By FRANK TERRANELLA
When I was 12, I arm-wrestled a girl and lost. I had not entered puberty yet, and the girl had. As I remember, it wasn’t even close. The girl, who was the same age as me, had initiated the match. She asked me to show her my bicep muscle. Perhaps she was flirting, but I was oblivious. When I flexed my arm, practically nothing popped up. The girl smiled, suppressing a giggle. She also did not have a defined bicep, but she had a thick arm, and was simply much stronger than me at that age. From the moment she engaged her strength, and started to push against my hand, I simply could not stop her from pushing my pre-pubescent arm down to the desktop. She was proud of herself, and when we argued about anything thereafter, she would flex her arm and say, “Remember, I’m stronger than you.”
Soon after that, I entered puberty, and within 12 months, when I flexed my skinny arm, a hard, round muscle popped up. It was truly amazing to the girl. She knew that I had not started lifting weights, or even exercising. Just on the basis of being a boy, I had developed a bulging bicep muscle bigger than hers. And to add insult to injury, she found out when we had our re-match that I was now just a little bit stronger than her also.
I was never a gym rat in my teens and never had athlete-sized biceps. But like most men, I developed biceps in my teens that were bigger than those of the women I came across. While they were just average by male standards, I was confident that I was not going to lose a strength contest to any woman I might meet.
Then I hit 40. I noticed that my biceps did not have the peak they used to have when I flexed them. I noticed there was more fat on my arm covering the muscle. By the time I hit 50, I noticed a decrease in arm strength. Lifting heavy items to put them on a top shelf was not as easy as it used to be. I started to read articles in The New York Times and elsewhere that said I was losing one percent of my muscle mass each year. This was alarming.
And then I started noticing that many women were developing biceps as large or larger than mine. I was walking in Midtown Manhattan one day, when I saw a young woman with biceps the size I had formerly only seen on men. These were not cute fitness biceps from aerobics; these were cannonball-sized guns on a beautiful woman. And I loved them on her! And beyond that, I wanted them on me.