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Hard on Heels | Natty
Hard on Heels | Natty

Full disclosure. I will admit that I smoked marijuana twice, a fact that shames me to this day. Prior to that first time, I was proud to say that I had never used any drugs. I had made it all through my New York City public high school without one puff or pill. I got called all kinds of names by so-called friends. I just wasn’t interested in trying drugs.  Yet, in college, my boyfriend somehow convinced me into it – twice. And, yes, I inhaled – twice. I consider it a smudge in an otherwise perfect record. (Oh, well.) I say all this to say that being “drug free” has always been important to me. When I started lifting in the 80s I was often asked what drugs I did. It’s not that my muscles were so big by today’s standards, it was just that it was so unusual to see them on a girl. It was more acceptable to have flabby arms than well-defined deltoids. The stares you got in and out of the gym for having biceps were not always appreciative. Nowadays, they think you’re a personal trainer. Then, they thought you were a freak. 

But I loved the muscles I developed in the gym. I loved the whole aesthetics of it. As far as I was concerned, muscles only enhanced my femininity. So popular or not, stares or not, I continued lifting. I brought the weights up and I brought the weight down. Again and again. I packed on as much muscle as my body allowed. That is, the amount allowed naturally. And when asked what drugs I took, I replied truthfully: caffeine and alcohol. Mostly caffeine. 

I had some wonderful early role models of female bodybuilders. Gladys Portuguese and Carla Dunlap were some of my favorites. You look at their pictures now and they don’t seem so big. They probably were just a shade bigger than Jane Fonda was in the 80s. Still, they were revolutionary. Those early female bodybuilders were my aspirational role models. As the sport evolved, though, subsequent female bodybuilders became more and more and more muscular. Suddenly, when asked why I had so much muscle, I had to explain that I was a bodybuilder AND that I was natural. And proudly natural I have remained. 

It is human nature for an athlete to push the envelope. That’s what makes them an athlete.  And I kinda understand the desire of an athlete to reach for drugs to “fine-tune” their hard work. I just don’t agree with it. Regardless of the sport, it’s a cheat. Plain and simple. To me, the beauty of bodybuilding is seeing how much you can push your body. How close you can get to the ideal. What you can create. Your creation. Yours alone. Solely through your arduous effort. What accomplishment is there if you use drugs to achieve it? How do you celebrate a goal that you know isn’t all yours? I don’t get it. Never will. 

Natty till I die. 

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