Monday, December 13, 2010

Usually I don't like it when strange men approach me at the gym. The past few occasions have been based on weightlifting advice I was doing perfectly well without, thank you very much, and, as usual, I was left thinking "Why didn't you offer advice to the sweaty, hairy guy who's using the Triple-Bend Vertical Row as a seesaw?" The attempt at "helping" me invariably brings out my feminist side; if I'm in a good, tolerant mood, I'll do my best not to bite the guy's head off, but if I'm already riled up about something, it's hard not to respond in a way that says "Don't think about little lady'ing me, you condescending, sexist dork!"

Of course, not all male gym-goers are the same, nor do all their varied approaches mean the same thing. This was proven to me a few days ago, while I was resting between sets on the hip adductor, a machine that takes "compromising position" to a whole new level--one not that different, I'd guess, from being dangled from a telephone pole while wearing green socks and a Ronald McDonald wig. The hip adductor, given its easy interpretation as a Kama Sutra warm-up device, requires a certain amount of sensitivity to one's surroundings, especially if one is female, and using it can almost guarantee unwanted attention, at least in the form of looks. Therefore, if I'm using it and a guy makes a beeline for the hip abductor, which sits right beside it, I'm usually pretty wary and...prepared.

I was in a so-so mood that day. It was my second time in the gym after a three-week hiatus that had left me feeling mushy, weak, and cranky, and though I had more energy and felt the positive effects of the last workout and two recent long walks with the dogs, I was irritable and wanted to make up for lost time both physically and mentally--namely, in terms of my creative project goals. Hard weights workouts and long, fast walks feed my ability to produce--to get shit done--and I was mad at myself for having slacked off for so long with the exercise and for having lost my focus.

The guy sat down next to me, his big, bulky body filling up the machine like a teddy bear in a piece of doll furniture, and with clumsy fingers he started fiddling with the pins and movable parts.
By then my irritability had morphed into Defiantly Ballsy, so I stayed in the embarrassing "resting" position, to hell with anyone thinking whatever, and readied myself for the throat-clearing, the helpful advice, the sideways glances, or--worse than anything--the entirely possible and infinitely unsubtle grunts and groans as he exerted himself. Breathing deeply, I reminded myself to respond in a way that was nonantagonistic, yes, but decidedly let's-cut-the-bullshit: I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but if I needed to, I would definitely make it clear that I was ALL BUSINESS and NO PLAY.

"This is the hip abductor?" he asked me, or I thought he was asking me--he just kind of said it out loud, to no one in particular.

"Yes," I said. Obviously. It says so right in front of your face. On the machine you're staring at.

"Oh, this is the HIP abductor." He got his knees lined up, gave it a few tries, then shakily returned to the starting position. What came next surprised me: "I think you're much stronger," he said, laughing, and gestured towards the decent, but not that impressive, amount of weight I was using.

What? I hadn't expected that. I hadn't expected him to be...nice! To be humble! What a relief. "," I said lamely, trying to think of something that would make him feel better about...what? Being a weightlifting novice? Having recently gotten over a major illness? Having broken both legs in a terrible car accident? I had no idea what was keeping him, who was as densely built as a water buffalo, from lifting more than a paltry fifteen pounds on that ridiculous machine.

Before I could think of something to say, though, he started talking again. "This is the hip abductor? Well--I think I'm being abducted! Yep, I'm being abducted, all right!"

Ok, that was actually funny--abducted by the hip abductor? Wow--not only was he not a sleazy creep, he was unafraid of making corny jokes with a fellow gym-goer! Thrilled, I jumped in: "Yes, I can see you're really trans--"

But he cut me off. "Ha ha, I'm being abducted...ha ha. This machine is abducting me! Ha ha--look out...this is the hip abductor. Right? This is the hip abductor? Ha ha. Oh no, I'm being abducted! This is...this is...the abductor?"

That's when it hit me: he was as loony as an aging, addled Siamese cat.

Partly relieved, partly dismayed (I'd wanted to tell him he seemed "transported"), I turned my attention back to my workout. It went well--the more I pushed myself, the more motivated I was, and by the time I was done I felt strong and capable, full of renewed energy for my writing, drawing, mobile, and jewelry goals. As I walked out of the weight room, thirty minutes later, I heard a voice and saw the guy who'd been using the hip abductor barreling towards me. He looked like a tree trunk--a mass of solid, living, non-abducted matter--and I took a step back as his voice boomed out.

"Hey!" he said, "you're...insane tenacious. I saw you on that machine over there--you were...insane tenacious!"

"Oh no," I mumbled, embarrassed, "not really."

"Yes you were," he said. "I saw you. Insane tenacious."

Ok, I thought, whatever...

I left, and felt cynical half the drive home. Insane tenacious, I thought--sounds like the kind of silly thing I would say.

By the time I'd parked the car in the driveway, my thoughts had drifted to my projects: all the things I want to do, all the things I have to do, all the things I'm going to do. Suddenly, I heard it again--You're insane tenacious!--and then I was like, Thanks. Thanks, my crazy friend...


rajmb said...

GREAT illustration!

Isabel said...

Thanks, rajmb!!

Willy Knish said...

If she's a feminist, why does she like it when guys open doors for her?

Twinkle Arlington said...

Because she's lazy.

Herbert Foobvst said...

And because she has multiple personalities!

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