Chaos Attraction

Gym Watching

2005-01-25, 3:07 p.m.

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(This one's for Julie, who always perks up when I mention the gym.)

Working out on the cardio machines does something interesting for you mentally. I can feel my mind wandering around while my legs are going back and forth, looking for some kind of entertainment. Of course, I've got the iPod blaring away in my ears, but there's also the big row of TV's set up.

I find myself watching shows I'd probably never see otherwise, such as all the "Battle of the Sexes" stuff on MTV, "Celebrity Fat Camp" (or "Fit Camp", but oh please), or the other night's Ashlee Simpson Show marathon. Cute but stupid seems to come to mind when describing the smaller, darker Simpson, who denies that she dyed her hair in order to stand out from her sister, and then pretty much says that's what she did.

There was one episode where she was looking for some way to work out, and it's mentioned that she was a dancer from 3-14 and went to ABT, or some such. She goes back to dance class again and pretty much fucks around with her friends while everyone else is very serious, and she complains that she can't follow along now. And I can't help but think, "Um, I took ballet for one less year than you did, gave it up when I was 19, and I could still at least freaking follow a routine were I to walk into the room even seven years later. It's only been what, five years for you?" Come on!

And then there's her "relationship" (whatever it is) with Ryan Cabrera, which to be honest is cute and sweet. It's like watching twitterpated 12-year-olds, before 12-year-olds started getting pregnant. But there's a whole episode where Ryan is her valentine and gives her a card five days early and invites her to his concert, where he tells her he'll play a song he wrote about her there. (Note: she in turn wrote "Pieces of Me" for him. Well, okay, she sortakindanotreally wrote it, but you know what I mean.) Only, well, he doesn't play it, and she's upset. I can't blame her for that, actually. But of course, it's TV and he makes it up to her post-concert.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, my mind is filling up with these things for hours a day. Between watching Ashlee and all the ex-Real World/Road Rules casts eating bugs off each other, it makes me feel really intellectual!

Some machines are easier to read while using than others. The treadmill, the recumbent bike, and the stair machine are all ones I can usually pull out my Palm and read an e-book on without too much trouble. So lately (as one can see from my booklog) I'm going through the oeuvre of Meg Cabot. It amuses me to be reading "teenage" books in front of everyone without them knowing it while several other girls around me are trying to read their biology textbooks while on the elliptical. I love not having homework any more, folks.

And then there's the people-watching. One would hope, this being the gym and all, and that the cardio machines face the weightlifting machines, that one would see many buff hotties. Well, once in a while, I suppose. Mostly you just see a lot of jocks or showoffs. But last night, I was just kind of amused in a mean way.

I was in the very back of the cardio area using the arm machine when I saw these two lurking about. They were obviously a couple, as one does not show up with a member of the opposite sex in tow to work out if they are not boinking. (Or at least, you don't in this town.) They were obviously looking for some machines that they could work on next to each other, but frankly, that just isn't going to happen earlyish on a weekday night. Hell, at this point in time you by yourself would be lucky to get on any machine at all. (Which was why I was on the not-too-popular arm machine before I was getting tired, actually.) But they got lucky and two of the stair machines opened up, so they got on.

It was also obvious that the girl was the jock one of the two, and the one who'd insisted on dragging her boyfriend to the gym in the first place. She was in tight workout pants and a tank top and took to the machine like a duck to water, and he...just didn't know how. He was also in the wrong clothes- what looked like some sort of casual slacks and a loudly striped polo shirt under his sweater. He stuck out like a sore thumb in a room where everyone with a penis is wearing either (a) a white T-shirt or (b) a white wife-beater. He actually looked like a young Scott Bakula, and was pretty tall and built, in that "I come by it genetically, not because I like exercise" kind of way most of my exes have. Dare I say it, but he was the type I would have dated back in the day, were he (a) single, (b) interested in me, and (c) not probably 18-20 years old. He had that "I'm cute but a dork" air.

Anyway, I originally was looking at him for both cute factor and sheer boredom, since I can't read while using the arm machine and it's too far back to follow the closed-captioning on the television. But soon it became a "Oh, you poor man" kind of pity watch. He wasn't doing too well on the stair machine, kind of hanging over it like he was going to fall over. So after maybe 5-10 minutes, he gets off the thing and leaves his girlfriend to it and moves on to the machines nearest to the stair master, the Manly Man indoor rowing machines. You don't see chicks touching this one all too often (to date, I've seen one)- it's the machine in which you see the buffest of the buff men showing off on it. I figured he's going on it (a) to be close to the girlfriend, and (b) show off and get some self-esteem back. Hey, I'm a big guy, I can use one of these things easy!
Well... maybe not so much. I think those things are bloody awkward just to sit on, much less work with... and while he got it going for a bit, he soon moved on to the weightlifting area.

Finally, an elliptical machine opened up, and I moved on to that, so coincidentally I was in a better position to watch him weightlift. It seemed to be going the way the other machines had- he vaguely kinda knew how to set the weights up, he'd go get on the bench, not be on it for too long, then get up and stand around looking confused at it... repeat, repeat, repeat. By now, I imagined, the poor schmuck was just praying for his girlfriend to come back from wherever she'd gone off to so he could try to talk her into going back to the dorms before any of the Macho Men noticed him and gave him a wedgie with the weights.

Happily for him, his girlfriend found him in the weights soon after, and I think he looked relieved as they talked...but evidently, she wasn't wanting to go home yet. No, she started spotting him on the weights, then using them herself... I watched as they made a progression around the weight area, with him continuing to look baffled most of the time and sometimes attempting to do something, and her knowing what to do.

And all I could think was, "You poor schmuck. Why the hell didn't she leave him at home when she wanted to go work out? He is so not looking happy. Send him back home to the Nintendo and the comic books already!" It reminded me of the girls who drag their boyfriends along while they go dress shopping.

Admittedly, this was not as bad as that- he theoretically could work out at the gym too- but he just didn't look like he was enjoying it. So why not just park him in the lounge or something? Or park him in the martial arts studio or at the basketball court if he liked some other kind of sport? Cruelty to boyfriends, man.

I love that I can be single and spend hours at the gym without having to deal with a boyfriend wanting my attention. It makes me sad to think that someday I'll have to juggle the two. But I suspect I'll just have to give up going to the gym as often as I do now, because I am sure as hell not dragging my next future ex-boyfriend along with me.

A workout should be a private thing anyway, or at least, that's how I'd rather do it. I ran into the girl that told me about step class last night (she'd just been in the 5 p.m. intermediate class, we were both going to abs class), which was surprising. I am not used to having anyone I recognize around while I'm sweating. I told her what I'd done in class last week, and she was all, "Why didn't you do Step Basics?" "I told you, it's at 5 p.m.! I have work! Aiee!"

And finally, speaking of people observation at the gym, I think I saw a girl from my high school there last night. I'm pretty sure it was her, but I didn't really speak to her since (a) I was on a machine and (b) I never knew her all that well in the first place. But given how she used to walk around with this school's sticker on her binder, it seemed likely. She seemed to be doing well.

Last I'd heard her boyfriend had dumped her for college chickies and she'd become a lesbian by senior year- I can't help but wonder about that story, but I'd already graduated by the time the lesbian thing floated down the pike to me. I wonder which gender or genders she goes after these days, because she is pretty cute.

I don't think she remembered/recognized me, though. Then again I've got three different hair colors going on right now and a new hair length and texture to boot, and lord knows I wasn't looking so attractive in sweatpants and a "Will Work For Craft" wrinkled T-shirt, so maybe that's all for the best. I hate to look downtrodden in front of anyone from the old 'burg, especially when their parents pass stories along to my mother.

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