For bodybuilder Mamed Ismayilov, 25, signs of weakness are tantamount to losing respect.
“You should never show a woman you are weak, if you give her any slack - that’s it. She will not respect you. I had a moment in life when I gave ground and it was the worst feeling ever,” he says.
“Later on, you try and figure out if there was a better solution and you realize that there was not. But still you hate yourself, because you are a man, and you shouldn’t be weak,” he adds.
Ismayilov, a resident of the capital Baku, has been working out for two and a half years. When he started, he said, he was a weakling, someone who was bullied and pushed around.
In Azerbaijan, he notes, the strong often pick on the weak.
Today, however, after hours of bodybuilding, he has become someone his friends turn to when they need to fight.
In addition, stronger muscles have given him more self-confidence, Ismayilov says, which is crucial to winning a different kind of fight that Azerbaijani men face every day -- the public test of wills.
For Azerbaijani men, these daily fights boil down to a stare. When men look into the eyes of each other in public, and the one who first takes his glance away loses. “It is about your personal courage, not to glance away, and this eye fight decides whether a real fight will happen or not,” Ismayilov says.
MAKEUP FOR MEN
He notes, however, that his main motivation for working out was to improve his appearance.
“Muscles are makeup for men. With muscles you stand out. You are not an ordinary walking piece of meat," he says.
Ismayilov says that going to the gym radically changed his life. If before he was pushed around, now “even if I do all sorts of nonsense, I am accepted more seriously and with respect,” he says.
Big muscles have also made him more attractive to women, he says.
“No one would love you for your soul, if you have a disgusting appearance,” Ismayilov notes, adding that his wife likes to show off her good-looking husband.
“When two couples meet, where one man has a good body and another doesn't, it is always obvious how the girlfriend of the second one envies the first girl. She can’t boast about her boyfriend.”