Converge magazine // 12

Page 42

Naked and

Unashamed By Chelsea Batten | Photos by Joel Krahn

Southern California is a land of temples. I reckon it’s the proximity to Hollywood that makes it better than most at constructing an environment that convinces people of certain truths. And the marketers pitching those truths seem to have agreed that religious tropes are the most effective in convincing people that what they’re doing is not only fun or necessary, but somehow deeply important. On that account, you can buy a TV in a warehouse whose inside is festooned with plaster molding and trompe l’oeil murals that call to mind the Parthenon. You can buy popcorn in a movie theater lobby that looks like a Renaissance basilica. Or shop for clothes at the Citadel, an outdoor complex ringed by animallike sculptures that look like a cross between the book of Revelation and something out of Indiana Jones. But nowhere is the religious motif more convincing than within southern California’s signature institution — the gym.

Temples to Self As a teenager with worse-than-average body issues, I scrupulously avoided the gym. I was devastated just by a stray glance in the mirror; I couldn’t bear the idea of seeing myself reflected among a thousand other bodies, preening sweatily and (I thought) self-righteously as they loped along on their treadmills. Admittedly, my body shame made me really oversensitive. But even today, if I get talked into visiting the gym by a friend, I don’t see fun or health or camaraderie. I see a religion.

40 | CONVERGE. may - june 2013

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