Pumping weights to top big, little brother

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (U-WIRE) — Back when we were in grade school, I used to have a lot of fun with my younger brother. Sure, we played sports and video games, watched TV and did all the wholesome brotherly things anyone could possibly dream of.
But most of all, I had fun beating the crap out of him.
He was only three grades behind me — close enough to my age to warrant physical abuse, but young enough to give him an obvious size disadvantage. I’d get him in headlocks, pin him to the floor, bitch-smack him (though we probably didn’t call it “bitch-smacking” back then) and pretty much try to copy all the moves of my World Wrestling Federation white-trash heroes.
I may have been thin as a wire, small and unathletic, but pounding on my brother made me feel as tough as Rowdy Roddy Piper — who I actually thought was Scottish, until his WWF trading card set me straight. The Piper really comes from the rolling green hills of Detroit.
Then something happened to my brother and me. He grew, and I didn’t. He worked out, and I didn’t. He’s 6-foot-3. I’m 5-foot-9. He’s strong. I’m weak.
Now our wrestling matches are a joke. I can still get in a solid bitch-smack here or there, but overall, he dominates. Even when my adrenaline gets pumping, he barely moves a muscle to counter my attack and punish me for years of past abuse.
Luckily, I escaped his wrath for most of this year because he went to Indiana University for his freshman year of college. But now he’s back in Ann Arbor for the summer.
At first I was scared, but now I have a plan. I’m going to beat him at his own game. I, Chris Farah, pencil-necked geek and intellectual pansy, have decided to (gasp) work out. Even better, I’ve decided to use my brother’s fitness expertise against him.
I’ve gone over to the enemy’s camp, and now I attend the gym with my brother. Needless to say, I’ve experienced a bit of culture shock.
I thought my brother was large. The weight room is filled with mutants three times his size. Some kind of tattoo seems mandatory, and a shaved head is preferable. Sleeves on shirts are a definite no-no, although I’m sticking with short sleeves in a desperate attempt to cover as much of my two-inch pythons, wrestling lingo for biceps, as possible.
They’re obsessed with size. The whole room is surrounded with mirrors so they can stare at themselves while they strain to lift gigantic hunks of metal. When they spot each other, they make comments like, “lookin’ big,” while reminiscing about how small they used to be before their weight-lifting epiphanies.
Haven’t I heard something in an intro psych class about compensation for a lack of size in other areas? We’ll just let that issue lie.
The exercise equipment has as much personality as the weightlifters. Jumbled contraptions of twisted metal, chains and rubber menace like giant, mechanical spiders, seeming more like medieval contraptions of torture than workout machines.
But for some reason, these weird people subject themselves to this torture willingly. They go to these places, they strain, groan and grunt, they lift until their veins almost pop out of their skin. And why? To “look big?” To make some attempt at male bonding? To show off their tattoos or newly shaved heads?
Ridiculous. Simply ridiculous.
Now if I can only put on another 20 pounds of muscle at the gym, I’ll have my brother right where I want him …

Chris Farah’s column originally appeared in Tuesday’s University of Michigan Daily.