There were three of us, then four, then five fit, strong women with perfect form using the machines facing the mirrors. There was no conversation, there was no hair flipping, there was no adjusting of clothing. There was concentration and breathing and, lurking in the background, a shared sense of purpose.
And then there were the men. Clustered around the kick-back machine I use to strengthen my hamstrings and reawaken their connection to my glutes, five of them were discussing politics. Actually, it was less of a discussion than it was pontification at a raised volume. Over the D'Oyle Carte Opera's Pinafore on my iPod mini, over Buttercup bemoaning her fate, over the orchestra and the stomping of sailors on the foredeck, I was distracted by their laughter and their nonsense.
Did they think that they were the only ones in the room? Apparently so.
Their clothes were sweat drenched; they'd finished their racquetball game and were taking a breather before resuming the competition. They are there every morning, six or so gentlemen of a certain age, bellies folding over the tops of their shorts, jowls jiggling, eyes dancing and smiles permanently plastered to their faces. I've never seen one of them grumbly or out of sorts.
They are loud and they are funny and they usually don't bother me at all. This morning, recovering from air travel and time zone changes and missing my girl and her family more than I imagined possible, they were pissing me off.... big time. Though the gym is female friendly for the most part, there's still a soupcon of the what are these girls doing in our manly man space aura that exists in every weight lifting paradise... except, perhaps, in Curves. I can't tell you about that; I've never been.
I wonder what the serious guys think of these older, chatty men. They are there. They are working hard. They are consistent and they are purposeful and they are trying. Oh, yes, they are trying. Their games are hard fought and intense. That's all wonderful. It's their downtime that aggravated me today, that nudged me out of my inner space and into theirs. When I'm focused, I like to be surrounded by similarly dedicated individuals. They were intruding. I was peeved.
I finished my pull ups and dips and hobbled over to them. "Are you using this or just leaning?" I smiled and asked. The heaviest one finished tying the shoe he had propped up on the arm rest I was about to use; I tried not to think about where that sole had been before it was pressed on the plastic that would support my skin once he made that last knot in the lace. There was some good natured kidding about my walking stick and its ability to clear the area quickly if need be. There was some discussion about bullets and recovery and toughness and blessings were sent my way.
I was bemused. So were they.
They didn't know what to make of me. I have good form. My brow was glistening with perspiration. My intensity was not in question. But I was small and grey and using a cane. On some level, I required protection. I could feel it in their eyes, in the change in their attitude when my back story was revealed, as they watched me adjust the settings. Did I need help? Would I be okay? Was I safe? Nothing was said yet everything was felt.
I liked it much more when there were three, then four, then five of us, fit strong women using the equipment over by the mirrors. I am so tired of being the other.