For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a little soft in the middle. You know, not clinically obese but also not what any reasonable person would ever call toned. Every year, as festival season ramps up, I’m left in the same situation: that is, feeling like I share the body a half- chiseled David, wherein the carver got bored and just walked away three-quarters in.
I wish that I was one of those people with a Chella Bod. You know the ones I’m talking about. You see them posting #chellabod on Twitter, starting plaintive Reddit threads and frantically reading 30-day diet articles from semi-dubious sources. The Chella Bod guys have V cuts and abs that dynamite out of board shorts and the Chella Bod girls seem to be smuggling basketballs in their daisy dukes. I confess, reader, that I’ve strived toward such a physique. I’ve been going to Coachella on and off for years—ever since you could buy single day passes—and almost every year, I tell myself I’ll never go back. It’s too hot, you don’t really get to see the music and it’s expensive. Pick your reason; they’re all valid. But then a friend calls and tells me I just have to and then there I am, slouching in the desert again. Staring at them.
At the start of every year, April seems like a non-threateningly long lead-time to work yourself into shape post-holiday-binging. That means buying new Nikes (having lost the old ones) and “accidentally” jostling my girlfriend awake every morning as I stumble out of bed and onto a blood-dark running track for a 10-minute jaunt that feels more like the marathons my mom started running when she was 38 years old. Did I mention that I’m pathetic? I’m pathetic.
The Chella Bod is not functional. It’s just for your Instagram followers—and to make it easier for you to thirst trap.
This year, after my umpteenth attempt to get into shape fizzled in a rainstorm of hangovers and general ennui, I finally realized something. The Chella Bod wasn’t for me, and it may not be for you either. It’s for them. The vapid Chella Bods you see on Instagram, Twitter and those god-awful day-after roundups written exclusively for horny men at work and social justice warriors looking for culture-appropriating dimwits to target are only there for pictures. They’re not there for music, culture or community.
In reality, the bods on display are a lot like vintage Italian sports cars. They’re nice to look at and fun to drive, but they’re impossibly finicky and prone to spending weeks in the shop. Those bods are not the bod you actually want if you’re going to put yourself through anything resembling a real Coachella experience. A proper Coachella experience.
Not only is the Chella Bod not functional, it’s not even really for you. It’s for your Instagram followers, and for making it easier to thirst trap. Not everyone who gets into shape for Coachella does it for the likes—but most people do. And those people are operating from the same delusion that many of us do; that if you get a certain number of likes and followers you’ll be fulfilled. Of course, you won’t; social media’s economy of likes will never allow that. Even Kylie Jenner at some point has to compete against her own mythic past.
If you want to do the festival right, you need to drink lots of beer, dance in the sun and consume a medically inadvisable amount of hard drugs. Sure, you could continue your cold-press juice regimen at Coachella—or you could be like me and sprawl out on the grass, double fisting gyros and IPAs and having the time of your life. It’s also true that the bigger you are, the more water your water can carry, meaning the easier it is for your body to dilute the alcohol you drink. So, there.
Like vintage Italian sports cars, the Chella Bod needs premium fuel to survive. You’re not going to get premium fuel at Coachella; in fact, you’ll be getting the opposite: muck. Glorious muck. Festivals are about taking things as you can get them—food, liquor, drugs, Cheetos, experiences, whatever—and walking through the world in a haze, waiting in a bathroom line for a half hour, worrying about where to charge your cell phone and finding your lost friends. Of course, you’re free to stand in line for half an hour to get a $15 salad, but please stay the hell away from me. Go take your shirtless photos in front of the Ferris wheel with your organic chickpea salad and leave me be.
“But,” you might say, “isn’t it good to set a goal and reach it, Michael? Aren’t these people working hard to achieve something that’s important to them?” Look, I’m not saying that training or being healthy isn’t important. But sometimes goals are stupid and wrong. While the #chellabodders are out pounding the pavement for three months and, I don’t know, thinking about ghee butter while riding a SoulCycle bike, I’m doing my own training. The difference is that my training involves picking up a drink and gradually reducing the weight of my glass by drinking the adult beverage the glass is holding. Ten or 15 reps of that. Maybe 20 when I’m really feeling the pre-workout (tequila). Then I rally, pick myself up off the couch and get my ass to work, or brunch, or wherever else I have to be and keep going.
This whole discussion comes down to the age-old question once posed on an episode of Girls: Would you rather live in a beautiful building with a horrible view, or a horrible building with a great view? Lots of people would pick the bad building because they get to look at something beautiful. I’ll take the great building, draw the blinds, put basketball on TV and drink coffee until I’m ready to face the world. And while all of you Chella Bods limp to work on Monday while your body reels from the desert hell you put it through, I’ll be already there, looking and feeling exactly as horrible as I always do.