Hunk of the Day: Zakh Michael – Part I

Though the Hunk of the Day feature is one of the more popular categories of this website, it’s also one of the silliest. That said, there are certain rules, always subject to change, to which I strictly adhere. First and foremost among these is if a Hunk of the Day requests that his feature be taken down, I will instantly honor that. The second part to that, however, is that he never gets to be Hunk of the Day again. This isn’t something from which I make any money; it’s free publicity, and of the mostly-flattering sort, so the favor is not being done for me. But I understand that this site is not for the faint of heart, so if at any time a Hunk has requested his post be taken down, I will oblige. That happened a short time after Zakh Michael was featured here as a chosen Hunk of the Day.

He was originally chosen because of his fun FaceBook posts, these sexy photos, and his positive videos that were about bettering yourself while still having a good time. Coupled with his pup-dog status, and the growing myth of his Pup Polaris persona, Zakh Michael was a favorite Hunk of the Day, even if it had come at the cheeky request of the myth himself. (I’m all for well-earned and justifiable confidence.) Yet there were deeper issues at hand, including his own self-doubt.

“Being dubbed “Hunk of the day” is such an honor,” he began. “I’ve battled body image issues since age 8; and will likely continue to struggle with those elements for the rest of my life. However, as I stay strong, that battle gets a bit easier to fight every day. While a title is validating, validation must first come internally.”

The original post extolled his career in New York nightlife, and the ever-expanding influence of his popularity. He was also seeing someone at the time, and the only thing he asked was that I include him in some way. I allowed him to write his own entry, for the most part, which cleared up (or so I thought) any issues that his boyfriend might have. The pictures he submitted were as colorful and sexy as his work on FaceBook, and I thought the post was fantastic.

Initially, he felt the same: “I absolutely loved it! I felt the article was able to capture a 360-degree glimpse into who “Zakh” really is. I wasn’t just a face or body, I wasn’t just my different careers; I’m a person with philosophies and opinions. Overall, the piece had great energy and the writing was very upbeat. As I can be very critical of myself, it was a moment that forced me to be like, “Hey, you’ve worked hard and accomplished a lot…take a moment to pat yourself on the back.”

After it went up, he thanked me for the Hunk post, but a few days later sent a message asking me to take it down. He simply said his boyfriend didn’t like it, and apologized profusely for wasting my time and efforts. I didn’t mind, and I took it down immediately. I thought it was a harmless piece of promotional fun that fit in perfectly with the relatively benign Hunk of the Day feature. (This is not rocket science, and we are not saving the world with a few shirtless men here.)

I also told him I didn’t think it was right or fair for anyone to ask their partner, whom they purportedly loved and wanted to support – to feel bad or lessen their light in any way. I can see the arguments made against pornography, or even full-frontal nudity perhaps, but a few shirtless shots on this PG-13 blog? That sounded extremely controlling, and not healthy in the least, but it wasn’t my place to judge so I left it at that. The post came down and Zakh Michael was one of the lost Hunks of the Day for quite some time. We were both a little disappointed by it, but there are always more Hunks to fill this space, so while I felt bad for Mr. Michael and his situation, I understood that we never really know what goes in a couple’s private life together, and what works for one person may not work for another. Another thing I did not know at the time was the machinations of how he came to his decision, or what exactly had happened once he showed his partner the feature.

He explains: “I’d never swung so quickly from elation to angst; going from Cloud 9 to Dante’s ninth circle. I was at Crunch gym when [Hunk of the Day] was posted. I immediately sent [my ex] the link and phoned him in glee. My rambling excitement was at first met with silence, then disgust. “Why had I not made [him] a focal point?” “Why didn’t I discuss our relationship in detail?” “How could you put yourself out on display like that?” “What will [his] friends think?” Mind you, while we knew one another for almost two years, we’d only been dating for about a month. The negative reaction was purely rooted in narcissism. It doesn’t matter what your friends think; I’m a person, not a trophy. You’re with someone because you love them…the full person…not for what it says about them in an article. Therein lies the problem: the response was not birthed out of love; it was generated out of control.  His response completely caught me off guard. This was a positive moment – not just for Zakh, but for both of us – that’s what couples do: celebrate their achievements together.

I was to fly out to Chicago the following day and was given an ultimatum: keep the post up or continue to date. “Maybe you don’t love me,” he said dismissively. Those words stung. And that was the intention of his comment. You don’t use love as your trump card. That’s disrespectful to not only your partner and relationship, but “love” as a whole. My choice to accept the ultimatum was mine alone and solely done in an effort to diffuse tension. This was the first time I’d ever seen this blatant level of control and hostility. I validated the situation by telling myself, ‘He’s never acted like this before and I don’t want him to feel disrespected.’ However, by caving to his demands, I blindly opened the floodgates to all subsequent controlling behavior. I was a bit uneasy en route to Chicago, but upon landing, my hesitation quickly subsided. He acted normally and we had a great long weekend.”

Zakh Michael had been one of the quickest Hunks of the Day to be featured and then removed, his post taken down almost immediately upon going up. Since he had asked to be removed, I didn’t want to offer another feature post when I later discovered that he was no longer in that relationship, though he’d hinted he’d be open for it. The only way I’d entertain re-naming him a Hunk of the Day would be if he could be honest about what had transpired. I was just as curious as to what really happened…

{To be continued…}

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