A Most Magnificent Body of Work – Part Two of Five

Debbie Leung showing us her best side.

Continued from part one

Twenty minutes later Deborah is parking her car in stall #17, the spot assigned to her by the apartment complex. Cassandra owns a motorcycle that she hasn’t ridden in at least a year; and probably won’t until her leg fully heals. So until then, Deborah essentially has to drive her everywhere. It’s a burden, but one that she has gotten used to.

Once inside, she pats Bruce on the head. Bruce is their orange tabby whom they adopted from Cassie’s brother, whose new wife is allergic to cats. Deborah never thought she’d ever become a mommy, but that all changed when this adorable ball of fur entered her life.

“Meow,” Bruce purrs with gratitude.

“Meow, meow back to you, little guy,” she whispers. Deborah finishes her banana strawberry smoothie and tosses the cup into the trash. She drops her purse onto the kitchen counter and takes out the envelope. She reopens it and counts the contents inside. Sure enough, it’s 100 $100 bills, which indeed adds up to $10,000. Deborah may never have been good at math, but she can do basic arithmetic when large sums of money are involved. She closes the envelope and places it back inside her purse.

She doesn’t know if Cassie is still awake, so she proceeds cautiously to the bathroom to brush her teeth. All of a sudden, a familiar soothing voice breaks the silence.

“Good evening. Or is it officially morning yet?”

Deborah looks up at the wall clock. It is only 11:30.

“No, it’s still evening. Hello sweetie.” Deborah approaches her lover and kisses her with more intensity than usual. Cassandra heaves after their lips come apart.

“Wow! That’s more than just a simple good night kiss. What’s gotten into you?” Cassandra switches on a light and takes a good look at Deborah. Her hair is unkempt, but that is not unusual. She appears to be like a walking zombie, which is definitely out of character. Usually the Debbie she knows carries herself with more pomp and authority.

“The strangest thing just happened to me as I was walking out of the gym,” Deborah begins. “I still haven’t been able to process it.”

“Well, that’s quite out of the ordinary. Did that asshole start to flirt with you again?” For years this random spray tanned muscle bro would always hit on her at the gym. Finally, he stopped only because Cassie clocked him in the nose after he called her a dyke. There were hundreds of witnesses, but no one felt any sympathy for the douchebag. In fact, the crowd cheered her on.

“No, I haven’t seen that guy for several months. Just as I was leaving, this guy I’ve never seen before struck up a conversation with me in the parking lot,” she says. Deborah goes to her purse, takes out the envelope, and hands it to Cassandra. “He offered me a deal on behalf of his ‘client.’ He didn’t say who his client is. Then he gave me this.”

“What’s in it? It’s pretty heavy.”

“Go ahead. Open it.”

Cassandra does. After looking inside, her eyes become as wide as Deborah has ever seen them.

“Holy shit! Is this for real?” Cassandra takes out the bills and begins to count them one by one. “Holy mother of God, this is a shit ton of money!”

“I’ve counted it. Twice. It’s ten thousand dollars. Real dollars. I used to work at a bank, remember? I know a fake dollar bill when I see one. And every single one of them is real. No doubt about it.” After the initial shock wears off, Cassandra next discovers the business card that is also tucked away inside the envelope. She reads it.

“I’m guessing this is the phone number of the person you talked to?”

“Yes. He told me I should think about his offer. If I want to take him up on it, I should call this number.” Deborah sits down at the dining table. Cassandra, sensing a longer conversation is about to commence, joins her.

“What was his offer?”

Deborah clears her throat. Bruce meanders over to his water dish and drinks from it.

“He says his client wants me to spend the night with him. He didn’t specify what we’d be doing, but you can use your imagination,” she begins. “His client is willing to compensate me with one million dollars–”

“Are you serious?! One million dollars? In cash?”

“He sounded serious. And he gave me this money to prove he’s not blowing smoke. Says I can keep the ten thousand bucks regardless of whether I choose to go through with it or not. He told me I have 48 hours to reply.” Deborah sinks back in her chair and sighs. Bruce jumps on her lap and rubs his head against her hardened abdomen. She scratches the orange fur ball’s underbelly, much to his delight.

There is a long pause.

“This is unbelievable. He cannot possibly be serious.”

“That’s what I thought at first as well,” Deborah says. “I’ve been thinking nonstop about this ever since. I don’t know what to do. He didn’t seem dangerous or anything.”

“Did he follow you home?” Cassandra asks. She peers outside through the window facing the main street. Not a single car has zipped by in the past fifteen minutes. After all, it is the dead of night.

A luscious Monica Brant.

“I don’t think so. He drove off before I did.” Bruce has decided he wants to sleep on his favorite mommy’s lap. Deborah continues to stroke his belly.

“Are you sure? He could have had someone else tail you.”

“Don’t be paranoid, Cassie dear. He didn’t seem threatening. He did give me $10,000, right? That’s not something a scary man would do.” Reluctantly, Deborah also looks out the window. She sees an old retiree walking a dog. Why the fuck would you walk your dog this late at night?

“Hm. 48 hours, you say? What will you do? What did he say if you said no?”

“He said if either I said ‘no’ or I never contact him, he would pursue other candidates or something like that. Either way, I keep this money. I just wouldn’t be eligible to get the bigger prize.” Cassandra stands up and closes the blinds. Deborah is happy to see how effortlessly she can move around without wincing in pain. That wasn’t the case not too long ago.

“Other candidates? What is this, a job interview? Wow. What are you going to do?”

They stare at each other for a long time. Bruce yawns. Deborah feels a yawn of her own sneaking up on her.

“I have no fucking clue.”

***

The screeching of an alarm clock awakes both Deborah and Cassandra from their slumber. Bruce has already awakened hours ago, which isn’t surprising considering cats sleep for twenty hours a day – or so it seems. He dutifully sits next to his food dish, ready to be fed. Today is Thursday, which means it’s Cassie’s turn to give the feline what he demands.

Deborah lies in bed staring up at the ceiling. Was last night a dream? Did that encounter with Thin Fedora Man really happen to her? As Cassandra plops a lump of wet food into Bruce’s dish, Deborah suddenly makes her decision.

“I’m going to do it.”

Cassandra’s ears perk up. Bruce could not care less, chowing down on his food with the ferociousness of a starving Dickensian orphan.

“Really? Why?”

“It’s only for one night. Plus, I can talk to him, ask a few more questions, and back out if he reveals further details that make me uncomfortable.” Deborah sits up in bed and rubs her eyes. “It never hurts to ask, right?”

“Maybe not, or maybe so,” Cassandra answers, with a slight hint of melancholy in her voice.

***

The rest of the day proceeds as normal. Deborah drives Cassie to work. She’s a part-time laboratory tester at a pesticide company. She makes sure new anti-insect products won’t poison humans. It’s a pretty important job.

Deborah also works part-time as a nutrition coach at a fitness gym across town. The gym itself is small, dirty, and low-grade. Never in a million years would Deborah ever train there. But she will earn a small paycheck from them. But would she ever work out there? Not a chance.

“I look forward to our next meeting,” Deborah says to a short overweight man named Calvin. Calvin is one of Deborah’s best clients. He may be overweight, but he used to be much more overweight. So much so, his doctor told him to lose 175 pounds or he might not live to see his 50th birthday. That was quite a wakeup call, to say the least.

“Thank you. See you next time, Debbie,” Calvin says. She prefers that he not call her “Debbie,” but he’s a pleasant enough fellow so she doesn’t mind all too much. As Calvin stands up to leave, out of the corner of her eye she sees a man wearing a fedora walk through the front door. She intently watches the mysterious man, and then sees it’s just Jeff, the boyfriend of the gym’s manager. God, how paranoid is she getting? Deborah then realizes she’s kept a close watch on every single person who’s entered the gym. Why is she constantly looking over her shoulder?

Deborah takes a sip from her water bottle and deeply sighs. She can’t keep going like this. Frightened. Anxious. Suspicious of everyone. Unable to focus on the task at hand. She sees the time is 11:17. A bit early for lunch, but late enough in the day that she can take it. Deborah checks her calendar. Her next appointment is at noon. Perfect.

Ten minutes later, Deborah is sitting in her car with her phone and Thin Fedora Man’s business card sitting on the dashboard. She breathes in deeply like a Buddhist monk and exhales.

“Let’s do this shit.”

She quickly dials the number and waits. Six rings later, a voice that resembles that of Thin Fedora Man answers.

“Good day, Miss Frost.”

“Hello, whoever your name is. Is this the gentleman I spoke to last night?”

“Indeed, it is. Have you made a decision?”

“I have,” Deborah says. She looks around to see if anybody is watching her. Other than a squirrel that has just run up a nearby tree, the coast appears to be clear. “I’m interested in taking up your client’s offer. I’m saying yes.”

“He will be most pleased to hear that,” the voice responds. “Will your girlfriend mind that you’ll be taking on this endeavor?”

Deborah’s heart sinks. How the fuck does he know that she has a girlfriend? How does he know about Cassie? Is her life in danger? Is she being watched after all…?

“How do you know I have a girlfriend?” she inquires with urgency.

“You’ve mentioned her on your Instagram page,” Thin Fedora Man says. “It’s public knowledge.”

A squirrel in a tree.

Oh. Right. That pesky thing. The perils of putting your whole life out there to the public.

“Right. I have talked about her publicly. Silly me.”

“No worries,” he chuckles. “Do you know where the municipal airport is outside of the city?”

“Yes. It’s not too far from here.”

“Good. Now listen to these instructions very carefully. Go there this Saturday morning at 9 o’clock. Park your car in the main garage and grab a ticket from one of the kiosks,” he says. “Then, proceed to the ticket counter and tell them you’re scheduled to ride the Silver Hawk. It’s my client’s private jet. Give your ticket to the front desk employee and he or she will validate your parking. We’ve already paid for it in advance. Got all that?”

“Yes.”

“Delightful. You will be escorted to the Silver Hawk. I will be standing outside it on the runway. Then, we will board and fly off to the location my client has chosen for this little adventure.” Deborah realizes she probably should be taking notes, but so far nothing about this seems particularly complicated. “You can expect to return home by Sunday evening. Are we clear on this?”

Deborah watches the squirrel nibble on a lone French fry that somehow fell on the ground. The squirrel seems so at peace with not a care in the world. She envies the little bugger.

“Crystal clear. I understand.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Unless you have any further questions, I will end this conversation now. Just so you know, the moment I hang up, this phone number will become disconnected, so you can’t redial to reach me again,” he warns. “So the next time we chat will be on the tarmac.”

“Okay. That’s fine. I have no questions.”

“Excellent. Goodbye, Miss Frost. See you in two days.” Thin Fedora Man hangs up. She hears nothing but the dial tone. Deborah ends the phone call and drops her phone on the passenger seat. She can do nothing but stare ahead into the nothingness in front of her. It may be lunchtime but at this moment Deborah has no appetite.

***

That night, Deborah breaks the news to Cassandra about her conversation with Thin Fedora Man. She seems stoic and confident that everything will turn out alright when all is said and done.

“It’s basically a really elaborate muscle worship session, right?” Cassandra asks. For the uninitiated, a “muscle worship session” is a type of erotic service many female bodybuilders offer to male clients. Lots of muscular women – both young and old, married and single, mothers and the childless – do this. There’s no shame in it. It’s not particularly taboo or discouraged by the female bodybuilding community. Deborah has never offered such services before, but at a steep price of $1 million she may never have to work another day in her life again if the evening with Thin Fedora Man’s client goes well.

When you think about Deborah Frost, think about 1970s bombshell Deborah Shelton, who appeared in the TV show “Dallas” and won the Miss USA beauty contest in 1970. Only much more muscular, of course!

“That’s one way of looking at it,” Deborah admits. “I know lots of girls who do that sort of thing. I’ve never done anything like that, but it’s not because I’m a prude. It’s just not something I’m comfortable with. But you’re right. One million dollars is a shit load of money.”

Cassandra approaches her lover and kisses her deeply. She reaches out and feels Deborah’s massive biceps. She’s just gotten back from the gym, so Deborah’s muscles are more swollen than usual. Once their lips come apart, Cassandra unzips Deborah’s jeans and pulls them gently to the floor.

“It is a shit ton of money. More than we could ever imagine. Think about what we could be doing if we never have to worry about money ever again…”

But Deborah is in no mood to think. And judging from Cassandra squatting down and pulling down her panties, it appears she isn’t either.

Five minutes later, the two lovers are in bed. Cassandra is sucking on Deborah’s enormous clitoris, desperately wanting to bring her lover to orgasm. Deborah does eventually come, but she feels no pleasure as her mind has wandered off in another direction. After a full hour of making love – and it’s been several months since Deborah and Cassandra have engaged in a lovemaking session this long and intense – the two lovers find themselves intertwined together, covered in sweat and the grime of the day. They smell awful, but it’s the least of their worries at this moment.

“I’m not scared,” Deborah reassures her partner.

“I know you aren’t,” Cassie whispers back, caressing her lover’s dark brown pubic hair.

***

Two days later, Deborah follows Thin Fedora Man’s directions just as he instructed her. Carrying only a small black suitcase with a change of clothing, lingerie, makeup, a can of pepper spray, a pocket knife, a Tupperware container of food (steak, brown rice, and asparagus), and a hair brush inside it – she decided to “pack light” for this overnight excursion – Deborah drives to the barren municipal airport and parks her car in the main garage. She takes a parking ticket from the nearest kiosk and scurries to the front desk area at a brisk pace.

It’s surprisingly crowded for such an early morning flight. All eyes stare at her, which by now Deborah has grown accustomed to. It’s quite unusual to see a tall muscle-bound woman strut around out of the blue.

“Mommy! Is that a boy or a girl?” a little snot-nosed kid blurts out rather loudly. Embarrassed and apologetic, the woman shushes her son and gives Deborah a regretful look. Deborah pleasantly smiles and walks away. The boy still stares blankly at her, confused and disoriented.

“How may I help you?” a perplexed young man asks. Deborah leans over the counter and speaks to the Front Desk Man in a low voice, not wanting anyone to hear their conversation.

“I’m here to ride the Silver Hawk,” she says.

Front Desk Man checks his computer. After a moment, he gives Deborah a stunned look of disbelief.

“That’s very strange. Usually every flight has a, uh, you know, a flight time. But not this one. It’s just sitting in Runway D waiting for…um, you to show up,” he says. “Is your name Deborah Frost?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

The puzzled young man inadvertently stares at Deborah’s defined pecs peeking out of her low-cut top and raises an eyebrow.

“Wow. You must, uh, work out, huh?”

“I go to the gym when I find the time,” Deborah sarcastically replies. Front Desk Man instantly realizes his inappropriate behavior and furiously works on his computer to process Deborah’s flight. He grabs a boarding pass that emerges from a printer and hands it to her.

“So, um, here you go. Here’s your ticket. Do you need your parking validated? It says here that the owner of the Silver Hawk has already paid for it ahead of time.” Deborah nods her head and hands her parking ticket to Front Desk Man. He enters the code in the computer and tosses the worthless piece of paper into the trash.

“Fantastic. I believe that’s it. Go to your left and walk down that hallway to the security zone. After that, head over to Gate D12. One of our employees will escort you to your flight after you show them your boarding pass,” he awkwardly explains. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No thanks.” Deborah holds onto her boarding pass as if her life depended upon it. She gets the funny feeling that perhaps it does.

“Great. Cool. Enjoy your flight.”

Fifteen minutes later a short Vietnamese girl wearing a suit jacket and a short blue skirt escorts Deborah to the Silver Hawk. Deborah cannot help but imagine what her pussy must look like. She’s always had a “thing” for Asian chicks. Before Cassie, Deborah once dated a tall Chinese girl who played for the school’s basketball team. She possessed the most beautiful pussy she’s ever laid her eyes on. Unfortunately, she spoke broken English so their relationship never felt natural. Oh well.

A luxurious private jet.

“Enjoy your flight,” the Vietnamese girl says as they enter the tarmac. Sitting authoritatively on the runway is a gorgeous twin engine silver colored jet that looks like a dream come true. Deborah doesn’t notice the Vietnamese girl walk away because she’s too busy being in awe of the plane. As if on cue, the side door opens and Thin Fedora Man walks down the stairs to greet her.

“Good morning, Miss Frost. It’s nice to see you again.”

“Likewise. Oh my God, this plane is beautiful! How much does it cost to rent?” A second mysterious person shows up out of nowhere and takes her luggage. Still, Deborah doesn’t notice this. Thin Fedora Man laughs and shakes her hand.

“I couldn’t tell you. My client isn’t renting the Silver Hawk. He owns it.”

Deborah’s mouth nearly drops to the ground.

“Seriously?! He owns this?”

Thin Fedora Man chuckles some more. He takes her hand and guides her toward the jet.

“Of course he does. I think you will discover my client has much deeper pockets than you think.” And just like that, within minutes Deborah is sitting down at her seat and buckles her seatbelt. Thin Fedora Man chooses to sit in the cockpit. She’s all alone, with an endless supply of magazines at her disposal. A stewardess enters the cabin with a tray of scrambled egg whites, turkey sausage, tomato slices, a buttermilk biscuit, fresh fruit, orange juice, and coffee. She sets the tray beside Deborah and promptly exits. A few moments later the engines turn on and the plane crawls forward.

It’s at this moment that her feelings of wonderment dramatically shift to unmitigated dread. She cannot explain why. But as the Silver Hawk prepares to fly off into The Great Unknown, Deborah only has one thought running through her mind:

What the fuck have I gotten myself into?

To be continued…

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The Year That Was 2016: Muscular Women Will Bring Us Together

Debbie Leung would like to wish you a happy new year!

Debbie Leung would like to wish you a happy new year!

If you were to ask a random person on the street whether 2016 was a good year or a bad year, I’d wager a guess that the vast majority of respondents would say it was an atrocious year.

What would prompt someone to say such a thing, you might ask? Let’s count the ways why 2016 could be considered a disappointing year for all of us:

  • Beloved celebrities passing away
  • Political and social unrest
  • Undesirable election outcomes
  • Mass shootings, riots, bombings, terror attacks, and random acts of violence that threaten our sense of safety and stability
  • International conflicts like war, famine, genocide, territorial disputes, religious conflict, etc.
  • Terrorism, despotism, and rising civil conflicts
  • Technological advancements that threaten the job prospects of working class people
  • Uneasiness about environmental issues
  • Eroding distrust in governments, media, and academic institutions
  • Economic insecurity
  • Rumors of war, belligerence, and frightening socio-political trends
  • Dissipating freedoms of speech, choice, religion, and association
  • Disintegrating sense of “national unity” and “common culture”
  • General feelings of anger, anxiety, and cynicism on a global scale

Yikes. You may not necessarily feel all of these things, but certainly if you’ve been paying attention to the news – regardless of where on planet Earth you live – you must recognize at least a few of the tribulations listed above. Some historians (and quasi-historians) compare the times we’re currently living in to the 1930s when we were on the cusp of World War II, which caused devastation on a scale never before seen in human history. I tend to not buy into a lot of that hype and fearmongering, but I sympathize with people who do. That’s not me being snarky or dismissive.

I’m not an expert in international relations, social psychology or foreseeing the future. However, I am someone who is keen on attempting to clarify the unexplainable. Perhaps this is why I started my blog in the first place. Yeah, I wanted an avenue for publishing my fiction writing, but as it turns out my essays are what drive traffic to my humble website. My audience spans the globe, a reality that still has not set in yet. Can you believe that? Wow!

Wow, indeed. So in a futile attempt to wrap a somewhat positive bow on the year 2016 Anno Domini, which hasn’t been so positive for far too many of us, I’ll try to talk about how muscular women can bring us together. Maybe not all of us, but certainly some of us.

Muscular women are, in many respects, the ultimate symbol of postmodernism. In case you need a quick refresher, “postmodernism” was essentially a social, artistic, and cultural movement in the 20th Century that rejected and challenged previously held assumptions about the world. It’s unfair to think about postmodernism as being over, because it definitely is not. Even in the 21st Century, we’re still questioning how we traditionally think about things like gender constructs, science, political movements, sexual identities, philosophy, religion, aesthetics, and social cooperation. So postmodernism isn’t dead and buried by any stretch of the imagination.

I hope Annie Rivieccio becomes famous one day.

I hope Annie Rivieccio becomes famous one day.

If you want to point to one facet of modern life that encompasses so much of the conversation surrounding postmodern thought, it would be the world of female bodybuilding. The existence of muscular women challenge so many of our previously held assumptions about gender, biology, sex roles, femininity, masculinity, identity, and lust. A woman with big muscles would have been unthinkable 200 years ago. Or 100 years ago. Even today many of us have a hard time believing a woman can get that muscular without freakish genetics or a comical amount of steroids.

Let’s spin this another way: Consider the way our culture celebrates the concept of the “strong independent woman.” It’s a motif that we see everywhere: novels, movies, comic books, television shows, music, political campaigns, social media, and everyday casual conversations with friends. We saw Britain appoint its second ever female prime minister. The United States saw a woman run for president for the first time. Tsai Ing-wen was elected Taiwan’s first female president, a country that exists in the shadows of an increasingly confrontational China.

Yet, the concept of the “strong independent woman” has more or less been watered down by pop culture to mean a woman who uses the right hashtags and properly criticizes Donald Trump. It’s more of a rallying cry than an actual archetype that’s justifiably acknowledged. Most of the women in the world who are creating significant social change are scientists, teachers, engineers, data analysts, and investors whom most of us have never heard of before. The visible “strong independent women” celebrated by pop culture are usually pampered celebrities who don’t actually deserve such accolades.

How funny it is that real “strong independent women” like female bodybuilders are largely ignored by our society while a pop singer like Beyoncé is heralded as the lady version of Alexander the Great or William the Conqueror. I have nothing against the Queen Bey (her music is okay), but being a major celebrity isn’t that much of an accomplishment considering there are countless anonymous female scientists out there who are working to find cures to cancer.

Isabelle Turell is a genuine strong independent woman.

Isabelle Turell is a genuine strong independent woman.

Likewise, female bodybuilders are, for the most part, anonymous. Not to readers of this blog, of course, but to the general public. It’s too bad that women like Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande will always be more famous than Shawn Tan and Annie Rivieccio, but that’s the way it is. There’s no use complaining about something that’ll never change.

However, that’s not something worth fretting over. Seriously. Muscular women may not be able to change the entire world, but they can definitely change our world. As we transition from 2016 to 2017, this is a fantastic opportunity to remind ourselves that at the end of the day, we are in control over our own destinies. It may not always seem that way, but it’s true for the most part. Consider the lessons female bodybuilders can offer us:

FBBs live in a hostile world. They are women who break convention, defy our traditional definitions of femininity, and forge their own paths despite what others say. They face obstacles that are both seen and unseen, spoken and unspoken, obvious and not-so-obvious. They are at a biological disadvantage, as well as a social disadvantage. How many times have FBBs heard the pestering question “do you really want to look that way?

Well, yes they do. They do in fact want to look that way, thank you very much. But despite the peer pressure to resist building up muscle mass, there are plenty of women in this world who ignore the noise and pursue their dreams regardless of what others say. We should applaud them, as many of us often do. Let this be a crucial lesson to all of us that you can do whatever you dream of doing – no matter how many people tell you it’s unacceptable, irresponsible or improper. I completely understand that there’s a fine line between doing foolishly stupid things (like dreaming of becoming a world famous stunt motorcycle driver) and things that are merely “frowned upon” in polite company. I get that. But there’s nothing terribly risky about being a bodybuilder, unless you recklessly put God-knows-what kind of chemicals into your body to get “gains.” That’s a whole other matter.

Female bodybuilders don’t aspire to attain the impossible. They strive to attain the possible, though far too many of us think it’s impossible. There’s the difference. It is possible for a woman to be both irresistibly sexy and ridiculously muscular concurrently. Most of us don’t think it’s possible, therefore we look down upon those who pursue this path. That being said, no matter how rocky the road will be and how choppy the waters will seem, FBBs prevail at the end.

Kim Perez is like she's from my dreams.

Kim Perez is like she’s from my dreams.

They exist. Female bodybuilders exist. And that’s all they need to do to defy an unsympathetic society that treats them with unfair skepticism. In this regard, FBBs personify a thought-provoking paradigm: Muscular women aren’t supposed to be real. But they are. Period.

This is the essence of the postmodern worldview. Whatever assumptions we previously held about the nature of femininity, biology, and human sexual attraction must be questioned and subsequently tossed out the window. Not only do muscular women exist, but they should exist. They need to exist. It’s critical that the world be able to bear witness to a group of human beings who’ve chosen to ignore thousands of years of conventional wisdom and cultivate a new reality. There isn’t a logical reason why a woman (or man) should choose to build superhuman-sized muscles, but there doesn’t have to be. People do things because we can. We create goals and try to reach them even though it doesn’t provide any apparent utility.

We climb Mount Everest because we can. We sent a rocket ship to the moon because we can. We landed a spacecraft on Mars because we can. We don’t need to, but we want to. Want. That’s all this is about. The desire to accomplish something awesome and the will to go for it.

I’m not naïve. Female bodybuilders won’t become more popular in 2017. I don’t know if they’ll become less popular (as if such a standard can be adequately measured), but certainly I don’t foresee muscular women popping up everywhere in the media. But that’s irrelevant to this discussion. FBBs will never – although it may be imprudent to use the word “never” – achieve a high degree of popularity in our mass culture. However, they’ve been able to carve out a fine little niche with folks like you and I. It’s better to have a thousand passionate supporters than one million casual onlookers.

This is how female bodybuilders continue to exist. The support from their tiny army of rabid fans will sustain their lifestyles more than being featured as a token extra on Game of Thrones or the next Avengers flick. This business arrangement won’t be radically different in 2017 than it was in 2016 (or 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and so on), but that’s just fine. It doesn’t have to be. Economic prospects for female bodybuilders could always be better, naturally. The same could be said for any industry. But until we reach a point of financial unsustainability, I wouldn’t sweat it too much.

Will Jennifer Thomas be a breakout star in 2017? One could only hope...

Will Jennifer Thomas be a breakout star in 2017? One could only hope…

The truth is, the changing of years don’t really matter all that much. The universe won’t look profoundly different on January 1 than it did on December 31. A year is just an artificial benchmark we use to signify when the Earth makes a full rotation around the Sun. So for as bad as we think 2016 was, it makes no difference whatsoever. Events (both good and bad) happen to us regardless of what day, month, or year it is. That’s just the way it is. The concept of New Year’s Day is just a fun excuse to party too much, drink too much, and watch a crystal ball drop in Times Square. For what it’s worth, that’s okay with me.

Contrary to the title of this blog post, muscular women won’t actually bring us together. At least, they won’t bring billions of people across all cultures, languages, religious convictions, and skin colors together. Realistically, they can bring hope and joy to certain individuals who are feeling down on their luck. Sadly, there are way too many folks in this world who are feeling that way. Perhaps when it seems like optimism is lost and everything is spiraling out of control, we’ll suddenly remember ladies like Denise Masino and Brandi Mae Akers who are unapologetically sexy and don’t seem to be ready to quit anytime soon.

Remember what they have to go through every single day to achieve their dreams. Keep in mind how emotionally and physically strenuous it is to maintain a muscular body – especially for a woman. When the going gets tough, FBBs worldwide don’t just get going…they look damn good while doing it.

Oh yeah, they sure do. So here’s to another year of female muscle fandom. May 2017 bring you peace, love, joy, and unbridled sexiness.

Envy: The Deadly Sin of Female Bodybuilding

It's understandable to see why some people might be envious of Tatiana Anderson.

It’s understandable to see why some people might be envious of Tatiana Anderson.

Not many of us may be familiar with or sympathetic to the teachings of the early Christian church, but most of us have heard of “The Seven Deadly Sins” at some point.

Whether you’ve seen David Fincher’s classic 1995 film “Se7en” or you just happen to be well-versed in the ethics of medieval Christendom, The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  1. Wrath
  2. Greed
  3. Sloth
  4. Pride
  5. Lust
  6. Envy
  7. Gluttony

These seven vices are associated with self-indulgence and contribute to the fall of humanity. While changing social mores throughout time might knock a few of these sins off their perch, we still to this day regard many of these behaviors with shame.

Female bodybuilding, to switch gears just a bit, is in a position of both strength and weakness right now. On one hand, the popularity of CrossFit, Fitbit, hybrid workouts, customized personal training and fitness apps is making it less taboo for women to lift weights and exercise hard. These trends may not necessarily lead more women down the path of bodybuilding, but the doors are definitely more open than they were in generations past.

On the other hand, the sport of female bodybuilding is being more and more marginalized as the years go on. Elite, hyper-muscular female athletes are being pushed out of the industry while more watered-down “fitness” and “bikini” competitors are taking their place. Pretty soon, it’s not inconceivable that the Ms. Olympia competition may not exist anymore. Competitions involving highly muscular female bodybuilders will definitely still persist, but they’ll most likely receive less mainstream support than they did before.

The gorgeous Debbie Leung flexing her bicep.

The gorgeous Debbie Leung flexing her bicep.

For fans of female bodybuilding, this is a tragedy that feels both inevitable and sadly predictable. We hope this day never arrives, but one can certainly see which direction the tide is turning.

That being said, how does one explain this downgrading of the sport many of us love so much? One of The Seven Deadly Sins may offer a plausible explanation.

Envy.

Let us explore this issue in greater detail.

  1. Envy, in both men and women, is contributing to the assault against female bodybuilding

Unfortunately, the attack against female bodybuilding is coming from two different directions: men and women. Let’s first start with men.

Traditionally-speaking, men are considered to be the “stronger sex” while women are, by default, dubbed the “weaker sex.” There is biological data to back this up, as well as centuries of culturally imposed gender roles – spanning across the entire globe – that contribute to this well-entrenched social paradigm. The concept of men being naturally stronger than women is something we didn’t have to learn in school. Most of us know this by our own accord.

Therefore, when we (and by “we,” I’m referring to us guys as a whole) encounter a woman who’s clearly stronger than us, we feel emasculated. We’re supposed to be the stronger ones, not the losers coming in second place. If you’re at the gym and you see a lady deadlifting two or four 45-pound plates more than you, it makes you feel puny, incomplete and a shame to your gender.

In other words, you feel envious. “Envy,” just to be clear, is defined as “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.”

I still don’t quite know the difference between “envy” and “jealousy,” (I think “jealousy” is being resentful toward another person as a result of your feelings of envy) but it’s pretty clear what’s going on here. The guys who disdain or are disgusted by female bodybuilders are more targeting their own insecurities instead of expressing their hatred toward someone else. When you see an Internet troll describe a female bodybuilder as “trying to become a man” or saying “she probably has a penis,” what they’re really doing is conveying their personal anxieties rather than stating an objective opinion.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Akila Pervis.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Akila Pervis.

Emasculation can be a powerful motivator. Or a powerful wrecking ball of other people’s accomplishments. It’s sad that more guys aren’t encouraged by women who achieve high levels of strength and muscularity. But not all of us see eye-to-eye. What some of us guys perceive to be sexy others interpret to be an attack on their manhood.

Conversely, envy among women is also at play here. Female bodybuilders may not be shattering any proverbial “glass ceilings” per se, but they do tear down certain excuses we use to justify female weakness. Like men who feel emasculated when in the presence of a muscular woman, there are most certainly women who feel “effeminated” – if such a word actually exists – by the same thing. The small number of women (but by no means insignificant) who achieves strength that surpasses the average man brings about a sense of inadequacy in the majority of women who cannot achieve similar results.

They too are repulsed by their more muscular sisters because they feel challenged not by “society” as a whole, but by their peers. It’s one thing to call yourself a “strong, independent woman” and hope the rest of the world goes along with you, but it’s another thing entirely to actually put in the effort to become a genuinely strong woman. Talk is cheap. What female bodybuilders and athletes do is definitely not.

  1. The best way to deal with envious feelings is to pretend like the object of your envy doesn’t exist

Nobody wants to feel emasculated, degraded or second rate. Nobody wants to wake up, look at themselves in the mirror, and see mediocrity reflected back at them. You feel mediocre because you can’t compare to your competition, however you define “competition.”

So what’s the best way to assure you don’t lose to your competitors? Simple. Don’t have any competitors.

Obviously, it’s impossible to snap your fingers and make everybody who is richer, smarter, stronger, better looking and more successful than you magically disappear. So the next best thing is to pretend like they don’t exist. Or, on a more practical level, deny their identity as a method of “erasing” who they actually are.

This is why the insult “she looks like a man” is so common among trolls. Women aren’t supposed to be stronger than men, so when a woman is proven to be stronger than a man, then she must not actually be a woman. She’s probably secretly a man disguised as a woman. Or a woman with biological characteristics more becoming of a man, which by association means she’s not a genuine woman. Which then means her accomplishments aren’t legitimate. And if her accomplishments aren’t legitimate, you feel better about yourself because that battle you thought you lost you then win by default.

Also flexing her beautiful bicep is Mindi O'Brien.

Also flexing her beautiful bicep is Mindi O’Brien.

Delegitimizing your opponents is a classical tactic to eliminating their victories. If you convince enough people – including yourself – that female bodybuilders are actually women with substantial male components (biological traits, hormone levels, etc.), it makes their accomplishments as elite athletes null and void. It comforts your mind knowing Alina Popa isn’t really a normal woman who, by her sheer willpower and hard work, built herself to be stronger and bulkier than most guys. She has to have an unfair advantage somewhere! Perhaps she has an unusual amount of natural testosterone hidden in her system that, scientifically speaking, makes her a “man.” Yeah, that must be it! There’s no way that she can be that buff while being 100% female. Case closed.

While it’s true many female bodybuilders take drugs that increase their capacity to build muscle mass, that doesn’t make them less of a woman. Scientific arguments aside, the point I’m trying to make is that delegitimizing the accomplishments of a female bodybuilder is the primary way critics try to pretend like the objects of their jealousy don’t exist. Deny them their identity, and you “win” because it gives you personal comfort knowing there’s nothing wrong with your own identity.

It’s a terrible thing to do, but unfortunately it’s all too common.

  1. Envy is more of a product of your own insecurity

As mentioned before, the contempt critics of female bodybuilders feel toward them is more a product of their own insecurities rather than anything else. They aren’t angry at them necessarily, but are actually angry at themselves for not doing enough to measure up.

I won’t stress this point any further, but I will add one more nugget. One of the biggest problems facing our society is the belief that someone’s accomplishment is automatically someone else’s loss. In other words, too many of us embrace the idea that life is a zero-sum game.

In case you need a refresher, a zero-sum game is “a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.”

You don’t need to be a mathematical genius in the vein of the late John Forbes Nash, Jr. to understand what this means. In sports, athletic competition is a zero-sum game. Either you win or you lose. There’s no middle ground. Yes, some sports have ties. Other sports have placements, so you can come in third or fourth place and still earn a comically oversized check. But most of the time, athletic competitions end with either an absolute winner or an absolute loser.

Stay positive. Look at the gorgeous Gina Aliotti.

Stay positive. Look at the gorgeous Gina Aliotti.

But life is not always like that. One smart kid earning an A+ on their spelling test doesn’t in any way, shape or form prevent other kids from earning a similar grade. Theoretically, every single kid in your class can earn a perfect score (logically, every kid could also earn an F). Yet when you’re the only one who earns the highest mark, why do the rest of the kids treat you with scorn? Why are you labeled a “smarty pants” or other such similar names? For whatever reason, too many of us have been taught that someone else’s gain will automatically result in everyone else’s loss. They can’t prove it, but they inherently believe that you earning the A+ means they’re left with the B- or C+ grades by default.

But life is not a zero-sum game. Seeing a strong, beautiful woman at the gym doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish the same thing. Nor does it mean she got there through some unfair advantage. Beauty doesn’t have to be a competition. Even if you aren’t gifted with a lot of natural beauty, I’ve written before that female bodybuilders earn their beauty in ways that their peers who hit the genetic jackpot don’t.

Some of the most beautiful female bodybuilders in the world have faces that aren’t traditionally pretty. Some are plain looking. Others might have faces that revolt you. But their bodies are breathtaking and deserve high praise. Regardless, one woman being beautiful doesn’t mean the woman standing next to her can’t also be beautiful. Life isn’t like that.

Perhaps this psychologically explains where envy is rooted in. We, for whatever reason, are socialized to believe that people who are successful make it harder for the rest of us to be just as successful. But this is a fallacy. Life isn’t about fighting over who gets the biggest slice of the pie. It’s about each one of us baking our own delicious pie, without any regard to what other people are doing. This may not be true in every facet of life, but we’d be better off if we all lived life in the positive rather than the negative.

  1. Envy keeps everyone down, even those who’ve reached the top

The last point is probably the most important. Envious feelings hurt everyone. Everyone. Including those who are the object of envy.

Call it “victor’s guilt.” Some people feel guilty for “winning” at life. A parent who has a healthy family might feel bad for their neighbor who can’t conceive a child no matter how hard they try. That same kid who earned the A+ on their spelling test might secretly tank their next test so that they could be more like everyone else. That rising star in the world of female bodybuilding may reduce her muscle gains so that she could encourage her less successful peers to feel better about themselves.

These reactions are understandable. They also reflect a larger issue when achieving the most you can becomes discouraged, or worse, taboo.

It goes without saying that there are many examples in life when someone’s gain truly comes at another person’s loss. But more often than not, this is not the case. Female bodybuilders are already stuck between a rock and a hard place (and I’m not just referring to their rock hard abs and firm glutes). They live a financially and emotionally draining lifestyle that’s receiving less and less support from their own industry, their own peers, the opposite gender and their own gender group. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but perhaps it’s not. Either way, it’s hard out there for a female bodybuilder. The battles, both large and small, they have to face every single day is enough to boggle the mind.

If I went to the gym and saw Autumn Raby and Nadia Nardi posing like this, I'd probably have a heart attack. Oh boy...

If I went to the gym and saw Autumn Raby and Nadia Nardi posing like this, I’d probably have a heart attack. Oh boy…

How they manage to maintain their lifestyles and persist in pursuing their dreams is a testament to their inner strength, which is probably mightier than their physical strength. Not all of us are that mentally tough. Female bodybuilders are without a doubt that tough minded.

In conclusion, female bodybuilders create cognitive dissonance in our minds. Or more accurately, emotional dissonance. They spark feelings of envy within us that make us hate them even though we have no justifiable reason to actually hate them. Hate is often attributed to a lack of understanding. It’s also been described as irrational. Whichever it is, envy is at the root of all this. It is until we wrap our minds and hearts around this that we will be able to treat FBBs the way they should be treated: with great respect, not malice.

The best piece of advice I can give is to celebrate people’s accomplishments instead of dwelling on your own shortcomings, either perceived or real. This fortune cookie mantra could be applied to almost all aspects of our lives. Life is too short to hate on other people. Life is also too short to waste your time wishing you could be “better.” Who can really define “better?” This is not to justify mediocrity, but instead to point out the fact that it’s harmful to kick yourself over not being “perfect” or “better than XYZ.”

This is partly why I started my blog. I want to celebrate these beautiful women and their beautiful bodies. Not because I want to shame anyone or tear down anything, but because I want to focus on the positives in life instead of the deficits. We may not all universally agree that “envy” is a Deadly Sin, but we should agree that it tends to lead us in poor directions.

Cut out the frivolous negativity in your life, and good things will follow. And that’s a game we can all play and win.