I joined a gym in January, just to be part of the New Year’s resolution crowd–seemed like a responsible thing to do. The gym is such a strange, non-place. Very few people enjoy their surroundings or the gym community. Everyone on the exercise machines blocks each other out with TV, music, a magazine or book.
The muscle boys and men seem like they have more fun. They actually engage with each other, and the painful grunts they make suggest they are living in the moment. They also check out the ladies and their spandex butts. So, essentially there are two parts of the gym: hyper-attention and hyper-distraction.
In the locker room, everyone avoids the naked bodies around them, trying not to make eye contact. I wonder if this is a particularly American phenomenon. No one even walks around naked–we hunker by our lockers. I’ve been to Korean spas, and naked women yell at each other across the room.
I imagine American men’s locker rooms are even more restricted. When I was reading about gyms on Yelp, there were tons of complaints about hookups in locker rooms. Most of them seemed homophobic, but gyms undeniably, for both sexes, can feel like meat markets.
This is a problem for many reasons, but it mostly bothers me because I feel like I’m at a bar, while dressed like I’m in the middle of an all night Gossip Girl festival. I’ve bemoaned how hard it is to find fashionable gym clothes before, and the general response has been, get over it. I understand. I know I’m verging on Clueless or Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion territory, but clothes have merged with my identity.
I’m the quirky, alterna girl, and it’s really hard to communicate that in sweatpants; and I want to communicate it because it’s part of how I’ve traditionally tried to lure males. In high school, when I was first trying to figure out this whole clothes and identity thing, I knew I was attracted to James Dean, Marlon Brando and other nefarious bad boys. After years of therapy I’m trying to move past my bad boy phase, but at the time I was like Sandy in Grease. I tried to throw my squeeky clean image out the door and dress like one of the punks. I got it really wrong, because I ended up dressing exactly like my male crushes. I believe I had a jean jacket identical to the one worn my James Dean in Giant. Eventually, after watching a lot of John Hughes movies, I pulled myself together (sort of). The gym takes away all my accessories and I feel naked. There should be a gym with no windows and black walls that plays the Pixies and everyone’s pale and smokes while they’re on the treadmill. There could be a PBR fountain.
Then again most pale, arty waifs maintain their enviable figures via illicit drugs and extreme poverty. They don’t need a gym. This leaves me feeling lost in a gray zone. I’m not Workout Barbie and I’m not Kate Moss. But who says it’s either or? (That rhetorical question makes me afraid Carrie Bradshaw has influenced my writing). It’s this kind of thinking that gets me in trouble. I act like the extremes are the only options. Also, do I really need these categories to make me feel comfortable? Tonight I go to the gym to feel comfortable in my own skin (without a plaid dress and cowboy boots), sweating out my insecurities and the chocolate, chocolate cupcake I had earlier.