Manly Men Entertaining Men

April 12th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »


My maternal aunt, Peg, was a nurse her whole career. She had internalized much of the folk lore of various Pueblo people from work and added that to the family heritage of West Virginia country wisdom. Among her convictions was that grunting really help in doing hard physical work. (That was also amusing in that she avoided manual labor skillfully.)

I think of Peg sometimes when I’m in the gym, both the weight room and the locker area. There is enough grunting there you’d think the men were either delivering babies or having a limb amputated. Some guys just can’t display enough drama.

On high school and college teams, we really didn’t hear much opera in the lockers. As an adult though, I have been regularly astonished and entertained by the heavy acting of guys.

For example, there’s big to huge noise at:

  • Lifting any weight, particularly bench pressing
  • Racking any weight, even girly-man ones like 20-pound dumbbells
  • Tying shoelaces (honest to Charles Atlas!)
  • Slamming locker doors shut

Unlike their sister Peg, my mother and Uncle Bill grew up in their father’s gut-it-out mindset. Grunting, yelling and other oral indications of pain were reserved for, well, real pain. Bellows were for moose and bovines, and melodramatic displays for ordinary tasks were considered sissy and rude. I confess to falling in this camp.

Consider today at the HP Y. Five of us were in the weight room doing our do. Another older guy and I were lifting, recovering, lifting, recovering. Three fully grown but younger guys, two friends and a solo, were performing. One guy picked up 15s and 20s from the dumbbell racks, did some curls and such, grunting and gasping throughout, watching himself right next to a mirror, and seeming like Hercules setting to yet another labor. When he finished a set, he’d let the little dumbbells slam into the rack, making clatter like they were the 80s below them.

Another had a single 30, which he sat on a bench and curled a dozen or so times. With ever bend, he’d do his best I’m-in-labor imitation. Across the room, the other 20 something was pushing a barbell with something modest like 90 pounds. It sounded like his chest might explode from the roars.

I finished about the same time and saw what I expected in the locker room from the divas. They left their locker doors open for someone else, likely the custodian, to shut for them. Two of them grunted when they tied their laces as though it was another manly task. I guess I missed the man memo about knotting laces being hard work.

It took be back to when Mad Maggie’s was in Norwood. Many of us from Microcom just up the hill worked out there. Several of the development engineers were serious grunters, the tenors of travail, as it were. We also would eat or drink together in sundry configurations. I remember one time I just couldn’t stand it and teased a programmer, Scott, on his grunting.

He alway made noise, loud noise, and we had just worked out in the same space a few hours before. He looked at me incredulously and was clearly insulted. He swore that he never grunted when lifting or using the Nautilus equipment. Sitting with us was another developer, who happened to have been his girlfriend a few years before. She laughed very heartily and corrected him. He was a yeller and bellower in all manner of exertion, she said. He remained stunned at what was clearly news to him.

Since that moment, I consider that many habitual grunters may be unaware of what they do and how loudly they do it. Also, from some I’ve known better, I see that their fathers are also grunters; I assume it is taught and not genetic though. Finally, as I see that so many of the grunters also leave lockers open and throw towels on the floor or benches for others to retrieve, I’m betting many were mama’s boys, first-born sons, or  only children. Those last are loaded terms, typed only from experience of knowing some of these loud guys’ family background, albeit a small sampling.

These grunts of seeming agony can be startling, particularly if they come unexpectedly from out of sight. Yet in the main, they are more entertaining than annoying. These poor fellows do seem insecure, as though they constantly have to prove they are doing tough work. If Peg was right, their drama helps them with the task at hand. Otherwise, it’s just sweat opera.



2 Responses

  1. Uncle says:

    Of course now, we have women who play tennis giving the lifters a run for their money.

  2. Harrumpher says:

    Truth be told, I believe most lifters are fine at grunting, but as agile as sloths. Tennis women would smoke them as well as match grunts.

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