The Mall To Painstakingly
Peruse Many Shops In Search Of Roughly Fifty Perfect Outfits.
Back In My Day
I exaggerate a bit about my daughter's wardrobe budget, but this much is true. If she went to a nice private school with a name like "The Wadsworth-Uppity Academy for Splendid Young Ladies", and wore a school uniform rather than the latest fashions, we would be spending about the same amount of money on tuition as we do on her attire now.
In contrast, I still remember my back-to-school shopping at her age, because it all happened the night before seventh grade began. My mom gave me twenty bucks and bus fare to the mall, with which I was able to get a pair of gray corduroy pants from The Gap and an Ozzy Osbourne shirt featuring the cover of his Diary of a Madman album.
This was back when Ozzy was an anti-establishment figure known for biting the heads off live bats, not for being a shuffling, mumbling father of two spoiled-brat twerp kids that flout his authority and generally make him look like an ineffectual, brain-addled fool on national television. Coincidentally, that show is on MTV too. Seeing a pattern here?
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If She Went To A Nice Private School We Would Be Spending
The Same Amount Of Money On Tuition As We Do On Her Attire Now.
Six Weeks Out
Luckily for my young muscle-head protégé, Randy, he was still single and childless, and thus free to wallow in his own imagined misery. Right now he was six weeks out from his contest, and at the point where so many competitors have their big moment of doubt. Generally feeling sorry for themselves, they cry out to the heavens with pained questions such as:
"Is it even possible for me to get in shape for this contest in time?"
"Why did I get myself into this, and what if I back out now?" And of course, my favorite:
"Will my wife leave me if my gas gets any worse, and could it be the broccoli? And could stuffing charcoal up my wazoo help keep some of the foul stench from escaping into the atmosphere around me?"
Randy wasn't worried about getting in shape. He had done it before and was right on schedule now to do it again. Cutting down his starchy carbs and replacing them with healthy fats from raw nuts and salmon was helping him keep his energy up.
Pudding he was making from protein powder and sugar-free hard candy were allowing him to keep his sweet tooth satiated, so this particular diet involved a minimal amount of suffering. But human nature dictates that we are always able to find something to complain about. I ought to know, as I earned the Gold medal back at the Seoul Olympics for the 100-meter B!tching and Moaning event (I don't like to brag, but the top Belarus guy wasn't easy to beat). And no, I did not use steroids to win that.
Something To Complain About
"My genetics just suck!" Randy bleated as he stood 'relaxed', going through his posing as we did at the conclusion of each workout for about fifteen minutes or so. I had heard this one before - not only out of Randy's mouth, but from countless other bodybuilders, including myself. I knew what to counter this with, too.
"Compared to who? Let me guess, Ronnie Coleman! That's about as realistic as comparing any other bike racer to Lance Armstrong, a man that probably came out of the womb on a ten-speed and took off for the nearest hill."
"Yeah, but look at this," he flexed a quad. It was good, but it still needed to grow a good deal before anybody started asking him for leg-training tips.
"Why don't I have legs like yours? Your legs were a lot bigger than mine even when you were my age, I've seen the pictures."
"I don't know, why hasn't my waist been as small as yours since I was about thirteen years old and weighed ninety pounds? We're all different. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Look at me and my wife Janet, for instance."
"My shoulders have always been good. Big and round, never had trouble building them. My arms, on the other hand, as we all know, have been a struggle all along and continue to be. Then you have Janet.
Her arms have grown steadily no matter what she did for them. She has peaks on her d@mn biceps like little Mount Everests. But her shoulders are tough to build, as stubborn as arms are for me. When they say opposites attract, this must have been what they meant. Either that, or it's because she's super hot and the celebrity I resemble most is Shrek."
That got a chuckle out of Randy. I actually get Bill Clinton a lot, but Shrek sounded better.
It Just Doesn't Seem Fair
"It just doesn't seem fair that there are some guys in bodybuilding with awesome genetics, guys that look like they should be in the magazines even when they are just doing local shows."
"I know, but that's like saying it's not fair that some guys in the NBA are so tall, or some tennis stars have such great hand-eye coordination. At least in bodybuilding, at the local and regional level before you start running into an army of genetic mutants, you can do pretty well with less-than-perfect genetics.
I have managed to beat a lot of them. You do that by working harder and smarter and doing the best with what you have. You work on your weak points and bring them up to the best of your ability.
You train and diet and do your cardio and never miss quality meals or supplements so you show up looking the best you can, and in great condition. That way you can beat the guys that were too lazy to work something they didn't feel like, or who cheated on their diets and blew off early-morning cardio sessions."
"But Ron, you have still taken second place to a lot of freaks, haven't you?"
"Bastard! I knew you were going to bring that sh!t up. It's true. I have been runner-up more times than any other bodybuilder in history. But I tell you what, I have beaten some guys I had no business beating, guys that had more genetics in their pinkie finger than I had in my whole body. And it's because I worked harder than they did, and smarter.
I did a lot more with what I was given than they did, and beating them despite my many genetic shortcomings was as sweet a victory as winning the whole show."
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Beating Guys With Better Genetics Is Because
I Worked Harder Than They Did, And Smarter.
Not So Bad
Randy checked himself out again and didn't seem quite as upset. He hit a crab most muscular, a pose where his wide shoulders and big traps gave him the illusion of being much bigger than he really was.
"Not so horrible, I guess. Not Ronnie Coleman, but not so bad."
"Not at all, Randy. I don't need to sit here and tell you what your strong and weak points are. You already know. You can't change your genetics, but you can do the absolute most with what you have. You do that, and you are a real success story, regardless of what contests you do or don't win.
I have a certain amount of respect in the sport because a lot of people know how far I have come over the years. Meanwhile, others with far superior genetics have quit, fizzled out, or just faded away because they weren't willing to work hard enough to compete against the others with great genetics that were willing. They're long gone and forgotten, while I am still here hitting it hard and still making small but gradual improvements every year."
Randy clearly felt better now. He would still have his bumpy moments over the next six weeks. That's the nature of preparing for a bodybuilding contest. You have your good days when you feel on top of the world, and you have your bad days when you feel like chucking it all in and going on a binge of pizza and beer.
I didn't envy Randy. But at least his money was his own, and not being thrown into a black hole of pre-teen fashion that was sucking it into some Bermuda Triangle of clothing styles that would be 'out' almost as fast as they were 'in.'
"How's your personal training business going lately, Randy?"
"Pretty good, I guess, about six regular clients and a few that are more occasional." I clapped him on the back.
"I'll have to start trying to refer more people to you."
"Gee thanks, Ron, that's awful nice of you."
"Not exactly. I need you to make big money because I might need a loan, a big loan, in less than four years. You see, my daughter will be turning sixteen..."
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