Short Buffed Asian Guys (SBAGs)


I've always wanted to be tall. That didn't work out so well and I've settled for getting bigger. So now I lift weights, a pastime that I've taken up in fits and starts over the years.

I thought about drinking protein shakes to get huge. Judy said no. She said I don't want you to become one of those guys. The Short Buffed Asian Guy (SBAG).

It seems I'm not the only one to consider this approach. Legions of SBAGs testify to this. And it seem like the shorter you are, the more muscular you have to be in order to compensate for one's lack of height. I don't know any tall buffed Asian guys (Jeremy Lin does not count - he clearly has a neck). So what's with this phenomenon?

First, Asian men are on average shorter than American men. And in my book, anyone 5'8" or under is short (which includes me). There are all kinds of insecurities that go with being short, especially for men. You look up to people. You make less money. You feel less masculine. You feel invisible to girls. If you're balding, its easier to detect. You get mistaken for a hobbit. People pet you. When you hug someone taller, their shoulder hits you in the neck or they crouch down in order to make you feel better worse.

Second of all, there are even more insecurities associated with being an Asian guy. Slight in stature, good at math and computers, passive, timid, and fearful. Blah, blah, blah.

My impetus for every weightlifting stint was a traumatizing social encounter. My brother calls me a skinny little guy. I receive unsatisfactory results from a body fat composition test (Judy's idea). I get pushed around in a basketball game by guys I will never be anywhere near as big or as strong as. Regardless of the type of stigma, the shame provides me with the momentary urge to build pectoral muscles that can reach out and grab you.

But whenever I see an SBAG, I can't help but feel like its one big, bulging, veiny overcompensating mechanism. Its like this guy is wearing his insecurity on his sleeves (and chest, back, and legs). "Hey look I'm a short Asian guy so I lift weights to feel better about myself".

If you're an Asian guy, you can't win in my book. I'll judge you if you're skinny and weak. I'll judge you if you're an SBAG. And I'll judge you if you're in between because you're a wanna-be SBAG. See, I feel conflicted about what masculinity looks like and whether I make the cut. And the judgment of my peers reveals the depth of my insecurity. The issues I see in others are just a mirror reflecting back my own. The most traumatizing encounter is not social, its the voice in my head.

Comments

  1. Nice article. I don't remember you being short (I think I last saw you about 10 years ago), but I do remember that you had a big personality. Height is overrated anyway.

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    Replies
    1. thanks Ann. Skinny guys don't look as short. Height is certainly over-rated but coming from an above-average in height female, I take that comment with a grain of salt.

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