Somebody get me a mirror, quick

Chris Carmona

I don’t consider January and February “winter” for college students. I tend to see it as an anti-hibernation period. This is the time of year when we pack into the gym and attempt to shed ourselves of those meals that some of us aren’t eating. The time of year when Hollywood Tans sees its sales peak and dessert is substituted with protein shakes. The time of year when we abstain from beer and drown our coherence in vodka.

The countdown to spring break has begun.

This is the time of year when no meal goes unnoticed, when every calorie is scrutinized. For Villanova women, the pre-spring break diet is beyond a crash-diet; it’s a full fledged kamikaze-diet. The target is emaciation, and the prize is hunger. Girls are creating innovative eating habits. That classic dietary contest mixed with a pinch of moral values which we refer to as ‘vegetarianism’ evolves into something new during spring break training. I call it the meta-vegan diet, and it involves refusing to eat anything that casts a shadow. Girls sprinkle devotion on top of air and slide it into their mouths, gushing with satisfaction while they wash it down with a tall cup of anxiety. For dessert: HT60 tanning bed for approximately eight minutes, seven for the fine-skinned.

But I don’t want to seem like a hypocrite. I’m going on spring break, and I’ve also found myself at the gym so often that I walk into the basement of Farley and simply turn to the other regulars.

“Hey Chris!” they all shout, smiling at me through a mirror that we’re both looking into.

“Hey gang!”

But I try to take it easy. I’ll limit myself to two muscles a day. So for chest and triceps, I’ll start out with four sets of dumbbells on a flat bench. Three sets of incline bench, three sets of decline, six sets of cable rows, three sets of machine flies, three sets of close-grip bench, four sets of cables, six sets of cables facing away from the weights, three sets of skull crushers and three sets of dips. After cardio and seven hundred and fifty thousand sit ups, I resuscitate my heart, cry on my roommate’s shoulder and I’m ready for tomorrow.

I’m not the worst of them, though. I see guys who actually look like they’re in pain when they lift weights, but because of that approaching March holiday, they simply strap on one of those enormous weightlifting belts (that look like a cross between the WWF Intercontinental Champion belt and those really chic useless belts that girls wore about six seasons ago) and strain themselves throughout their workout. I hear them grunt, so I glance over and see veins in areas that I didn’t know had veins. Big, thick veins running across their knee caps, with miniature veins on top of the larger veins. I just cringe and look back at my reflection.

I tend to avoid South campus. Every time I crawl underneath Stanford’s steps and walk into the dungeon of the weight room, bats flutter around my ears while I lift rusted weights and swing them in front of my nose to relieve the scent of steroids. This is the Mecca for lifting supplements at Villanova. One day, I actually walked in on a GNC buffet, where pills of Glutamine were being washed down with your desired flavor of Cell Tech shakes. The chubby kids were waiting in the Hydroxicut line.

The difference in demographic between South and West campus weight rooms is phenomenal. West campus is essentially that cliché Protestant country club, while South campus is where the olive-skinned Catholics were once exiled to and now embrace wholeheartedly. If you’re wondering where that particularly elitist country club is, look no further than the Philadelphia Sports Club.

But I’ve deviated from the point of this article. The point was to make you feel bad about being so vain while negating my hypocrisy by jokingly mentioning that I keep a sleeping bag in my West campus weight room cubby (not literally, but I have my own cubby, and God help you if you stuff your sorority sweatshirt and pink iPod in it).

And we don’t work out for health. I’ll admit it myself. I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually worked out purely for health-conscious reasons. At this age, it’s for self-conscious reasons. If, say, kicking a wall made you lose weight, the girls’ dorm walls would look like blocks of Swiss cheese. If showering made you gain muscle mass, the men of Villanova would be more pruned and wrinkled than Keith Richards. The point is: we’re vain. Do you really think that it’s just stylistic preference to make gyms one gigantic cube of mirrors? Oh, sure, it’s to watch your form. Right. The mirrors exist for two reasons, so you can either A) feel good about yourself or B) feel bad about yourself. Guys tend to feel good about themselves. We lift weights while staring at our flexed muscles as our minds go “Yea. Oh yea. Look at how ripped you’re getting.” Crowbars couldn’t pry our eyes from our own reflection. Girls, on the other hand, tend to stare at the mirror with a feeling of either self-hatred or self-pity, forcing a façade of calmness while their sports bras stick to their backs with guilty sweat, and they think to themselves “You had to eat that extra Cheez-it, didn’t you, fatty?”

And, really, why do we put ourselves through it? Why do we curl weights until our joints ache, crunch our stomachs until our lower backs beg for rest and run towards our own reflection like a gerbil in the veritable wheel of our existence? Because we’re narcissistic, obviously. But, also, because we want to be loved.

We want to prance across the sandy beaches of Wherever, Mexico and earn smiles from the opposite sex. Every rep squeezed out, every grunt uttered is just another plea for love and acceptance. You want to sleep with (or at least turn down) as many people as possible from March 5th to the 12th because if people want to sleep with you, then you’re pretty, and if you’re pretty, then you’re loved. It’s the oldest formula we’ve ever known. I’ve never heard of Eve being fat.

But we have to remember that even without that week of faceless sex, we are all worthy people. Everyone is worthy of love, and you don’t need a Mexican strand of chlamydia to reiterate that fact.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t work out; Lord knows I’ll be there next to you, blowing invisible kisses to my reflection while I pose for a fictitious camera. Just realize that narcissism is fine on its own; we don’t need to blend it with our innate desire for acceptance.

So ladies (and even some of you gentlemen), throw out that air-flavored yogurt you were going to eat for lunch, go nuts with the Cheez-its, take Fitty Cent off the shuffle of your iPod and throw on some Beatles. To quote John Lennon, “All you need is love. Love is all you need.”

Love, and a sweet body.