In my ongoing quest to prove my younger self wrong (when I was in elementary school I’d sort of assumed I’d be dead by age 35 or so), I go to the YMCA every weekday and exercise. Thankfully, the Y is free of that annoying stereotype of the musclebound asshole whose workout routine consists solely of pounding back four protein shakes while adjusting his biker shorts to show off his steroid-shrunken package to the gym bunnies he’s unsuccessfully hitting on. Oh, and the gym bunny, who never comes there to work out, but to show off her $400 pink Nike shoes, her $150 pink athletic ensemble, her makeup, nails, hair, and of course, her silicone-riddled “gym body” to the musclemen who want to hit on her.
But when I talk about the YMCA henceforth, I will have to amend the second sentence in the previous paragraph to read “Thankfully, the Y is mostly free...” because I was proven wrong today. But as things that happen to me often are, it was funny, and I am now going to tell you about it.
I had finished the cardio section of my workout and was midway through my circuit in the weight room. I choose a slow time of day to go, because I like to have the place to myself. But today it wasn’t completely barren. At the start of my circuit, a youngish man with bulging gym-grown muscles had been futzing around with the free weights for a while. I didn’t realize he was One Of Them until I saw his face. He even looked at the weights as if they were beneath him. Then a young woman wandered in. Most of the women who use the Y’s fitness center are either older or are making an honest effort to lose weight. This one, however, looked like she belonged on the cover of a magazine. Already fit and trim, she wore skin-hugging clothes (honest workout clothes, not strips of cloth held together with bobbypins and prayer), had long blonde hair and a pretty face sans-makeup. Not a gym bunny.
But, ladies and gentlemen, what do you get when you put an incredibly cocky (pun not intended– see above for why) musclebound gym-rat and a pretty young woman in the same weight room?
To answer your question, if you really need it answered, I will tell you that if this were a cartoon and there were sound-effects to accompany people’s actions, I’d have heard him come to a screeching halt, seen his eyes pop comically out of his head (boioioioioinnnnnggggg) and his face take on a decidedly wolfish cast. Let’s not forget that triangle-toothed grin.
At first, I settled for chuckling to myself and letting the tableau spread out before me. She looked like she had enough presence of mind to fend for herself; I knew for a fact she’d been hit on before. Any woman with a body like that in a town like Oswego’s bound to have gotten ogled, catcalled, pinched, panted at, drooled on, plied with alcohol, groped, licked, what have you.
I kept one earbud out so I could hear Mr Muscleface get shut down. But he didn’t. I listened, he talked at her. About... wait for it... about his muscles. I’ve encountered gym rats before at Gold’s Gym, at Planet Fitness, and at that one sleazy gym I went to once out in Carrboro (if you know about Carrboro you know why I never went back). But all the gym rats I’ve known never actually talk about their muscles. It’s always about themselves, sure, but it’s usually about what they do for a living, how much money they make, what kind of car they drive, how cute their new puppy is (yes really), etc. Most of the experienced gym rats know that talking about their muscles is about as interesting to women as when women talk about their periods to men. So they pick topics they think women would be interested in, and some of the shallowest women are.
But Miss Magazine Cover was not shallow. Nor did she apparently have the stones I thought she’d had. She just sat there, twiddling her thumbs on one of the machines, as Mr Biceps stood in front of her with his hands on his hips, putting himself on display. And talking. And talking.
About technique, about tone, about core muscles, about absolutely everything Miss Magazine Cover did not want to hear. She tried her best to tune him out, bless her, but he followed her around the gym, running his mouth and waggling his arms as if to say...well... what he was already saying.
This went on and on and began to make even ME uncomfortable. He was not giving up, and she was not shutting him down. Normally, I don’t interfere. Normally I just let these things work themselves out, because, well, it’s not my business and I’m not a people person. But this was just not working itself out.
So I did something I have never done before, and may never do again. Now that I look back on it, it wasn’t the wisest move, but it’s one of those things you do without much thinking. Because if you thought at all before doing it, you wouldn’t have done it.
I walked up to the pair and said, loudly and plainly, staring the woman in the face, “Hey. I’m new here. Can you show me how the cardio machines work?”
The instant of confusion in the woman’s face bloomed into the most sublime expression of gratitude I have ever seen in a human being.
“Oh, I’d be happy to,” she almost shouted and teleported across the room to the stairs that led up to the cardio area. I followed her, daring not to look back at Mr Musclehead, but figuring he either hated me passionately or was just confused.
Or maybe he was still talking to himself about his muscles. I will never know.
Miss Magazine Cover made a show of explaining the elliptical trainer to me, then went to a treadmill on the farthest end of the room, away from the doorway. Then she let out a huge sigh and said, “Oh my god, thank you. You have no idea how awkward that was. Thank you so much.”
I said my welcomes and I let her talk Mr. Muscleface’s assault out of her system. Then we formally introduced ourselves. She glanced back into the weight room. Mr Muscles remained, so we decided to hop on the treadmills until he left.
Those next 15 or so minutes were enjoyable; I found out she had moved to Oswego from Vermont, that she was here for a job, and that she wanted to get the hell out of this podunk town (her words) as soon as she could. I laughed and agreed. Mr Muscles finally left; Miss Magazine and I went our separate ways. But I have a feeling that if I ever see her again, I’ll have a workout buddy for life.