Karen Zaremba: My Sentimental Favorite

Hand bras are the worst!

Hand bras are the worst!

Every female muscle fan has “the one” who truly made them see the light. It’s not necessarily the first muscular woman they ever saw or the one they would consider to be their favorite. Personally, the first FBB I ever noticed was Lisa Marie Bickels, a former U.S. Marine who caught my attention more than ten years ago during my college years.

My current favorite is Denise Masino, a devilishly sexy siren with an endowment between her legs that can only be described as scrumptious. Miss Bickels isn’t close to being a favorite of mine and Miss Masino is someone I discovered later on. Thus, the subject of the woman who played a crucial role in my “female muscle awakening” is none other than Karen Zaremba.

Karen Zaremba was born on January 27, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan. Back then, Detroit was deserving of its nickname of The Motor City and the breeding ground of some of the most recognizable names in American pop music (Motown, anyone?). Today, Detroit resembles a Third World country, but that’s another story for another day. On that fateful day in the heartland of America, the world was introduced to a gorgeous young lass who would one day grow up to become one of the sexiest female bodybuilders the Universe has ever known.

Today, Karen resides in Clinton Township, which is less than 30 miles north of her birth town. So Karen didn’t scurry too far from the crib, as it were. I suppose there’s no reason why one should move far away from home unless there were extenuating circumstances. If you like where you live, why not stay there? Karen and her family obviously feel this way.

Like many beautiful female bodybuilders, Karen is the mother of two children and is happily married. Evidently, she never had any problem balancing her work/home life with her chosen profession of being a competitive bodybuilder and fitness model. Standing at a modest 5”2” and weighing 124 pounds (give or take), she describes herself as a “stay-at-home Mom” when she isn’t working in the fitness industry. Of course, many of the interviews that I’ve used to curate this information are several years old, so take this with a grain of salt.

Love those abs!

Love those abs!

From what I can gather, Karen no longer competes and probably doesn’t participate in bodybuilding anymore. Like many FBBs, details about their personal lives are scant, making it a challenge to paint a complete picture of what she’s like. I am confident that whatever she’s doing now, she’s probably happy with her life and wouldn’t want things to be any other way.

Her contest history is as follows:

2007 – Europa Super Show: 8th place, Lightweight

2006 – IFBB Motor City Pro Figure: 16th place

2006 – IFBB Pittsburgh Pro Figure: 16th place

2005 – NPC National Figure Championships: 2nd place, Class A (earned her IFBB pro card)

2005 – Junior Nationals: 3rd place, Class A

2005 – Junior USA: 3rd place, Class A

2004 – Central States Figure championships: Short Class, Masters and Overall Winner

2003 – Michigan Novice Bodybuilding championships: Lightweight, Masters and Overall Winner

Of course, this might not reflect her full contest history, but my quick bit of Internet research reveals that this is pretty comprehensive. If you know of any further contests that Karen has participated in, please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.

As one can clearly see, her contest history isn’t remarkable or noteworthy. Pretty standard for someone who loves to compete but isn’t too committed to becoming an elite competitor. This is not meant to be a slight against her. This is just to say that when she was a competitive bodybuilder, she wasn’t someone you would have associated as being the best of the best.

Poetry in motion.

Poetry in motion.

She came, she saw, she…participated. Her accomplishments are as modest as her objectives. She didn’t aim to be better than everybody else; she just wanted to see what she could do. Many competitors (both male and female) are not necessarily “in it to win it.” Many are in it for no other reason than to have fun, challenge one’s self, and meet new people while trying new things.

That’s an attitude we need to see more in our world.

But that’s not why she’s a sentimental favorite of mine. I discovered Karen in 2005 or 2006, so in other words a solid decade ago. Back then, I would have been 18 or 19 and Karen would’ve been 41 or 42. Think it’s unusual for a boy in his late teens to completely fall in love with a woman who’s more than twice his age? A woman who is nearly old enough to be his own mother? I certainly thought so at the time, but I didn’t think there was anything wrong or abnormal about it.

Why was there nothing unusual about this? Well, have you taken a good look at her?

Yowza!

Karen is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. She has an authentic look to her that’s difficult to explain but easy to see. Her dark hair is beautifully complemented by her olive complexion, a skin tone that perfectly accentuates her muscles. She’s legendary for her six-pack abdomen, which she is not shy about showing off to the camera. I briefly went through a stage of having a six-pack fetish. Can you possibly guess why?

Facially, she doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter Playboy Playmate or a nameless fashion model you see plastered across shopping mall corridors. It’s too clichéd to say she looks like the “girl next door” or the “hot mom next door,” but it’s sort of true!

What initially struck me about Karen, and it still strikes me today, is how effortlessly sexy she is. When she walks, her hips poetically bounce in a way that can make your heart stop. She’s very feminine, so much so you forget that all those negative stereotypes about female bodybuilders even exist. Of course, she’s a mother – which allows her to be called a certain idiotic acronym that I refuse to mention on this blog. Personally, I find muscle moms appealing, but there are certain misogynistic levels I refuse to lower myself to.

Baby got back!

Baby got back!

Perhaps that’s at the root of my attraction to Karen Zaremba. She’s a muscular woman who transcends the “muscle chick” fetish. She isn’t just “beautiful for a female bodybuilder,” she’s “beautiful…period, end of story.” Karen forced me to view muscular women through a different lens. No longer were all FBBs big, oversized masculinized “women” who’ve vehemently rejected traditional femininity and womanhood. I may not have felt exactly that way toward FBBs at the time, but my worldview was limited during those years. Karen encouraged me to expand my horizons.

Then, the floodgates opened. I discovered Annie Rivieccio. Then Lisa Cross. Then Alina Popa, followed by Yvette Bova and Denise Masino and Deidre Pagnanelli. I found out about Michelle Maroldo and Denise Hoshor. And Brandi Mae Akers. Of course, Victoria Dominguez. And other women like Nikki Fuller, Debi Laszewski, Sondra Faas, Marina Lopez, Catherine Holland, Emery Miller, Gayle Moher, Lauren Powers, Shawn Tan, Julie Germaine, and newcomers like Shannon Courtney, Minna Pajulahti, Dani Reardon, and Sheronica Sade Henton. There are many more to name. We could go on for hours. I’m still discovering new beautiful ladies seemingly every single day.

But I never forgot my roots, as the saying goes. Karen Zaremba remains on the front of my mind and tucked away snuggly in my heart. She isn’t just one of my first discoveries…she remains one of the best and brightest. I have the feeling I’m going to feel the same way regardless of how many additional tens of thousands of muscular women I’m introduced to in the future.

But let’s return to Karen’s effortless sexiness. It cannot be understated. Karen doesn’t walk; she glides. She doesn’t smile; she glows. She doesn’t pose; she radiates. She doesn’t flex; she blossoms. She doesn’t impress; she transcends. She doesn’t compete as a bodybuilder; she elevates the ceiling of human potential. She isn’t just beautiful; she’s ethereal and magnanimous. Karen Zaremba exceeds your expectations yet doesn’t seem to be trying to do anything other than being herself.

That takes more than talent. That takes a flawless combination of natural gifts, determination, hard work, and instincts. No one can teach you how to be as angelic as Karen. Nor could she necessarily teach others the ropes. Some of us are more radiant and charismatic than others for reasons that cannot be rationally explained or easily transferrable.

Karen's skin tone is the best.

Karen’s skin tone is the best.

Perhaps part of her appeal is her laidback Midwestern demeanor. Karen doesn’t boast the flashiness of an entitled California-bred pseudo-celebrity. Nor is she a snooty East Coaster who treats bodybuilding as her ticket to Broadway-style stardom. I am, of course, exaggerating and wildly stereotyping millions of people in the United States (which is trendy in the year 2016), but what cannot be denied is the refreshing authenticity that Karen brings to the table.

She doesn’t post selfies every single day on Instagram. In fact, I don’t think Miss Zaremba even has an Instagram account. When you research her, you don’t actually find a whole lot. This adds to her mystique. Because thousands of photos and hundreds of hours of video footage of Karen don’t exist, we can only witness a small slice of who she is. This allows us to fill in the blanks wherever we see fit.

So I can speculate that she’s modest, down-to-earth, and full of “small town charm” because…well, I feel like it. Is this based on extensive knowledge of her personality, lifestyle, and background? Nope! Our idealized version of people is what fuels our love for celebrities.

Karen Zaremba may not be a traditional celebrity, but in my heart she’s a glamorous superstar.

She comes across as a super chill lady who will just as likely bake you a batch of gingerbread cookies as she is to rapidly do 25 pullups as if it were no big deal. She’s a mom and she loves being a mom. She once was a muscular woman who also doesn’t mind being a loving wife and someone who would enthusiastically serve on her local PTA board. Once again, this is based on nothing but what exists in my imagination. But doesn’t this seem plausible?

For her, bodybuilding isn’t her life’s calling or integral to her business model. Doesn’t it seem like for Karen being a bodybuilder was a “neat” thing to do? She wasn’t in it for the money, the glitz, or the fame. She didn’t “brand” herself as a bad girl or a sexy muscle siren or feminist superhero. She just let herself be herself. She’s a mom, a wife, and a friendly neighbor who thinks having big muscles would be nifty. You rarely see that level of unpretentiousness in today’s narcissistic culture.

In other words, Karen never wanted to be a celebrity – even among the small subculture of female muscle fans. Having big muscles wasn’t her way of feeding her ego. It was her way of experiencing self-empowerment. All she wanted to be was the best version of herself. For me, that’s all I need.

Karen left just enough to the imagination...yet revealed enough to let us know what she got. Such a tease!

Karen left just enough to the imagination…yet revealed enough to let us know what she got. Such a tease!

Just as any baseball or football player must eventually call it a career and “hang up the cleats,” Karen has now decided to forgo her muscles and become “normal-looking” again. I have no doubt that Karen still exercises to keep herself fit and trim, but from what I can gather (and she prefers to keep her personal life private, which is her right) she’s allowed her muscles to shrink. She’s now a former bodybuilder. She’s now a regular lady you see shopping for groceries at the supermarket on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. This isn’t disappointing or regrettable. She can do whatever she wants with her life.

But there is undeniably a small element of sadness at play here. It is a bit melancholy when a gorgeous FBB retires and relinquishes her muscularity. As a sports fan, you never want to see your favorite players withdraw from playing the game they love and ride off into the sunset back to civilian life. But time marches on and not everything lasts forever. There will be plenty of young up-and-coming Karen Zarembas who will take up her mantle. Heck, I’ve referenced many of them on this very blog.

So this is a celebration of a woman who leaves a legacy of making the world a more beautiful place, whether she has big muscles or not. Because of her, we now have stronger faith in the goodness of people and the potential of human achievement. Karen Zaremba never has to “prove” that she is gorgeous. She just is. She never hogs the spotlight and demands that people look at her. We look at her because we cannot help but look at her. That takes something special.

As an 18-year-old kid Karen made my heart leap out of my chest. She was more than twice my age and rarely ever did any nude modeling. She never did anything pornographic or overly sexual. She kept it classy. She kept things modest. You’ll never find a video of her sucking a porn star’s penis or masturbating with an oversized dildo. She never had to do any of those things to capture my attention, even all these years later.

She just had to be herself. And that was enough. And it still is.

Muscle Worship, Female Bodybuilders and the Greatest 75 Minutes of My Life (Epilogue)

Muscle beauty Flavia Crisos. As you know, none of the women featured in this post is GFBB. Her identity will always remain a secret.

Muscle beauty Flavia Crisos. As you know, none of the women featured in this post is GFBB. Her identity will always remain a secret.

The moment I realize I had forgotten to take a picture of her, I quickly shoot GFBB a text asking her if she’d be willing to send me a photo of herself.

Thoughts started to flood through my mind: Is this a creepy request? Would she be afraid I’d post this on Facebook or somewhere else and people would see it? Is she protective over her image and would refuse? Would she interpret this request as me bothering her (and perhaps becoming obsessed with her)? Will she think I’m being creepy?

Time passes. I hear nothing from her for a long time. Maybe she’s going to sleep. Maybe she’s ignoring me. Maybe I crossed a line by sending her this text…

Finally, GFBB responds. She says she fell asleep before I texted her. Ah ha! This is her exact message:

Sorry fell asleep . I will send u a pic and its not creepy  But that’s because it’s u asking

Whew! That solves that mystery. I knew we developed a positively rapport. I guess all my fretting was all for naught.

So off to bed I went. I brushed my teeth, took a shower, checked my email one more time and finally crashed into a peaceful slumber. Ah, bliss. My life resumed as normal afterward. I went to work the next day. That evening, GFBB sends me a text at 8:19 p.m. PST with the photo I had requested. It appears to have been taken at a hotel room (perhaps by one of her clients). It wasn’t the highest quality picture, but since receiving it I’ve treasured it as it were a precious family heirloom.

Lovely biceps of Zoa Linsey.

Lovely biceps of Zoa Linsey.

If I’m bored and have nothing else to do (usually when I’m at the train station waiting to get home from work), I’ll occasionally get out my phone and look at her photo. Then all the memories of our 75 minutes together would start flooding back.

Sentimental value, perhaps? Yeah, without a doubt!

All joking aside, life went on as it always did. I enjoyed a restful weekend. And come Monday, it was back to the normal grind. No more female bodybuilders, muscle worship sessions or playful text conversations with strong beautiful women for me for a while. I had my fun. Now it was time to see what came next.

Life can be full of unexpected adventures, n’est-ce pas?

***

So now I take you to the present day. At the time of this blog post’s publication, it is May 23, 2014. My fateful session (or is it “appointment?”) with GFBB was on May 23, 2013. Exactly one year ago today.

Wow. One year ago when I had my session with GFBB. While it does feel like a year ago, it’s funny how certain specific moments – even the trivial ones – are as sharp in my memory as ever before.

The first time I looked at her. When we sat down to chat. When the session finally started. When I got to kiss her. When she sent me the text with her photo attached to it.

I can remember the exact spot where I was when I opened that text. It’s funny how innocuous details like that stay with you forever after everything else more “important” passes on. Perhaps this is our brain’s way of telling us what’s really important in our lives.

Asian muscle Goddess Kiana Phi.

Asian muscle Goddess Kiana Phi.

Have I changed at all as a person as a result of this amazing muscle worship session with an equally amazing lady? The truth is, not really. I have changed a bit, but perhaps not as dramatically as I’d like to think. It is true that I’ve become bolder in pursuing adventures and opportunities that benefit me. It is true that I’ve had muscle worship sessions with three other FBBs (while I’ve enjoyed all of them, GFBB still holds a special place in my heart). It is true that my eyes have been opened to a whole other world I never knew before.

But, at the end of the day, I’m still the same person I was the moment before I knocked on her hotel door 365 days ago. In the past year, I’ve never returned to the parking lot of the hotel we met at; even though it’s a mere five minutes away from my apartment. There’s something special about your “first time” that you want to remain special. It wouldn’t feel right to return back there, even for sentimental purposes.

Speaking of sentimentality, that’s probably how I’ll always remember the 75 greatest minutes of my life. Was it truly the greatest hour and fifteen minutes of my time here on Earth? Eh, who knows…but that’s not the point. My feelings, thoughts and unorthodox “friendship” I developed with GFBB will always be a sweet dream that I’ll recount for many years moving forward. That’s valuable unto itself.

I’m still a fairly shy person. I still haven’t had much luck when it comes to women and romance. I’m still looking for full-time employment, although I’m reasonably getting by just fine working at two part-time jobs.

Who wouldn't want to touch the muscles of Monica Martin?

Who wouldn’t want to touch the muscles of Monica Martin?

I’m still Ryan Takahashi. That part hasn’t changed. I’m still me.

But, I’m not the same person I was leading up to 7 p.m. on 5/23/2013. Yes, I realize I’m contradicting myself, but bear with me for a moment. I may still be myself, but something tangibly is different. My muscle worship session with GFBB was, to be honest, one of the first times I’d ever done anything really selfish in my whole life. I paid $360 on something that was purely for me…and nobody else.

It was selfish. It was hedonistic. It was a “treat” I gave myself as a reward for being…well, me.

I deserve the opportunity to express my sexuality, aren’t I? I’m allowed to touch the beautiful muscles of a strong, gorgeous woman if we both consent to the circumstances? Of course!

Later on I will write a blog post exclusively about the concept of muscle worship itself, so I will delve further into this particular social phenomenon at a later date. But for this Epilogue, all I can say is this:

I love female muscle. I love strong women. And I can honestly say that reality definitely matches up with fantasy when it comes to experiencing female muscle up close and personal.

The incomparable Elena Oana Hreapca.

The incomparable Elena Oana Hreapca.

GFBB is a great lady. We briefly exchanged emails months later when she randomly discovered my blog and asked me about it (“Guilty as charged!”). But that’s the extent of our post-session communication. We’ve never spoken again. She hasn’t come back to Seattle since. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to see her again.

If I do, great. If I don’t, well, that’s the way things are. No one ever knows how life will sort itself out. Perhaps our paths will cross again. Or perhaps not. But regardless, I’ll always have my memories. Sweet, sweet memories:

The giddiness of emailing with her.

The nervousness I felt during the week leading up to my session.

The anticipation of waiting in the parking lot.

The deep breath I took before I knocked on her door.

My heart stopping when I first laid eyes on her.

The pleasantness of chatting with her and getting to know her.

The awkwardness of getting started with the session.

The sensual pleasure I experienced during those 75 minutes.

The elation I felt immediately after our session came to a close.

The romanticized maudlin feelings I feel whenever I look at that grainy cell phone picture of her.

All of it. I love reflecting on all of it. I don’t think any future muscle worship session will ever come close to surpassing what I experienced one year ago today. That’s not a negative reflection on all the other FBB out there. No, instead it’s a reflection on my magical “first time” and how that experience can never be replicated. Nor should it ever be replicated. The fact it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience makes it that much sweeter.

If I had to summarize the whole experience in one single word, it would be this:

Damn.