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Two gays run the Tough Mudder gauntlet
December 13, 2010 1:28 PM   Subscribe

“A member of the armed forced wrote our bib numbers on our foreheads and arms in permanent marker, presumably to facilitate the identification of our dead bodies.” What happens when a gay man in his 40s and his boyfriend decide to run the nearly insane Tough Mudder obstacle course amid a sea of generally shirtless “non-homosexuals.” Tasks include manhandling lubed-up monkey bars, fording ice-cold lakes, and conquering steep mud hills. (It almost – but doesn’t quite – include falling into a burning ring of fire.)

“Women appeared to have been dramatically overrepresented in the photos on the social-networking Web site. Almost everyone was a guy under age 25. I was shocked by the extremely high level of attractiveness. The smell of testosterone was in the air, but it wasn’t the scary machismo one sees outside of nightclubs.... Many of these young men were apparently planning to run the course shirtless and in shorts.... I looked like this: A middle-aged zombie in guido hijab.”

Note: You may wish to skip the initial backstory about the author’s homework for Ancient Greek class. (Clearly a guy who appreciates tough slogs.)
posted by joeclark (51 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like the way the author feels the need to identify every atheist under discussion as an atheist and consistently refer to them as such.
posted by kenko at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2010


manhandling lubed up monkey bars?
posted by nathancaswell at 1:33 PM on December 13, 2010


And to refer to people as "non-homosexual" or "non-heterosexual" at every opportunity.
posted by kenko at 1:33 PM on December 13, 2010


It is indeed part of his discursive style, Kenko. He’s not trying to write like a newspaper journalist.
posted by joeclark at 1:36 PM on December 13, 2010


Nor, indeed, should everyone aspire to write like newspaper journalists, whose own discursive styles more often than not suck balls. It's still an odd tic.
posted by kenko at 1:37 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, for all the "others looked like this"/"we looked like this" stuff he puts in, they come through it looking pretty damn good, as, I suppose, anyone who could get through it would pretty much have to.
posted by kenko at 1:38 PM on December 13, 2010


I'm fluent in both Hebrew and Greek, and dammit I'm not going to let anyone forget it!
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:39 PM on December 13, 2010


conquering steep mud hills ... falling into a burning ring of fire

Worst sexual innuendo evar.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:49 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does it get better?
posted by chavenet at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2010


Or the BEST.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:25 PM on December 13, 2010


Yeah, sorry, that was mostly boring with a buried lede. I know plenty of gay mountain bikers, including some older ones. It's not really a stretch to think that plenty of gay dudes do all sorts of dudely activities. Plenty of gay dudes do dudely activities without precious affectations too.
posted by klangklangston at 2:26 PM on December 13, 2010


Innuendo? I thought that was an Italian suppository.
posted by Postroad at 2:36 PM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Few gay dudes with precious affectations do dudely activities, then write about them.

So the interest of the post isn't that some gay dudes did Tough Mudder, but that a gay dude wrote about doing Tough Mudder?
posted by kenko at 2:42 PM on December 13, 2010


Bam Margera & Tim O'Connor take on the Winter Tough Guy Race in Wolverhampton, UK (While TV's Ryan Dunn watches).

Got a fair bit more training to do, few more inches of insulation to lose, but I totally have my eyes set on the Warrior Dash.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:48 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did the Winter Tough Guy last year, it was pretty awesome. Mostly cause I was confused and suffering from hypothermia when I crossed the finishing line, and had some fine young lady insist I take off my wet clothes. Since I was unable to achieve this myself, she felt it her medical duty to do so for me. Meanwhile, I was being belt-fed hot chocolates with like seven sugars in.

A good day. A good day.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:00 PM on December 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow, that one Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey linked to was the one I was at! I remember RoboCop!
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:17 PM on December 13, 2010


Innuendo? I thought that was an Italian suppository.
posted by Postroad at 2:36 PM


Isn't it great that the word innuendo is itself a double entendre?
posted by 445supermag at 3:17 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't it great that the word innuendo is itself a double entendre?
In your endo.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:25 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okaaaay ... lets say I am all, wow, check this out, the woman actually got to be an executive. Isn't that amazing? What an accomplishment for a woman!

I think we might all see the sexism there.

When we unnecessarily mention the race of a criminal, I think most of us can see the racism.

So, is it any different here? Is there some inherent reason why sexual orientation should make the task more difficult? Seems bigoted to me (and the writer being gay most certainly does not exclude them from the possibility).
posted by Bovine Love at 4:03 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Bovine Love, for saying in much more blunt terms what I probably would have written 1000 words about.

Oh noes! Men who like men are caught doing something manly! The world will end! All gender norms will be torn asunder!

Jeez. You know, this would have been much more interesting if it were just about a guy doing this obstacle course rather than all the "I am homosexual" frosting all over it.

Next up on the web: Lesbians who like lipstick and heels! Gay men who can change their own oil and spark plugs! And coming up next week: Bisexuals who don't randomly fuck anyone they meet during their day!
posted by hippybear at 4:59 PM on December 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I liked the excessively cultured tone at first, but on reading the earlier entries it all became a bit too Death in Venice for me ("He is so beautiful! I am so old!"). Nice pictures, though.
posted by jokeefe at 5:23 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]



conquering steep mud hills ... falling into a burning ring of fire

Worst sexual innuendo evar.


Well now that Johnny Cash song is forever ruined for me.
posted by homuncula at 5:33 PM on December 13, 2010


We are not discussing an analytical piece on a topic of pressing public interest. It's a first-person account. Then again, MeFites make a fetish of showing themselves so liberal they dismiss differences that actually might be important to, and gleanable from, an original author of an item we link to here.

Stated another way, this is not a generic discussion, and your worldly distance, camouflaged as liberal acceptance, is out of place in responding to a personal account.

If a gay male at an event says it was noteworthy he’s gay, it is. You aren't him and you weren't there.
posted by joeclark at 5:59 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who says it isn't a generic discussion? Are we restricted to purely his parameters? I'm sure it was noteworthy to him. Once he publishes, he no longer controls the narrative and we are both entitled and, I would argue, obligated to look outside his view and examine underlying motivations of all the parties, including the narrator. He does not have a monopoly on opinion, regardless of who attended what. It significance beyond his personal experience is relevant, as is others response to it.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:55 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Despite the common assertion nowadays (by atheists, and generally by the subset who aren't very thoughtful) that what is right and what is wrong is clearly obvious to any moron, and that if only we were liberated from religion everyone would agree on everything and there would be no conflict

What? Almost no one has asserted either of those things. Not even thoughtless atheists!
posted by nicwolff at 8:19 PM on December 13, 2010


What happens when a gay man in his 40s and his boyfriend decide to run the nearly insane Tough Mudder obstacle course amid a sea of generally shirtless “non-homosexuals.”

They'll be appreciated ... as per the annual Boston Speedo Run (i.e. hotties -- straight and gay included)! Go, Boys!
posted by ericb at 8:58 PM on December 13, 2010


Bovine, react to the article linked to, not some article you imagine.

He was there and you weren’t.
posted by joeclark at 9:11 PM on December 13, 2010


@Bovine Love and hippybear:

He's probably doing it because, like many other gay individuals, his capability to be "manly" is constantly being challenged. He's probably made aware in some way, every day of his life, that society as an amorphous blob considers him less of a man, less capable of feats of strength, valor, bravery, then the average man.

You're right that everyone can be bigoted, but some bigotry is so deeply ingrained into culture that the only way to get it OUT is to be hyper-visible when you're challenging it.

Pride parades are in your face because they need to be. The default social assumption is that people are straight. The default social assumption is that gay people are sissies. That assumption needs to be fucked up, and without direct counter examples, it's far too easy for people to continue to have their wrong perceptions.
posted by Quadlex at 10:01 PM on December 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


In your endo.

It practically killed him!
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:27 PM on December 13, 2010


If a gay male at an event says it was noteworthy he’s gay, it is. You aren't him and you weren't there.

joeclark: after reading this, I went back and skipped all the greek stuff and got into the obstacle course stuff and reread it all....

...and I cannot find a single instance in the article in which he says that there was any significance to his sexual orientation, other than the fact that he keeps pointing it out.

He doesn't talk about how the other race participants feel about his non-heterosexuality. He doesn't talk about how his non-heterosexuality affected his performance. He doesn't talk about anything having to do with non-heterosexuality OTHER than to point out that he himself is non-heterosexual, and maybe a couple of other people are, and oh, by-the-way, the cold makes his genitals shrink. And I'm pretty sure that last point is universal for all males, not just the non-heterosexual ones.

I mean, I'm all for gay men boldly going into the world of the straight male and reporting back about it. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of that mythical cultural divide, and someone who is making an honest effort to bridge the gap and make quality observations about the misperceptions and actual differences is always welcome.

But, honestly, how much of that do you see going on in this article?

He mentions being in awe of the shirtless musclebound men who are also participating in the event. That's not much of a bridging observation, I don't think. He toys with the idea of making costumes, but what gay man hasn't been confronted with drag of some form in his life? And his rejection of it isn't earthshaking.

And where does he ever once mention that ANYONE else in the race thought it was noteworthy that he is gay? I'd welcome the citation, because I can't find it in the article I'm reading. He's the only one who cares about that.

There are a lot of pieces of this piece which I find a bit troublesome. His reference to how skipping the part of the course which most intimidated him (the cold water) would be somehow "unmanly"... his reference to the guy who didn't respond to his offer for a ride as a "demigod"... the statements about his own self as being somehow old and disgusting and unworthy while all the rest of the non-non-heterosexuals participating were under 25 and all shockingly attractive... even his statement about how his trainer wanted the team to hold hands as they finished the race as a team... it all smacks of some deeply ingrained internalized homophobia and ageism which the author hasn't managed to really grasp within his own psyche.

Ultimately, what I got from reading this narrative is that the author put himself through a challenging day of grueling physical exertion and discomfort, and didn't die, and felt accomplished for having done it. At what point does his sexuality become important in the larger context? Nowhere. None at all. Perhaps he's insecure in his own masculinity (not uncommon for gay men), perhaps he's insecure about his age (not uncommon for men in their 40s)... But he doesn't even do a very good job of writing about how those insecurities play into his actual performance and the mental and emotional struggle he has to overcome in order to face those fears. It's just kind of a narrative about how he went out there and did this thing once. And it was difficult, but he didn't die, and Oh! Look at all the shirtless 25 year olds he's with!

I could write the same narrative about the couple of weeks I spent in southern Colorado trying to stay above timberline while I covered a bunch of miles. Only I wasn't in any race, wasn't surrounded by shirtless 25 year olds, and had to fight some horrible muscle problems in my legs while I struggled to get back to the vehicle for 4 days so I didn't have to pay for a helicopter lift out of the mountains. But hey! I'm gay, so it all is a huge big gay experience where my homosexuality non-heterosexuality mattered a lot, right?

No, not really. I was just a guy who was doing something more extreme than he was prepared for. What I do with my penis and emotional attachments had nothing to do with it. And neither did this guy's. He's just drawing lines in the sand which don't really matter for his narrative as a whole.
posted by hippybear at 10:31 PM on December 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


"If a gay male at an event says it was noteworthy he’s gay, it is. You aren't him and you weren't there."

That doesn't free him from the necessity of telling an interesting story — if it was noteworthy, say why it's noteworthy.

And to be fair, this is a personal blog entry, not something he likely ever intended to be raked by strangers. But there just isn't very much there for a large part of the audience here. It's kind of not a very good post for that reason: this blog entry isn't ready for the prime time.

Being gay doesn't exempt you from basic rules of storytelling and drama.
posted by klangklangston at 10:34 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Managing (or attempting to manage) your own threads like this is considered bad form, joeclark.
posted by kenko at 10:42 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh my god, the men didn't have shirts? Oh my god!

This was really one of the longest, most uninteresting stories I've EVER slogged through. How did he make this so damned dull??? HE DOESN'T EVEN SAY HE'S GAY, by the way. If you want to frame this as some kind of significant story of alterity under duress, a little intelligent regard for that aspect of the experience would be helpful. All he ever says is that he's among the "non-heterosexual" and sexualizes every fucking person in the story, fucking who knows why.

As a fat, adrenaline junky chick who would fully give this a shot, I don't think I'd wind up writing about the hotties all around me or how pathetic I was in comparison with them. His whinging is tiresome.

Isn't compulsively worrying about one's health and nutrition a form of selfish and childish narcissism and egotism? I wondered. At least there's some humility and modesty in being obsessed with one's looks.

^^^ironic blog content^^^
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:58 PM on December 13, 2010


Oh for heaven's sake.
posted by Twang at 11:09 PM on December 13, 2010


Hey, I think this feller's gay!
posted by Mister_A at 5:49 AM on December 14, 2010


The bit about losing his genitalia was a chuckle though.
posted by Mister_A at 5:55 AM on December 14, 2010


I liked this quite a bit! In particular, I love the way it drifts around from Ancient Greek to paleo-dieting to the account of the race itself. Thanks for posting this!
posted by Greg Nog at 5:56 AM on December 14, 2010


Kenko, I’ll say whatever I want here, and if you take issue with it, MetaFilter is almost unique in offering defined mechanisms for same.
posted by joeclark at 9:50 AM on December 14, 2010


he doesn't even do a very good job of writing about how those [alleged] insecurities play into his actual performance and the mental and emotional struggle he has to overcome in order to face those fears
As that is not what the story is about, how well he handled that topic is beside the point. I don’t see why you people can’t understand this is a first-person account delivered in a distinctive discursive style and is not whatever you personally think it should have been.

If readers of this thread think it’s so commonplace and passé for gay males to run tough-guy events, find me another one who wrote an account of such an event that you think scores better on the various criteria you have pulled out of thin air.
posted by joeclark at 9:53 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kenko, I’ll say whatever I want here

The same can be said by anyone who cares to comment on your post or your acidly micromanaging comments about and toward "you people" (Jesus H Christ) therein.
posted by blucevalo at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2010


he doesn't even do a very good job of writing about how those [alleged] insecurities play into his actual performance and the mental and emotional struggle he has to overcome in order to face those fears
As that is not what the story is about, how well he handled that topic is beside the point. I don’t see why you people can’t understand this is a first-person account delivered in a distinctive discursive style and is not whatever you personally think it should have been.


You do seem very concerned about defending this guy's blog post, despite it being generally okay for people to have different opinions about things even if you think they're fabulous. As far as it having a "distinctive discursive style", did you mean for this post to be about his use of language? Because the way you've framed the post makes it about his sexuality and how that relates to his participation in this obstacle course.

But since you mention it... what IS this story about, anyway? Is it about dieting? Philosophy? Ancient Greek studies? Homosexuality? Obstacle courses? I'd welcome a clear answer, because having re-read the piece about 8 times now, I still am not certain.

If readers of this thread think it’s so commonplace and passé for gay males to run tough-guy events, find me another one who wrote an account of such an event that you think scores better on the various criteria you have pulled out of thin air.

But since you seem to need more validation about gay men doing big butch things, perhaps you would enjoy the documentary Straight Acting (imdb, website, trailer, full movie, previous MeFi post), which examines the intersection between homosexuality and sports such as rugby, rodeo, and hockey.
posted by hippybear at 10:30 AM on December 14, 2010


Thanks to everyone for reading my blog, and a special thanks to Joe for posting it here (and for being my biggest defender).

I realize my style or lack thereof is not for everyone. Most people don't really enjoy reading neurotic rambling. I appreciate the criticism and feedback that my account of the event was too long and boring and precious (I'm not really sure how to get rid of my precious affectations though, at this point -- it's probably too late).

As for me being bigoted, homophobic, and ageist, well, I'm not really sure how to respond. I think a lot about mortality, so I guess that comes across as ageist. I think of it as realist. I know we are all supposed to celebrate getting older, but, it kind of sucks.

I'm not really a tough guy, so I'm not normally in these sorts of environments. I also live in a bit of a gay ghetto in Manhattan, and my interactions with straight guys are relatively limited at this point in my life. So the fact that I was at a tough guy+straight guy+young guy event struck me. I realize that this makes me come across as sheltered. Of course I'm sure there were other gay guys doing this race (sorry: "challenge"), and I'm sure they did not have the same impressions that I did. I'm sure that my (much younger and Israeli) boyfriend and my (again, younger) gay teammate didn't wax all Aschenbach like I did, although they both couldn't stop commenting on how hot all the guys were (I'm afraid nearly every gay guy at that event would have sexualized every fucking person there; it's kind of how most of us are; my apologies).

I'm a delicate little neurotic flower, and I wrote from my point of view.

Thanks again.
posted by Sheepy at 10:36 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that my (much younger and Israeli) boyfriend and my (again, younger) gay teammate didn't wax all Aschenbach like I did, although they both couldn't stop commenting on how hot all the guys were (I'm afraid nearly every gay guy at that event would have sexualized every fucking person there; it's kind of how most of us are; my apologies).

If it makes you feel any better, Sheepy, I'm a straight guy, and I probably would also have been all, "Dang but there are some luscious brosephs on display up ins"
posted by Greg Nog at 10:49 AM on December 14, 2010


Hippybear, I'm sorry you had to read it eight times. It wasn't my intention to put anyone through that.

I tried to play on the NYC gay rugby team about nine years ago. It was a total disaster!

I am not butch.
posted by Sheepy at 11:04 AM on December 14, 2010


Sheppy: it wasn't any kind of chore to read 8 times. It does take on a bit more narrative cohesion after a few repeats, but as you characterize your writing as "rambling", I hope you won't be offended if I say that, yes... the piece does ramble a bit.

As for my earlier comments about internalized homophobia and ageism, I hope you don't take that to be a slap in the face. I've spent a majority of the past 20 years since I came out trying to detangle my own internalized homophobia. So much homosexual hatred is planted by our culture into men when they are young that even the most seemingly-healthy faggot out there may find feelings of inferiority or other negative emotions coupled with their sexuality lurking in the dark corners of their psyche. The belief that gay men somehow aren't "real men" is pervasive and damaging. Couple that with a dominant culture which worships youth, and a gay subculture which worships youth even more... Well, you can see how that pushed some buttons in me about masculinity and age and orientation -- three things which I think about (and seem to write about here on MetaFilter) often.

As to you not being butch... I think I just read an essay 8 times or so, with pictures, that speaks to the contrary.
posted by hippybear at 11:55 AM on December 14, 2010


Sheepy, that explanation makes a lot of sense, and taking the piece as coming from someone who's self-aware about the effects of the "gay ghetto" really changes its tenor for me. Thanks for writing.

As for other accounts, in various styles (I don't personally have a rubric I'm working from, not all gay athletes are also autobiographical writers) about sexual difference in athletics and "masculine" pastimes, here's

A look at the problems of trans athletes in college sports

Hudson Taylor, gay wrestler...

Corey Johnson, gay linebacker...


Hmmm, can't find any out gay lumberjack competitors, I guess that means they're all bears...
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:02 PM on December 14, 2010


But since you seem to need more validation about gay men doing big butch things...

Also, check out the great website, Outsports.
posted by ericb at 12:59 PM on December 14, 2010


But since you seem to need more validation about gay men doing big butch things
Speak for yourself.
posted by joeclark at 1:44 PM on December 14, 2010


Speak for yourself.

Oh, I do. Believe me. Which is why I share things like that documentary with you.

You do seem to be terribly defensive about this entire FPP all around. Maybe you just need a hug?
posted by hippybear at 1:49 PM on December 14, 2010


So gay guys don't do manly things and gay guys that do have hidden secret bigot in them but blog about bigot without knowing it and but ignore non camp gay guys and has anyone ever thought manly gay did exist but did isn't?

I thought to do gay is what happen when.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:34 PM on December 14, 2010


...sexual difference in athletics and "masculine" pastimes...

Brings to mind Jeff Sheng's “Fearless” photo series documenting high school and collegiate athletes who openly self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender and are “out” to their predominantly straight teammates and coaches.
posted by ericb at 4:44 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


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