Going to my gym is like experiencing a cornucopia of life. A mixture of people, sizes and persuasions along with contradictions and for me, curiosity.
Maybe it’s because this place is a multi-purpose center as opposed to a strictly iron and class oriented gym. This place is rock climbing and swimming, theatre and basketball courts. I’m sure there is more, but my curiosity taps out where the day care center stops. It starts back up as I approach mile three on thick rubber bottom-treadmill and the sweat is dripping in my, blurring the letters on my Kindle. My mind starts to wander and I look around. Out of my left eye, I spy an older man two treadmills down about 5’7 who has a crunched right hand. At first I only sense this, because he’s having extraordinary difficulty pushing the buttons. In front of me is a younger couple that are engaged in the type of back and forth that only occurs in the dating phase. Married couples, FYI, go separate directions, or if they stay together, move with military-style precision. They are here to get things done, not flirt.
I move on from the young couple. They are boring me and honestly, if I have to watch people flirt on the treadmill, my only recourse is to give myself more pain as a distraction.
Downstairs, over the railing, I see a late-twenties man rolling his wheelchair. He works here. Once I overhead him talking to a group of elderly patrons. He said a snowboarding accident left him in his present state. He wheels everywhere with vigor, being much more helpful to the senior citizens who occupy this place than I would normally expect a late-twenties employee to be. (Nothing against late twenties, mind you. It’s just that a person who is half the height of a granny tends to be a) non-threatening, b) interested in what life’s lessons are all about and c) funny. If you have lost the use of your legs, along the path, I believe a decision is made whether or not to become bitter. And if that’s not the choice, happiness usually is. Have you ever noticed how happy disabled people are? It’s like it was a blessing. But I digress.)
Then comes the group of big, bald and…(no, not bloaty, I know you thought I was going there), but hard. How can that be? You ask. I can answer because in my alter life, I am the quizat haderachk. These men are mostly forties to sixties, and own their bigness and baldness. As I ramp up my treadmill to 7% and then 11%, I’m in awe of how these men own it. Actually, I have to give credit to my friend from LA, Mark S., a snowboarding, surfing CEO of not one but two companies (he’s single, but has attachment issues, sorry ladies). In any case, he will look at you when you completely err (e.g. fart in a closed-windowed car) and say “Claim it, bro.”
These men, I watch them and then claim it. Claim their bigness that is so big, their tummies is one, enormous round entity that stretches the t-shirt like a balloon ready to go into the stratosphere. They strut. They laugh. They do the man-bro hug and pat each other’s back twice with a bap-bap. I must say, I applaud it. They are so full of confidence it almost makes them appealing. Almost.
Then we have another group of Gerries (what I call older women, Gerries—with a j–) is short for geriatric. Rog thinks it’s insulting but in my posse of grandmas who I hang with (thing church and service-based activities), a Gerry is really an affectionate term, one of endearment. (e.g. oh that Gerry si so cute driving her scooter, oh, that’s a hot Gerry, she’s working that lace skirt).
In any case, these place has the female equivalent of the balding, big men. They are the not-so-well preserved women who are trying really, REALLY, hard. (yes, I shouted, but more of a nice emphasis cuz I like these women). This area, in Northern Idaho, isn’t about pretense, plastic surgery or make-up. When I’m talking try hard, I’m referring to a completely different try, one that requires my complete respect and more than a little bit of awe.
To wit (invoking my high school English lit class), one woman in her late sixties, her face an unfolded piece of parchment paper that attests to her a lifetime in the northern Idaho sun, has poured her skinny self into a pair of stretchy leggings and a skin tight halter top. Rock climbing shoes without sock are the only other piece of clothing she puts on before scrambling her little superhero butt into the harness. She shimmies up the rock wall, putting the out of shape fourteen year-old male’s to shame.
That girl has claimed it. Dang. I look around wanting to claim something of my own.
As I get off the stationary walking apparatus of pain, I head directly to the weight section. There I run into a wall of Gerries who have commandeered the machines, many with their personal trainer (compliments of the center). They have their small white pieces of paper, attached to a clipboard and their minder. (I’m borrowing that from the Scientologists. I like it. It fits. I hope I don’t get sued. If the government of the US doesn’t have the funds or gumption to sue the Scientologists, I’m pretty sure I don’t). In any case, the minder keeps tabs on very push and press, pull and dip. Nary a sweat drop in sight, but I tell you what I do see. A lot of looking around. Gazing—at the opposite sex!
I ponder this as I continue into the free weight section where I’m in the company of only one other woman (who is definitely not a Gerry) and a whole lot of maleness under thirty. I’m okay with this, but as I mention to my husband later than evening, I’m confused as to what to do and how to be. My natural, nice, talkative self creates the impression that I want to talk, instead of working out, and that my talking is a forward to getting into bed. So after realizing I was creating a legion of potential stalkers who would follow me around from bench to pole, I tried the other approach. I stared straight ahead, barely making eye contact, and only doing so when I needed to verify bench or item was available. I’m terribly conflicted about this, because I think avoiding someone’s gaze is rude and I run this risk of thinking I’m all that (which, if you saw me at the gym, would know I’m very little of all that).
I’m reminded of what Rog told me earlier in the week. “Who cares if they look or talk to you? Why are you even thinking about this? Enjoy a younger man talking to you. It’s not going to last forever.”
What the…? Laughing while foreseeing my old-age Gerry-ness coming into play, I continue working out, trying to find a balance between being focused and polite but distant and not-b—chy. The good news is I have better things to focus on, like the man who has been burned on half of his body, and the woman plastered with so many tattoos I can barely see the skin. She doesn’t look very happy but has an amazing body. This then makes me wonder if I have to be grumpy and focused to have a great body.
Closing the locker on my things, I wipe some sweat off and head out. The meanderings of my time at the gym. I came. I exercised. I pondered. I realized I don’t know half of what I need to be wise, but if the Gerry’s around me are any example, I’m going to have a lot of time to figure it out.