On Muscled Guys and Indonesian Girls
In my opinion, Indonesian girls (and for that matter probably also Thai girls and girls in the rest of South-East Asia) have always had a very complicated view on muscled guys.
Do they like it or don't they? For me, that has always been a very difficult question. Asian women are and have been for me very difficult to fathom. In a country like Indonesia for instance it is very difficult to get an honest opinion on an issue, especially when the person that's being asked to give the feedback feels that his feedback could potentially hurt the feelings of the person who is asking for it!
I want to talk a bit about my experiences being a muscled guy in Jakarta in the early until late '90's. I will talk a bit about the lifestyle and my experience with girls in those days. Later on I try to say something about the current muscle mania in Jakarta and I also about my current life, or my life of the last 4 years or so in Jakarta.
I lived in Jakarta roughly between 1994 and 1998. In 1994 I was 25 years old and fresh out of University. I first tried to get a job in my home country but I did not really find something. My one year younger brother who had been one year ahead of me in graduating, had already gone and still was travelling around Australia and Asia and he kept sending me (censored because of my parents) letters about his life in The Emerald paradise. One day, however, he phoned me from Indonesia and then the floodgates opened and I learned the real reason why Indonesia was such a paradise, and my mind was set. A couple of months later I was on the plane, first to Australia to get some cash and then on to Indonesia.
In those younger years there I was a real gym rat. When I finally got to Jakarta after 3 months of back breaking (but very healthy) work in Australia, one of the first things on my to do list was securing a well equipped gym. In those days hardly any shopping mall (there were not nearly as many in Jakarta as there are now) had a gym inside. Most of the gyms were found in the four or five star hotels but these were expensive and / or ill-equipped. Luckily (as I would find out later) there were a few real gyms in Jakarta. These were real third world gyms in those days, small and cramped and without air-con, but full with equipment that was often (partly) hand-made. But the equipment kicked ass and the weights were heavy so it was possible to get big in those gyms, even though it would cost a ton of sweat every workout.
Freshly arrived, I didn't know shit in this big and chaotic city. I was 25 years old and like I said I had been lifting weights for some years, and I didn't want to lose my muscles. Getting settled was quite easy and I learned the language in less then 4 months. Finding a good gym however proved to be quite a challenge. The locals I got to know did not know where to find a gym. The hostel guys only knew about gyms in hotels. A fitness or body-building lifestyle was almost non-existent in Jakarta in those days. There were hardly any Indonesians who went to the gym in those days. Almost the only people who were interested in weightlifting in Jakarta were Westerners. That was of course the reason most gyms were to be found in the major hotels.
You get what you pay for in Jakarta and this also very much applied to the hotel gyms. Some hotels had very well equipped and hyper modern gyms. But the price tag that came with those gyms was astronomical. So most of the 5 star hotels were out of the question for me. Luckily, the more modest hotels also quite often had a gym and many of these gyms were affordable. But alas the equipment in those gyms was inadequate. The dumbbells would not be heavier then for example 25 kilo and they were minimally stocked with equipment, barbells, and weights. But for the first couple of months this would have to do.
The longer I stayed in Jakarta, the more I got to know the city and its inhabitants. Finally, after some 6 months in the city I got in touch with some real local bodybuilders and after that I quickly found a real (and very cheap) gym tucked away in a back alley in one of the poorer parts of the city.
There was actually some small local bodybuilding sub-culture in this gym. It took a while for me to really get accepted into their circle. I started out working out alone, and at first they must have been surprised to see a bule training there. But I progressed again and got big and ripped, soon I had a training partner and after that I quickly got accepted as one of them. They would invite me to go to the club with them (clubs only catering to locals mostly but occasionally to an international club). I noticed that most of them were quite familiar with the girls in the clubs, and that the girls would love to hang around them, but that most of them were not very aggressively chasing girls, as if they did not care that much. At the time I thought it's probably because these guys are so attractive for girls and they can get so many that it becomes normal for them.
Time progressed and I learned more and more about the life of these Jakarta bodybuilders. I learned that many of them were actually bi-sexual or gay, even some who had a girlfriend or wife. Some would also try it on with me but after everybody knew I was just into girls they would only seek my friendship.
Another thing I found out was that most of the local bodybuilders in the gym were not really rich. So how could they finance their bodybuilding lifestyle? It is actually quite expensive to be a bodybuilder and especially in Jakarta in the mid '90's where the local diet was totally not geared towards muscle growth and where international supermarkets were still relatively few and inadequately stocked. Protein shakes, supplements and health foods were not easy to find and expensive. Chicken, fish, vegetables, eggs and fruit being the exception, but those cover just part of the necessary diet. Many of the guys were actually selling their bodies, often to (rich) local gay guys who more often than not were really into big-muscled guys. It was very easy for them to find rich gays who would pay for them as there were very few big muscled locals in Jakarta but lots of rich gays who were into them.
But hardly ever a local girl. It seemed local girls were not into bodybuilder types at all. Mind you, these guys were big but they were nowhere near Schwarzenegger big. They were more like Jean Claude Van Damme in his best years big if you know what I mean. They were big and everybody could see they were working out seriously but they were nowhere near freakish.
I trained with them and got big like them. We ate the same foods, often prepared by the guys in the gym (there was a kitchen in the back). They shared their protein powder with me and even their supplements. There were some female “groupies” who started frequenting the gym, and I started a relationship with one of them. I had also moved my living quarters to a boarding house close to the gym, because it was (and even more today is) not convenient to travel long distances everyday around the city. I didn't really work in Jakarta but I went to Australia twice a year for around 2 or 3 months (on a holiday visa) to work picking fruit. The money I saved from this work in Australia was just enough for me to live the rest of the year in Jakarta. I also earned a little bit in Jakarta doing some private teaching. I maintained that lifestyle for 3 years.
Local girls and me in the mid '90's
So I had a local girlfriend who was really into muscled guys. She told me she had always dreamed of having a muscled boyfriend, preferably as big as Arnold but I would do. But after time I found out that she was more or less an exception. Sometimes I would be alone or with the guys, and guys are guys (especially when still young). Anyway, I found that many of the local girls were a bit scared or not into me. When I asked them what the problem was, the brave ones would often say, “You are too big, I'm scared", followed by, “I'm just kidding, don't get angry!”
In those years in Jakarta I also befriend some other Western guys. Some of these guys were older and fat (yes, I made Jalan Jaksa one of my favourite Saturday night haunts), others were skinny or with just an average body type. I also went out with these guys to malls and clubs etc. and most of them were doing quite a lot better with the local girls then I was. It was definitely easier for them to approach the girls or to get approached by the local girls.
Still, I never 100% found out the truth about why I was less successful (on average) than the other Western guys. Was it because of my personality, looks, height? Or was it about my muscles? Or was it because of other reasons altogether?
In hindsight I think my muscular physique was part of the reason I was less successful with most of the girls in Jakarta compared to other Western guys. But that was only part of the reason. I now think a muscular physique was only an initial barrier for the girls. “When an average girl in Jakarta would see me, she would think something like “Wow, that white guy is big and strong, he looks good but maybe he is aggressive so I better not look at him so he has no excuse to get angry at me.” In other words my physique made me less approachable compared to for example a skinny white guy.
Indonesian girls in those days were not really used to seeing white guys that much so they would feel a bit shy and awkward when they saw one. Of course they would love to meet them but they would not really be brave to approach them. They would, however, make eye contact for example in the mall or smile at a white guy if they met in a public place, if the white guy looked friendly and non-threatening.
But through the years I got wiser about what's important in life and what makes a man attractive. The fact that I often felt ignored or rejected by the local women made me kinda miserable and jealous towards other (white) guys in the city who would date scores of hot local girls seemingly without any effort. As a result I also became low in self confidence around girls. I think this combination of low self esteem, feeling miserable and not comfortable around girls was more to blame for my lack of success with the local girls than the fact that I was muscled up.
Muscled guys and Indonesian girls today
Nowadays the situation is totally different in Jakarta. Gyms are everywhere now and even if you are not looking you will probably stumble over one. Malls are everywhere now in Jakarta too and every mall that wants to deserve its name has a well equipped gym inside. There are gyms in most affluent residential areas (albeit still in limited numbers), but with so many malls in the city there is always a gym nearby.
Nowadays it is a kind of status symbol for a local guy to be broad and muscular. It seems to mean that this guy is successful. He can afford an expensive lifestyle as a weightlifter (he eats expensive foods and can afford an expensive gym membership). An average gym membership in a mall costs around 1.5 or 2 million Ruppiah per month, which is around USD 150 per month. For most Jakarta people this is still relatively big money. The Indonesian middle class has been expanding rapidly again the last 5 or 6 years and so have the gyms in the malls, and all of them seem to be doing a really good business. Of course not everybody goes to the gym to get a big body, lots of people go for spinning, cardio, slim belly or dancing or whatever.
It also seems that the local girls now expect a guy to have a well trained physique. They still don't like the really big guys, but a Jean Claude Van Damme physique would be just fine, but preferably just a bit smaller. Many Indonesian girls (especially in the big cities) also make more money now so they have become more choosy, and muscles on a guy are definitely a must for many spoiled local women nowadays.
Me and local girls now
In 1998 the crisis hit Indonesia hard. To make things worse a long simmering dissatisfaction with the government culminated in a revolution in May of that year. In 1996 Indonesia was quite an adventurous place to be with numerous demonstrations by the various parties. In places like Solo where I stayed part of 1996 all the malls and some public places were burned that year. Anyway, I decided to leave Jakarta and go back to my country where I found work. Occasionally I would go back to Indonesia for a visit in the 2000's. In those years I also discovered Thailand. In 2003 I went back to Jakarta to work until 2005. In 2005 my father got ill and I had to go back again to my country and settled down there again.
Indonesia kept pulling me though, and in 2010 I decided to go back for 3 months. I did the same in 2011 and 2012. I had become self-employed so I could go on holiday when and for how long I wanted. In 2013 I decided to make the move again to Jakarta for a long time and I have been working in Jakarta ever since again.
Nowadays I am a totally different person both physically and mentally compared to the guy I was in 1994 until 1998. My muscles and my youth have gone. I still go to the gym (also in Jakarta) but only for recreational purposes. I'm not completely out of shape but my bodybuilding physique is gone. My six-pack has been replaced by a (luckily still slight) pouch, my biceps have receded, my chest is deflated and my shoulders have gone back to a normal width. When I walk around in a T-shirt nobody will think I am going to the gym. My hair has turned mostly grey at 46 but I still have all my teeth.
But what has changed also is my personality and the way I feel and think about myself. I really don't care a tit anymore what anybody thinks about me, if I'm handsome or not. I feel comfortable, more often than not happy with my life and I think I am quite lucky with what I have.
I have been surprised about my luck with the girls in recent years. A couple of years ago I came back to Jakarta to look for love. I made a series of submissions about this that can be read on the Stickman website. In those days I still was a tiny bit unsure and low in confidence but felt already a lot better about myself compared to 16 years before. I was doing much better with the girls than I had done in the '90's even though I was much older and in a much inferior shape body wise.
Since then it has only gotten better, so good in fact that (I feel a bit guilty) I became a little bit of a playboy with the girls. Of course the internet has helped also a lot with that and it's very easy nowadays to meet local girls through dating sites and apps like Tinder and Wechat and Line etc. But one still has to have some confidence because if you go into a date with low confidence and a miserable demeanour I think you will still fail, even in Jakarta as a Western guy. I have been dating quite a lot of good-looking young girls in their 20's and early 30's without any problems and not for money because I always make sure that I meet girls who are not after my money (at least not in the short term), girls I would have been scared of in the mid '90's. I have also noticed that the more girls you meet and succeed with, the easier it gets to meet and succeed with new ones. I learned it is not really about appearance or how one looks (at least not with most girls), it is more like how one behaves and interacts with them and how happy and confident one is around them.
I do notice that my age is becoming a bit of a problem with some girls but there are still very many who don't care about a guy's age, of course they might be thinking (and many of them will) about money in the longer run if they manage to make the guy fall in love with them or something, especially the younger ones. But they do love a guy who treats them well and as long as he still looks presentable and does not behave like an old fart they seem to accept the age gap.
Slowly I am moving to girls in the 30+ age group because I get older and it can be a bit awkward to spend time with a 20 year old girl who is a generation younger then me and has totally different tastes, outlooks and interests in life, but I still don't feel shy to walk around with them frankly, and they are always a lot of fun and energy in the sack. But I feel less and less on the same level with them (I am of course totally not on their level anyway). After fun activities I often notice myself behaving like a daddy to them, giving them advice on life issues and stuff (they often ask for advice on many things also), so many of these girls think and behave stupidly and irresponsibly in my opinion, and I often feel like I have the responsibility, like I should try to steer them in the right direction. (in many cases) I am probably older then their real fathers anyway. Nowadays I am dating mostly girls 30 years old and up, because I feel I have more in common with them and I can talk more on the same level with them.
If I had been like this in the early '90's I would probably have had a totally different love live in Jakarta. I would probably have dated just as many hot girls as the other young bule guys and I would have had a better time then I have had. Maybe I would even have found the perfect girlfriend and married her and God knows what my life would then have been now. But alas life is like it is and one cannot turn back time
This article really resonated me – not the bodybuilding part because I have never been a gym guy, but the last quarter where you talk about confidence and good manners being important when meeting and doing well with ladies. I see that all the time in Thailand. Also, where you say that as a mid-40s guy you now find yourself preferring ladies 30+ also resonates with me. I see so many older guys in Thailand seeking relationships with ladies in their 20s, often their early 20s – and it seldom works.