I never liked the clink of heavy weights or the expelling of heavy breaths, the way we boys maneuvered as men around the weight room, lifting things and setting them down again just to show we could. I didn’t like the big belts that were supposed to protect our small backs from all the heavy lifting, nor the jocks we strapped on to protect our most private parts. I didn’t like the adrenaline and anger some boys aimed at the weights, as if gravity were designed to keep them down. I didn’t like how fights broke out afterward, how we grunted like apes, how, in the bathroom, there was always a turd someone thought would be funny not to flush.
But what I hated most was the way, after a while, our bodies began changing. The big among us got bigger, and stronger, able to lift more and more, until they thought, there in their small skins, that all it took to lift the world was strength.
Paul Crenshaw' essay collection This One Will Hurt You was published by The Ohio State University Press in spring 2019. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by Houghton Mifflin and W.W. Norton, Oxford American, Tin House, Brevity, North American Review, and Glimmer Train, among others.