Illustration by Jam Moreno.

Pull-Ups: The New Social Order

Changes in how society views prestige and death left a devastating void in class formation. The answer? Pull-ups.

Feb 7, 2022

Firsts are a big deal to humanity. First steps, first jobs, first wives… I recently celebrated a very important first myself — my first pull-up.
I told my cousin about this, very excitedly. “Cool,” she said.
“Huh?” I said. “This is beyond cool. What are you not hearing? It’s my first pull-up.”
She replied, “I just don’t get why people make such a big deal about them.”
Well, dear cousin, let me explain. Let’s start way back.
In the old days, people decided how cool you were when you were shipped off to die for your country (and yes, most often you were a man, but Mulan didn’t risk dishonoring her cow so we could forget about women). Nevermind that you wanted to stay home and hangout behind the barn with the neighbor’s son. Between bad hygiene, the British and murdering people for naming their horse after your unmarried sister, population numbers were running thin and fighting-aged youth were slim pickings. So off to war you were sent.
The people back home would wait for you to come back. Maybe you would, as someone who had wet themselves in the middle of battle and decided to desert. Maybe you wouldn’t come back. Or maybe, just maybe, if you were a bit lucky and athletic, you would return as the one who captured The Fort That Won The War or saved the Empress’ “favorite” knight from enemy clutches. You would be granted lands and riches to last your family for generations. But more importantly, you would now have HonorTM. With Honor comes clout and with clout comes a license to Do As You Please. With this license you are no longer “that weird kid who got a disease from a llama.” You are now, “local war hero who is personally invested in exotic livestock ventures.”
As someone who is now better-than-everyone-else, you get to live life without the same social scrutiny as all the bards and the preachers who stayed back (read: managed to falsify medical papers in time to avoid the draft). Maybe you and the neighbor’s son finally take off into the sunset. Maybe the neighbor’s son got married while you were gone, so you find yourself a rich heiress and parade about with her in front of him so he knows what he’s missing. You can do all of this easily now, because people like your vibes.
Nowadays, things work differently. Honor is derived from institutions like medical degrees, or giving your seat to pregnant women on the bus. Horrifying. It is to deal with this that a solution was brought to us by God and Gymbros — the Pull-Up. If society needs a way for people to assert superiority and gather prestige for the family name, it might as well be cool and cost-effective. It also has the added benefit of making you look like Chris Evans when he swung that helicopter, and brings you a step closer to that gymnastics career you’ve been lusting after, ever since Tom Holland became Spiderman. So yes, cousin, pull-ups are a big deal. For good reason.
“But why pull-ups?” she asked, still not convinced. “Not even burpees or 10ks, but pull-ups.” Now if I had to guess, “my first burpee” does not sound very sexy. It sounds like your baby started spitting up milk. No one ever looked at Brad Pitt and went “Wow. I bet he can do so many burpees.” As for the 10k comment, I’m getting the impression that my triathlon-running cousin has unresolved appreciation issues. So she can go back to her swim-training and HIIT workouts if she wants to. I’ll go back to standing in the gym, trying to work up the will to grab the pull-up bar again.
Mahima Sankar is a Columnist. Email her at
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