Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The world's most perfectly developed man - without steroids

Maybe I read the wrong magazines but the days of the Charles Atlas (right, with female admirers) ads promising that "you too can have a body like mine" seem to be over, says my That's Men for You Column in today's Irish Times.

Now, I do not want a visit from the heirs of “the World's Most Perfectly Developed Man” as he called himself so I had better say right now that the Charles Atlas company is alive and well on the Internet.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, Charles Atlas promised that if you bought and faithfully followed his mail-order course you would no longer have to suffer the ignominy of being “a 97-pound weakling”. Instead, you could develop yourself into a muscular man able to defend his honour and that of his adoring girlfriend.

This is really only matters because the Charles Atlas ads provided many young men with an image of how they ought to look - and to look like a 97-pound weakling was bad.

Although the Charles Atlas physique was marketed as a means of impressing your girlfriend. I suspect it had more to do with impressing other men in the same way that women dress to impress other women on the basis that men wouldn't really notice if they were wearing a sack.

In Ireland, when Charles Atlas was in his heyday, men were less concerned with their body image than they are now. Today the concern with body image is growing. There are gyms and we can afford to go to them.

Becoming a one-man self-admiration society in the gym is one thing. More worryingly, increasing numbers of young men take steroids to build up their muscle mass. In doing so they increase their chances of developing heart disease later on, of developing a psychological dependency and of suffering depression when withdrawing from them.

Frankly, I would rather get sand kicked in my face - the ultimate fate of the 97-pound weakling according to Charles Atlas.

No comments: