January 25, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Patchy rain nearby 5°C

Bro

By Joel Stein
Published: 2015-01-16

When Mark's in charge, you're "Bro."
T

wo Christmases ago my wife bought me a personal trainer. Not that she actually put the trainer under the tree, which would have been unwieldy for everyone. No, this was a little coupon with the face of a guy, "Mark," that welcomed me to my year of "personal fitness perfect" and invited me to make an appointment to start our sessions.

I wasn't exactly surprised since my wife had made oblique references to my being out of shape, as in, "You're getting fat and middle aged," which was subtle way of reminding me I was getting fat and middle aged. She's always been dainty, delicate and mindful of my innermost feelings.

But Mark was a nice enough guy. He told me his great grandfather was a mobster from Sicily who at some point in his life had a bunch of people assassinated before retiring and joining the priesthood in New Jersey. After which we got to work.

I learned about abs and pecs and how to make my stomach hate itself, involving exercise, vegetables, a few special fibers, and lots of bike riding on a special circuit Mark developed near the gym. I liked the bike riding until I ran over a cat and was briefly hospitalized for a concussion, offending lots of other cats and prompting my wife to say I did it intentionally but that was no excuse not to get trimmer. So Mark and I got back to it.

In eight months I lost 27 pounds and went from being a man of 46 to a man of 33, at least according to Mark, who dropped out of high school at 20 and admittedly has trouble with numbers (but not with billing). "You look like you're 33, bro," said Mark, calling me by my new name, "Bro," which replaced Joel as soon as I lost some weight and started time traveling. Whatever.

My wife was happy. She said I was now looking "more like the guy I married," also odd since the guy she married was 25, not exactly sleek, with a receding hairline —her first husband. Mark was also happy since he'd been paid to reinvent me as "Bro" and had also talked to the lady whose cat I ran down, saving me the trouble (I had to apologize, even though the cat didn't end up in the hospital; I "injured" its tail, something I later looked up, hoping maybe cats re-grew them. They don't).

Now, some 25 months after the coupon and Mark I'm a new man. My wife likes me and suggests we might make sex videos on the side, whenever, say, we're bored, or out of chips. My belly, or "roll-out" as Mark liked calling it — "Bro, let's check that roll-out at the door!" — is now in full reverse, or maybe it's gone south to my ankles, since they seem bigger than normal. Mark even gave me a diploma, a piece of paper with the words "new FIT you" that also contained a crayon-like drawing of me (a poor likeness; I had no chin) listing my "body mass and inner fluids index," which I now of course attache to my rιsumι.

Last I checked I was 30 years old (I love time travel!), weighed 160 pounds, was the apple of my wife's hardcore eye — and the scourge of local cats. "Mark's made you the new you and I love you," says my wife. She's also warned me never to be fat and middle aged again. Or she'll call Mark back.

I'm more worried about his Mafia great grandfather and the stories of his lethal pre-priesthood. That and being forced back to my life as "Bro," which if you've ever been called it for several months running you'll understand can make you long for anyone who favors "Honey," even a wife.

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