Summer is a great time to remember I would have benefitted from being born in Melbourne. In addition to having a better-supported arts scene and a single colour palette for all seasons, it’s a city that really doesn’t care about the size of your muscles.
You might think I’m kidding, but I am serious. If you are reading this from Sydney, it’s too late. You live in one of the most body-conscious areas on the planet and these days, summer can last up to half a year. Growing up all we heard about was bikini bodies, but the pressure on men has never been greater.
There are rigs everywhere. I see them in my nightmares, which occur during the brightest hours of the day. Strange, mythical figures with rudely protruding pectorals and latissimus dorsi as prominent as their brachii. Man mountains move among us in tank tops. It’s easy to know all these Latin words when you’re casually obsessed with how skinny you are.
Growing up, I was told by adults who came of age in the ‘60s – a time when simply not looking like an ogre would get you laid – that being slight was a gift. As others around me hit puberty and developed rippling shoulders without even trying, I clung to the misguided belief that great chat and a suntan would get me through.
Male-body dysmorphia is not new and it’s not isolated to Sydney. But the phrase “shredded for Stereosonic” sure as hell didn’t come from anywhere else. We are a town surrounded by water, desperate to get our kit off and bodies out there on public display.
Being stacked isn’t the expectation, but it’s fast becoming the norm. It isn’t isolated to beachside suburbs, either. You’ll find chiselled upper bodies, bulging man boobs and inverted pyramids with matchstick legs from Auburn to Vaucluse.
Your average skinny bloke tries. The protein shakes, the chicken before breakfast, the brutal gym regimes, the supplements, the matcha smoothies that taste like gunk, we’ve gone there. It’s obsession that’s led many into seriously bad headspaces, as many of us eventually figure out that being large is not the same as being fit.
Despite that, we still roll up our sleeves in the mirror at home and sigh as we flex to nobody. It’s tough out there in Sydney for any guy that’s sub-75 kilos. In a city where our biggest stars are sportsmen, and our biggest sportsmen are bigger than a small aircraft, it’s impossible not to notice one’s own size.
The new gold standard for being able to fit into skinny jeans but somehow simultaneously bust out of a short-sleeved shirt is a feat of human engineering. It was minted right here in our gyms, which auspiciously seem to have taken the place of every nightclub in town.
Do not worry about me, though, for I am a man of faith. It will happen for me one day. You will see me, a flying V on top of two tree trunks; Hercules in boardies. It will be Sun’s Out, Guns Out every day of the year and I will stop trying to use big words like “brachii” to impress women because my actual brachii will do all the talking.
With compounded weight will come an almost unbearable lightness, as I float through the summer months, bulging and boisterous. Sometimes, on unseasonably cold nights, I will miss carbohydrates. But it will be short-lived, as I am now a big man in Sydney, a boulder among twigs.