The expression “Be happy with what you have” — not to be confused with “count your blessings” — has forever irked me. The former is apathy wrapped in a platitude, passing itself off as a grateful idiom. The “be happy with what you have” mantra is also the foundation of the fat pride movement. A movement which is firm on opposing any kind of positive change in favor of embracing what might be a three belly roll muffin top. Jiggle jiggle. Thanks to such fads, self-improvement is shamed. So if you, the man or woman reading this post, is using proper diet and exercise as a method of self-betterment, beware. You might be a self-absorbed Narcissus. So The Spectator, a UK magazine, tells us.
Young men are increasingly obsessed with self-discipline and self-improvement and the self all round. Vanity is as old as humanity, of course, as is self-restraint. But the new narcissism is about being vain and virtuous at the same time.
There’s a reason self-improvement and vanity are two separate words. A person, in the article’s case, a man, who engages in self-improvement is trying to better himself through his own efforts. A man who is vain shows an excessively high opinion of himself. Regardless of any of his efforts.
It’s irresponsible and vindictive to conflate self-improvement with vanity. One is not vain if one wants to be better. In fact, one can be vain without ever bettering oneself.
Young men are drinking less alcohol, smoking less and, oddly, having less sex, perhaps because sex involves focusing on someone else.
Maybe men are drinking less alcohol to ward off the health and judgment risks associated with too much alcohol. See also “alcoholism.” Maybe men are smoking less to ward off the health risks associated with cigarette addiction. See also “lung cancer.” Maybe they’re having less sex so as to ward off being a disgusting whore riddled with STDs, preferring to only sleep with women they love. Or perhaps the #MeToo movement has left a few men gunshy. Just spitballing. Maybe having less sex isn’t a bad thing. Maybe less sex can be seen as “more selective” and “more responsible.” People behaving a little more chastely, and not porking everything that moves, should be celebrated. Not shamed.
Traditional masculine pursuits are being abandoned in favour of more ethical ones. Pubs are closing down and gyms are opening up. ‘Fitness’ and ‘wellness’ are the buzzwords, and personal trainers are the new gurus, encouraging their diligent clients to be in good shape for their #gymselfies.
… I’m sorry. Why is this a problem? Why aren’t we cheering these men for embracing health over sloth? Shouldn’t we celebrate men for making themselves great instead of turning their bodies into beer bins, forever squeezed into concert t-shirts, their guts spilling over ill-fitting mom jeans? Why are we shaming men who’ll get far more right-swipes with their #gymselfies?
Rhetorical questions. I’ll answer after rebutting just one more paragraph of this article.
So why are these young men turning into narcissists? What’s with the almost religious zeal? It can’t be a coincidence that the rise in lean, ethical dieting has come during the era of the #MeToo movement. Men are being led to believe that their masculinity is a problem. Their rapacious pursuit of pleasure has damaged the world around them, they are told — and it’s up to them to curb their appetites. Women have had enough.
Got that, gents? If you’re living your best life by watching what you eat, drink, and hitting the gym rather the pub, you’re a narcissist. Not to worry, those of us ladies who also mind the groceries and hit the gym are seen as “sell-outs.” Fit women get shamed for being fit, usually by fat women who look even fatter by comparison. But not always. Sometimes fat men shame us, too. Calling us “too manly” for having muscle definition. I see you, Fat Bastard.
But Prendergast missed a point. She seems to believe men are becoming better due to the #MeToo movement. Which started well enough, but descended into hysterical witch hunting. Even if she’s right, a man or woman trying to make themselves better through proper diet and exercise, even if the impetus is a hashtag, isn’t a bad thing. While her article also delves into obsessive dieting embraced by some Silicon Valley titans, the thrust of Prendergast’s problem is with men just not following the status quo. The status quo apparently being fat, drunken slobs trying to sleep with anything female that will have them.
What if modern men are improving themselves just to be better? What if they’re not making themselves better because of a hashtag, but because being fat, drunken slobs didn’t make them happy? Either because they didn’t like what they saw, what they were, or the women they were trying to pursue didn’t like them for what they were. What if these men discovered lifting weights left them happier than lifting pints? What if men discovered eating more steak and kale, less pizza and cookies, made them feel better overall and gave them results that were both aesthetically pleasing, and added to the quality of their life?
Maybe even social media, with constant Instagram “inspiration” shots of men and women hitting the gym, has normalized fitness. Just an idea.
But better isn’t allowed. In the age of equal outcomes, not equal opportunities, anyone who strives for more, anyone who wants to be better must be shamed. Apathy should be embraced at all costs. You shouldn’t only be happy with what you have, you need to eschew greatness. You self-centered, greedy snob.
If you try to be better, even if just for yourself, you’re casting a harsh relief on those who are content with mediocrity. For every man who’s embracing leg day, there are countless sorry sacks couch surfing Game of Thrones marathons. For every man who’s subbing their fries for steamed broccoli, there’s a pimply incel eating his feelings.
For every man who’s working to better himself, there’s a weak woman who can’t stand it. You see, the most difficult obstacle for someone improving themselves is their partner who’d rather not. You making yourself better just proves better is possible. And those people who aren’t bettering themselves feel their own sense of shame for slumming it in their own tubs of weakness.
Suddenly we’re not just talking about fitness anymore.