I didn’t make it to the gym today. That makes 20 years straight. I should get a chip or something.
I hate everything about the gym. I hate the whole idea of a gym. Striving for self-improvement in that way comes dangerously close to declaring oneself not quite good enough as is, and I’m not having it. Something about all those people sweating on all of those machines, climbing stairs to nowhere, running in place, it just upsets me.
My husband just got a gym membership. I assumed it would sit in his wallet as unused as the bike he got last year, but I was wrong. He’s at the gym at 5 in the goddamn morning every other day. (Did you know there was a FIVE in the MORNING? I seem to remember it from the first few months of my child’s life, but other than that I refuse to acknowledge any time between midnight and 7am.)
So now I feel the gym walls closing in on me. My friends, otherwise entirely reasonable and even likable human beings, are all going to the gym. The peer pressure is kicking in. Bullshit lines about “getting stronger” are being tossed around like anyone believes that crap. “It’s not about having an ass you could bounce a quarter off of, it’s about being healthier!”
Please. If I wanted to be healthy, I’d stop buying bourbon at Costco.
So no, I will not be joining the Engineer at the gym. I will not attempt to Zumba anytime this century. I don’t even own yoga pants. I did have a tracksuit once, but it was velour. Nobody breaks a sweat in velour unless they’re running from the cops.
This rage doesn’t come from nowhere. You can blame Jane Fonda. When I was a kid, my mom worked out in the privacy of her own home. This happened approximately once a year, for a month. Mom would get a new workout video – actually first it was records. Richard Simmons workouts on records. There would be a new outfit, too. Even though no one could see you (because imagine how humiliating it would be for people to see you trying to stay in shape), a new workout ensemble was required to start a routine. She would clear a space in the den or the living room or wherever she could lunge without breaking anything, pop on the record, and then flail about as directed by that horrible little man until the record ended and she could collapse with a glass of wine. This would go on until it was all too much to deal with and life would return to normal.
There was also a brief and hilarious “Thigh Master” situation, which I won’t go into detail about except to warn our readers that if you find one at a garage sale and combine it with pants of the right material it becomes a projectile. So yes, buy it.
Next year, another record. Then the videos. Then came Jane Fonda. That’s when I got sucked it. I was just old enough to be conscious of the womanly body I was destined for. Listening to Richard Simmons shrieking about keeping those knees up was beyond my understanding, but the Jane Fonda workout video blew my tiny mind. The colors. The music. The roomful of Barbie dolls come to life. That was the moment I realized it actually WAS possible to look like a Barbie doll. All you had to do was squeeze into an impossibly high waisted pastel thong leotard situation, preferably with a belt, and then follow along with these madly grinning women-dolls for a brief eternity of pep talks and “hoooooold it” and sweat.
I could do that. I threw on an old gymnastics leotard, raked my hair into a jaunty side ponytail, and tried to keep up alongside my mom. There was much hysterical laughter. Many water breaks. We did not keep up. But damn did we try. When the hysterical laughter dried up, this niggling feeling of inferiority crept in. I was 11 years old, in the prime of my life, and I couldn’t get through the entirety of a workout with these “old” women on the screen, who were barely panting! I grew terrified that I would never be a human barbie. Nothing I’d been taught to believe about the essential perfection of me seemed true anymore! I was shaken.
Then my class took a field trip to the local TV station. Toward the end of the tour, after the studio magic kitchen (the oven’s not even real!) we walked through the room where they filmed the workout show every morning. Some kid pointed to a rack of steel cylinders off to the side, like beat up rocket ships.
“What are those?” he asked.
The tour guide raised an eyebrow. “Oh, that’s pretty cool, actually; Those are oxygen tanks for the girls. They take turns ducking offstage here whenever they get tired or out of breath. That’s why you’ll see the camera focus on just one girl for a while, or one corner of the room. Whenever you see that, the host is probably over here freshening up.”
My jaw dropped. You know what I did when I got tired or out of breath trying to keep up with those harlots? I collapsed on the couch, sucked down some water and felt like a failure! They had FREAKING OXYGEN TANKS. It was all bullshit!
After the initial shock and disappointment, a tremendous wave of relief washed over me. I was 11 and I still believed in fairies, but I no longer believed in Jane Fonda.
And don’t even get me started on running. WTH is that about? Are you being chased!? By your own mortality? Just stop already, perfect is good enough.