I saw this faceless guy on the tram the other day (I blurred out his face because I just think it's better to use anonymous people for my examples, especially when I think how horrified I'd be if I saw my picture being used as an example on someone's blog):
and it reminded me of one of those things I do NOT miss about America: muscle men. Now, this guy in the picture is not even the type of guy I'm referring to ~I'm just giving you an insight into my thought process here. That guy is definitely someone who works out (hence the gym bag and bicep bulging out of his arm), but it's not something you would even notice necessarily. I'm referring to those guys who spend all their free time at the gym, pumping iron and their egos, who end up looking like someone shoved an air hose up their ass. This general body type looks kinda like this faceless fellow:
Don't get me wrong, I am all for people going to the gym and keeping fit, and taking a keen interest in that as a hobby. But let's be honest here: some guys (and gals, but in a very different way) are just a little too interested in their own bodies. It's a form of narcissism. I tend to believe that many if not most of these fellows have, deep down underneath all those muscles, a real sense of insecurity. Same with the idiots who cruise around in souped-up cars (or any cars) real loud driving way too fast (reminds me: souped-up cars and monster trucks are another aspect of American culture I do not miss one bit!). A really secure man who feels naturally self-confident just doesn't need to do that. Again: I'm sure lots of secure, self-confident and kind, sensitive men are also into bodybuilding, and driving fast. But there's a fine line between being fit ~or even buff~ and being just too into yourself and too puffed-out with the muscles.
In any case, one seldom sees such bodies walking around the streets of Germany, thank god. I even considered waiting until I could get a better example than the guy pictured above whom I saw on the tram yesterday, but the truth is it could take up to a year to see one of those overly-buff muscle guys out there. They really are just that rare.
I had to ask myself: why is that? I'm really not sure, but my first thought was about German men in general. They tend to be, well, I can't think of a better word: weak. I don't mean physically puny ~the fact that the elevator at my local train stop is permanently broken and I need to ask someone to help me carry the stroller down and up the stairs every time we go to the city proves that. I mean that German men are somehow lacking in that strong, masculine, forward-moving initiative that is one of the many defining characteristics of being male. I don't mean the "mama's boy" variety of male weakness either. It's a very special quality the German men tend to have, something that brings to mind a fuzzy grey area where a "real man" should be moving about in clearly defined bold hues. Man almighty I don't feel qualified to open the can of worms squirming about right now. This is the kind of thing to be discussed in a Gender Studies or Anthropology course. I have no freaking idea why the gender roles in this country are so askew. (I'm also preparing a post about the German women ~lookout!). But somehow, they are. And I believe that may have some influence on the way German men shy away from bodybuilding like a cat avoids water.
There is, however, another side to this story (as always). I have to give credit to my German husband for letting me in on this as I asked him his view on this matter. There is also a way in which the menfolk of this land simply don't need to "prove" their manliness through their muscles. I already touched on the way muscle men are actually insecure under all the macho muscles. The muscles are only a way of proving to themselves and everyone else how manly and strong they are, when in reality they feel like helpless little kittens inside. German men would (and do) laugh at that. It's just a show. It's not real. It's superficial. One thing Germans are not is superficial (superficiality is in fact the #1 quality Germans criticize about Americans). A German man is more likely to prove his prowess through intellectual, spiritual, or creative means. And I love that! I love that the whole macho trip doesn't fly here.
One more thing: apparently there is a bodybuilding community out there. And the store they all go to for supplies, guess what it's called?
Yep, that's right: The American Fitness Shop. See the All-American, puffed out muscle mannequin standing outside the store?
Just one way American culture has seeped into Germany. But, luckily, not too much.