Mary Ellen casually mentioned to me the other night that I had a pathetic-looking chest. While I suppose your better half is permitted to assess your upper half, I’d suggest not responding in kind. She thinks my body lacks definition, but I disagree. You can look it up in the dictionary under scrawny. Women are definitely more interested in men having muscles than a sense of humor. No female has never said: “I wish Matthew McConaughey would put his shirt back on and tell more jokes.”

I used to go to a gym to play racquetball, and I’d see men and women fine-tuning their physiques, yet I wasn’t inspired to fiddle with my own. Never really interested in the pure pursuit of brute strength, I would watch weightlifters during their routine. They’d pick up a heavy thing, then they’d put it down again. Such indecision.

After this stinging critique of my body, I read in “Prevention” magazine that when you reach 45 years of age, you begin losing 1 percent of your bone density and muscle mass every year. Old photos of me from high school show there was very little mass to start with, although some did roll in across my midsection in the early 80s. Density? I asked Mary Ellen about that, but she said not to worry, that I’m as dense as I’ve ever been — and she’s not one to just toss out compliments.

I was embarrassed into starting a moderate body-building regimen. I don’t go to the gym to work out, however. I do everything at home, in the reclining position, while watching cable news in the evening. Why didn’t I think of this 15 years ago? I still wouldn’t like Sean Hannity, but at least I’d be buff enough to throw king-size pillows at the TV from a prone position. Some of my other favorite moves are curls, extensions and squats. There are two techniques I don’t perform: abductions and snatches. I don’t need any more legal trouble after getting caught walking out of Dick’s Sporting Goods with a set of free weights. Hey, that’s what the sign said.

I’m making progress. Thursday I ‘’bed-pressed’’ a hefty amount: 18,000 grams. It sounds impressive when counted the way the British do. I took one really heavy dumbbell and managed to hoist it over my head. When I put it down, the dog scooped it up in his mouth and buried it outside.

Mary Ellen, who regularly works out with a trainer, says my new resolution to lift things is a good sign. She’s hoping it will carry over to lifting a finger around the house to help. Or picking up the check when her brother and sister-in-law come to visit. As for me, this has all helped lift my spirits. I can now hold a six-pack out in front of me, arms parallel to the ground, for an entire TV commercial.

A few days ago, one of my macho neighbors helped me lug a huge barbell up to the second floor of our house. My hope was that after a few months working out with some of the lighter weights, I would one day be able to lift this new behemoth all by myself. Mary Ellen thought it looked ugly in our bedroom. So she took it down to the basement.


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