Let's get it on!
I'll just need some help with this compression shirt
Before I get into the meat of the matter, I must in all fairness disclose to you a basic truth about myself that may fuel an inherent bias to the opinions that follow. You see, I cannot lie. This truth is, I must admit, that I am, in fact, a stud. Yes, really.
It's just that you can't tell I'm a stud by looking at me.
When I opened the gift box and found a new combat-green workout shirt, I tried it on knowing the people I run with wouldn't again complain, with their noses tilted away from me, "Didn't you sweat in that yesterday?" No, this would be a fresh-from-the-package, high-tech, workout shirt for my running buddies to admire. And so soon after witnessing new running shoes on my feet for the first time in four years, the combination may send them into shock.
But when I began slipping the shirt over my shoulders, I knew something was wrong. Even though the shirt insisted it was a "men's large," it gripped me in a bear hug, feeling as though I were wearing it beneath my skin rather than over it. It was so tight that had this shirt been a pair of shorts worn at my annual physical exam, my doctor would not have needed to ask me to remove it before asking me to cough.
It turns out this gift was no ordinary shirt, but something touted as a compression shirt. The product tag bragged about the garment's performance enhancing properties, but didn't clarify what performance might be enhanced. For the few moments I had the thing fully on, I felt a sudden urge to dim the lights, pour some red wine, and hum Barry White's "Let's Get It On."
The thing lifted and separated. It made it seem as though my biceps and triceps bulged in ways that would cause race officials to demand a steroid test. The material compressed my skin so snugly I feared my chest hair would begin to compost. I'm telling you, even to this stud, I felt immodest. I felt that if I ran outside in nothing but compression shirts and shorts, I might be accused of trying to bring back 1970s-era streaking.
I realized, though, that maybe the compression shirt revealed some inconvenient truths about my torso. To name a few: that my innie belly button is pretty darn deep; that sometimes one nipple pokes out while the other does not; that the scar from last summer's mole removal should be a lot smaller by now; that when I sweat, the pattern in the shirt kind of resembles a Warner Brother's cartoon character - I cannot bear to tell you which one.
Of course, I looked up compression shirts on the Internet and read the claims the manufacturers and some "independent analysts" make about them, and then I read other studies that say these claims are nothing more than a way to squeeze our wallets.
So I undertook the ultimate research I always undertake whenever I need to get to the absolute truth of a dispute. I sat down in a chair and decided for myself what makes sense. This took about 15 seconds of invaluable intense thought, so you've got to believe I now know what I'm talking about. And here's what makes the most sense about compression shirts.
I realized that my compression shirt and my 9-year-old son's swim shirt are the same stretchy size. So for about half the price of compression shirts, I can start wearing my son's clothes. Certainly the graphics on my son's swim shirts - mostly rockets, lightning bolts and race cars - would add to the feel of speed. No doubt my son, seeing me wearing his clothes, would want me to run faster than he's ever seen me run before as long as it was away from him.
All of this makes me wonder if the person who came up with the idea for compression shirts and shorts had simply won a bet, over far too many beers, that he could get grown-ups to wear children's clothing and pay double the price to do so.
Thinking I was being too harsh on compression shirt technology, I asked the gentleman who owns the fitness center I belong to whether he's ever worn compression shirts. He narrowed his eyes at my question and made sure no one else was listening. "When I played football, I tried to wear them. But they made me feel as though I was wearing a bra. A full-sized bra."
He hesitated, and then whispered, "When I put one on, it was hard for me to leave the house. Know what I mean?"
I'm keeping my compression shirt. Maybe I'll get several more. After all, it's better to feel like a stud than to be a stud. With the shirt donned, the lights dimmed, and the red wine poured, I say, let's get it on.
(A postscript: After reading this column, my son tried on my compression shirt. He's average height and weight for a 9-year-old boy. The shirt fit him perfectly.)
Bruce Steinberg is a father, husband, lawyer and novelist in St. Charles, Illinois.