Bodybuilding from scratch

“Squishy,” my three-year-old son Zack noted after poking me in the chest. Some people say that young children, unfettered by social conventions, are more likely to speak the truth, but it’s been my experience that kids have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

Just the other day, Zack was wandering around the house with bed-head, dried Nutella smeared across his face and no pants on. Sure, no big deal, he’s three years old, but I’m just saying: If you saw this person on the witness stand, you probably would not put a whole lot of stock in his testimony.

“Objection! I move to strike. The witness has no basis to assert that my client is a bully-butt and a poop-fart. Plus, Your Honor, doesn’t he have to wear pants?”

On that day, he wasn’t wearing pants because he’d insisted on picking out his wardrobe.

“Weren’t you going to pick out the shorts you wanted to wear today?” I asked him.

“Oh yeah!” he yelled, running into his room. He emerged carrying a pair of heavy sweatpants.

“It’s ninety-three degrees outside, buddy. I think you’re going to want shorts,” I said.

“No, these pants! I want to be cold!” he yelled, dropping to the floor and crying. The ensuing debate generated many more decibels than it should have, with the aggrieved party refusing to consider the possibility that wearing cold-weather clothing does not, in fact, make the weather colder.

I could go on, but I think we’ve established that Zack is not the foremost source of rational opinions or reliable information. His sense of humor is coming along, though.

“I don’t like ketchup,” he said during our most recent visit to McDonald’s, an institution not known for ameliorating anyone’s issues with squishiness, perceived or otherwise.

“Really? How did you get so much of it on your face, then?” I asked.

“Gotcha!” he yelled, erupting in laughter at his own joke. I laughed, too, in part to defuse any suspicion that his humor was too cerebral for me to fully comprehend.

After a few beats, he looked at me and said, “I actually do like ketchup,” just to make sure his old man was keeping up.

Clearly, then, when he called me squishy, he was either talking his usual crazy-talk (remember, this is a person who eats toothpaste), or making a joke. No other explanation makes sense.

“Dude! Squishy? That is called a pectorial muscle. Or is it pectoral? In any event, that is pure iron right there. Go ahead, poke it again,” I said, trying to flex a muscle into existence.

He poked his finger into my chest again and said, “That’s squishy!”

Kids can be so funny and/or nonsensical sometimes. Still, that conversation is not the one I wanted to be having three weeks prior to our beach vacation, when my (alleged!) squishiness would transition from a private matter to a public issue.

My problem, allowing that there is one, is that I’m honest with my body. I work in an office all day. I look like a guy who works in an office all day.

The people who go to the gym regularly and take care of themselves? They’re lying to their bodies, tricking them into building muscle when life’s circumstances don’t actually require it. If you’re lifting weights, your body thinks you must need to heft water buffalo into the air all day. If you’re a runner, your body thinks you must need to be fast to keep from getting eaten, because why else would you be torturing it like that?

In any event, Zack’s semi-coherent ramblings have put renewed focus on our upcoming beach trip. Three weeks isn’t much time, but perhaps I should start lying to my body while I still can. It’ll never believe that I don’t like ketchup, though.

You can be honest with Mike Todd at


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