Tuesday, June 5, 2007


The way you can tell you’re getting pathetic and old is if you actually begin talking to people at your gym. I mean, young people occasionally meet each other this way, although since literally everyone under 50 has earbuds in, 24/7, this is currently more difficult. But there are these middle-aged women whose kids are now old enough to have their own life, and they meet there-- some earnestly trying to hold onto their youth with the botox and facelifts, but mostly the average middle-class ones in Manhattan have given up and are half-heartedly cycling their legs and exercising primarily their tongue.

I am losing interest in the ever-decreasing efficacy of exercise as a motivator, and I detest even the word earbuds, so I have reluctantly begun to engage in conversation. Some of these women past prime-time at night are actually politicians and writers and are interesting. Others want to talk about vitamins and teenagers and apartment renovations. I have noticed lately that I rarely sweat in the gym. TV is boring me, especially since they have deleted Bravo from the menu. I don’t quite need reading glasses and placing books on the machine is far enough away to blur the print. So, besides the chatter, I look around and practice being an old person. Occasionally I seethe.

Seriously, there should be a manual on gym etiquette. We are paying for this time which is a premium in Manhattan. Driving is free, but there are traffic laws, penalties for violations. Not so at the gym; no consequences.

Besides the smelly old men who lust after young girls, and I don’t mean young women, I mean girls my kids’ age who wear their two-piece with the low-slung shorts which conceal little. To their credit, they sweat, these girls. Ditto the old lusty men. Who smell bad. I mean, as you get older your senses are supposed to dull; my eyes are bugging me, but my nose, unlike these people, is still fairly accurate. If you are going to pant and wheeze contiguously to other humans, have the courtesy a. to refrain from binging on garlic until after the workout b. to use deodorant or wash regularly and c. to wear clean gym clothes because the smell of sweaty old-man enhanced by stale locker-fermented T-shirt and shorts is more than I can bear. And everyone has their own personal scent: more information than one wants. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, some women over-perfume, and the occasional freshly-manicured girl with the toxic polish smell can make you dizzy enough to fall off the machine.

Okay…let’s move on to the audio-offenses. Because they have their ipods turned to the max or are listening to TV, some people are not aware that they are literally screaming to their neighbor….or talking on their cellphone to their maid about what to cook for dinner and which kids have which homework due. I’d like to punch them. There is one guy at my gym who has the nerve to tell giggling kids to keep quiet, but when there is a cute girl 3 machines away, he’ll engage in a shouting exchange to chat her up. And of course the ones that abuse their machine time-privileges mercilessly are the most vocal when they are waiting for your 30 seconds on the Ab-machine to be up so they can press on for another 6 interminable smelly minutes. Then there are the elephants—the usually young men who press the treadmill to the limit and are maybe having a military marching fantasy because every stride is an explosion. They can keep this up for 60 minutes, at a pace of 8-9 mph. Can’t they actually run in the park, on a road? Do they require a captive audience?

Okay—the visual. I realize I am a gym eyesore but this insures that they will never-ever photograph me for their brochures which they are constantly revamping. I wear my sons’ old clothes and hide beneath huge stained old T-shirts and old-fashioned headphones. But strutting around are middle-aged men who obviously don’t have mirrors, because they are wearing Lance Armstrong’s bicycle pants with no butt and their old-man package somehow stashed in. And the bare legs with the veins and the wrinkled skin. Again, more information. Older women who let their arm flab hang and some even baring extremely unappetizing midriffs. This helps the rest of us curb our calorie intake because it is positively nauseating.

Touch. Okay, there are never enough cleaners in these places which are like a bacterial paradise. But the sweatiest guys seem to think towels are accessories for their neck… or they have a maid at home constantly following them around with windex and a cloth (not!) and they sit on these cybex machines, leave their imprint in perspiration and don’t even look back. There ought to be a major fine for this. It is disgusting.

So here I am covered neck-to-toe with clothing that conceals everything but my face like a Muslim woman, my eyes and ears and nose regretfully open and I find myself occasionally using my mouth to engage with others, which distracts me from seething and being annoyed by the etiquette violations. I forget that fully half of these people find my demeanor and habits, opinions and outsider fashion downright intolerable. At this point in life I, too, avoid mirrors. And God forbid they should notice my choice of music or literature. So I gratefully pay my fees and try my best to shut the hell up.