I’ve recently returned from working in a conflict zone for the past two years. This is the first in a series of posts about how the heck I’m supposed to live in America now….I’m generally befuddled.
There’s not a whole lot to do at night when you live in an aluminum container converted into living quarters. You can take a shower, brush your teeth, surf the ‘net occasionally when the link is up, and watch your dvds of Buffy the Vampire Slayer over and over again. Then you’ve pretty much exhausted the possibilities. So to stave off boredom and to relieve a certain amount of job stress, I actually developed a good habit, which frankly surprises me and is somewhat out of character. Anyways, extreme conditions call for extreme actions, so I started exercising. Nothing too intense, but I would walk around the track surrounding our compound for about an hour every night. I’m quite sure that the guards snickered when I was passing and were taking bets about when I’d give up, but I just cranked up the Metallica and chose not to care. Here’s the surprising part, which I’m sure some people have discovered, it feels good to exercise. See, there are these things called endorphins and they make you feel groovy. Also, and this is shocking, exercise leads to weight loss, decrease in stress, and general heart health. I felt like a genius–in on a little secret that only a few people know…the beautiful people.
The beautiful people are not like us. They go to gyms, they wear clothes that weren’t bought on the out-of-style sale rack, and they shop at Whole Foods. They eat fancy cheese and organic vegetables. They breed and make more beautiful people. Those extremely small beautiful people get their clothes at Gymboree–all of them, not just Easter dresses. They live in perfectly remodeled craftsman houses. They recycle. They say they vote for democrats, but secretly they vote for republicans. They vacation in east asia. They’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, in fact, they’ve never been on road trips. They don’t sweat. You get the idea.
I’m not one of the beautiful people. My idea of an exciting evening out is a trip to Target. I love strolling up and down the aisles, picking out Target music collector CDs, buying cheap towels, and topping it off with a trip to the vintage candy aisle. My idea of an evening in is laying on the couch in ripped pajamas and watching the dvd extras on Lord of the Rings. I don’t live in a craftsman house, I usually don’t recycle (gasp!) and I don’t go to the gym. I really, really don’t go to the gym. That is the kind of humiliation I don’t need in my life, or rather that I didn’t need in my life. But now I have problem, I have this groovy new habit, and a bit of an endorphin addiction. I’ve lost some weight, and am generally pretty proud of myself. I actually want to continue this new habit, and frankly, in my suburban neighborhood, the gym in the best option.
So I swallowed my pride, pasted a smile on my face, walked in the front door, and asked for a sales person. Much to my chagrin, they sent me to, well, let’s call him
“Joe.” Joe is 18, and just a teeny bit socially awkward. Here’s a snapshot of how it went. Him: “So I’m just going to ask you some questions.” Me: “Okay.” Him: “How much do you weigh? Sorry. They make me ask that. If I don’t ask, they’ll fire me.” Me: “xxx” (seriously, did you think I was going to type that number in on a blog for real!). Him: “Um, okay. So, um, where do you think you gain weight the most, I mean, like where does fat collect on your body. I’m sorry. They make me ask that. If I don’t ask, I’ll get in trouble. ” Me: “I guess my hips.” Him (turning a computer screen towards me): “So do you think this is pretty much what you look like with a bathing suit on? Sorry, they make me ask that.” Me: Holy crap, is this really happening! “Yeah, um I guess.” Him: “So, I’m almost done, I’m really sorry, but I have to do this. So, this chart is of your risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, blood clots, brain tumors, shark attacks, lightning strikes, and spontaneous cerebral hemmorhage.” Okay, I made those last few up, but seriously, according to the gym, I’m about to die. Me: “ummm, okay.” Him: “So, if you join the gym, this green line shows where your risk we’ll be after exercising.” The green line magically shrinks to almost zero, and I am promised eternal youth. Me: “ummm, okay.” Him: “So, do you want to join the gym?” Me: “Yep, that’s why I’m here.” Good golly, why else would I be here Joe? Him: “Sorry, they make me do this. I’m going to sign you up for a free personal training session. They’ll do some exercises, but basically they’ll try to sell you on more personal training sessions. Sorry, they make me do this.”
So, I am finally referred to the kind of person I expected to meet at the gym. A beautiful person. A perfectly-coiffed, buffer-than-belief, brand-name-sports-clothes-wearing beautiful person. Let’s call him “Blaine.” I swear, Blaine took one look at me and let out a little sigh. Clearly, we were not going to be gym buddies. Blaine started asking me a very familiar series of questions, and did not apologize for it. How much do you weigh? Where do you gain weight? etc. etc. etc. Then, Blaine designed an exercise regime for me. Apparently, to stave off certain death, I need to have a personal trainer three times a week, and the grand total will be? About the same as my monthly mortgage payment. I am not kidding. “Blaine,” I said “There is no way I’m signing up for personal training. That is way too expensive. Sorry, that is just the truth.” But certain death? Don’t you care about certain death? “Blaine, no personal training.” Then we did some squats, and I can’t move today as a result. Blaine got his revenge.
So I went to the gym on my own tonight after work. No trainer, just me and the treadmill. Here was a sample of my inner monologue.
Wow, I’m cool. I’m at the gym, listening to the ipod. Proudly moving among the beautiful people.
I’m really, really hungry. I should have eaten something.
I think this treadmill is moving faster than I walked around the track.
I think it is moving so much faster, I only have to do half an hour to get the same results.
Yay! Ricky Martin! I love my ipod.
It’s my first time. I’ll just do half an hour.
Oh, my gosh, I’m hungry, I feel faint.
I wonder if people will notice, if I put my t.v. screen on the news.
And when I say news, I mean the E! channel Daily 10.
I’m so hungry! I don’t think I can move anymore…I’ll just put the treadmill on a little slower.
Does time move slower in the gym?
I am going to die from hunger! I am going to die in front of the beautiful people.
Ashlee Simpson got a nose job? It’s hard to tell with the sound off.
I’m so hungry.
Three more minutes. Put on more Ricky Martin, I’m not going to make it.
I’m done! I’m so cool, I worked out at the gym!
So. Clearly I have some work to do. I’ll mix it up tomorrow, try to break up my grueling 30 minutes and up my time a bit. I have a plan. I just may be getting a little more beautiful. Oh, and by the way, I shopped at Whole Foods this weekend. Bought me some cheese. God Bless America.