Generally speaking, I don’t pay a lot of attention to how people look. I don’t say this so that you will think I am pure of heart and accepting of all, because the bitchy track runs in my head just about non-stop, it just normally goes something like, “does she not realize there are two lanes on this road, and other cars are actually using those lanes, and we all don’t have to part traffic for her eratic whims like some lame luxury car commercial? And you who just bumped your cart into my butt as I’m minding my own business in line: did you notice my ass? Is it taking up precious space that you feel should belong to you?” And so on. I’m generally pretty oblivious to appearance. You would know this right away if you saw me. Trust me on this.
But I transform into Joan Rivers when I’m at the gym. As I’m trapped on my Precor, I am fixated by unfortunate fashion choices of those around me, and of their odd sizing. I have some excuses. For one thing, I’m stuck on this machine and I need something to distract me. I can only watch an informercial so many times. Also, I can’t help but think that all these people are a reflection of me, my efforts, my goals. They are working hard just like I am. Will all my efforts result in such an oddly-shaped ass? You see, I mostly judge asses, since I have the best view of these.
I’m also hypercritical of everyone around me. Of course he’s flabby, he’s talking on his cell phone while on the treadmill. How much effort can you really be putting into your work out while on the phone? And she doesn’t look like she’s lost much weight (of course, what do I know, she may have lost 100 pounds; she may have just started the gym today), but I don’t have to worry that’s going to be me. She’s just standing there, talking incessantly to the person working out next to me. This group of people I’m critical of because I’m trapped next to them, and have to hear them continually babble (not that it’s any worse than listening to that Nelly/Tim McGraw song, again). I have to make up mean stories about them in my head or throw them into the pool. It’s one or the other. The woman who was walking around, repeatedly asking people to solve her puzzle of which football teams have alliterative names, and then explaining at great length what alliteration was to each and every one of them, as though it was a brilliant discovery she had just made, like penicillin, and had to share it with the world? She got the worst of the wrath in my head.
I become fixated on the man who waddles like a duck on the elliptical trainer. Do I waddle like a duck? And I stare longingly at the women with the perfect bodies. When I catch myself doing this, I completely understand those guys who claim that they can’t help it. Because neither can I. I don’t even notice I’m doing it. I can’t take my eyes off her perfect abs, her toned thighs. Could I ever get to where she is? Is it genetic? Was she born this way? Should I ask what her workout routine is? If I watch her long enough, will I figure it out myself?
The people at the gym fall into one of two categories: people who annoy me (the cell phone talkers, the grunters) and people who I compare myself to (do I look like that? could I look like that?). Oh, and there’s a third category: the inappropriately dressed.
I know. I’m a bitch. I should just leave people alone and let them work out their own way without filling the air around them with snarky thoughts. But my gym has a huge population of two types of dressers: those stuck in the 80’s and those who might be on their way to dinner.
You’ve seen those guys stuck in the 80’s: spandex, long tank tops (with stripes!). Women wearing leotards and leg warmers. These people I can forgive. I still wear workout clothes I got in 1991. I’m just lucky because although my sports bras are seriously starting to wear out, at least they still look like regular sports bras.
But the people on their way to dinner, I just don’t get those people. Usually, these people are older, so maybe they’re more conservative in how they dress, but how can they be comfortable? Dress slacks, loafers, sweaters. Men and women! A lot of younger guys dress that way too, only they’re wearing jeans in place of the slacks. How can you work out in jeans? I can’t help but notice these people because I find myself imaging how uncomfortable they must be. I want to take them all out on shopping sprees for appropriate, yet still modest, clothing.
On the other hand, this diverse mix is one thing I like about my gym. It’s not a meat market. I don’t have to dress to some particular standard or work out some particular way. And I don’t feel like people are watching me all the time, judging my every move.
That, apparently, is what I’m there for.