At the office Christmas party, my boss told me about a new gym that recently opened in the area. On the way back home one day I drove past the plaza and looked up to see a big neon sign announcing the arrival of ‘Pulse’ to my neighborhood. I fell in love with the name. So I punched a reminder in my Blackberry to take my personal pulse to the one down the road sometime soon.
We had been out the night before and hadn’t got home till late – the last of the holiday parties eke out every ounce of joy and goodwill. So when the alarm goes off at 7 a.m. on the first Sunday of January, I am none too thrilled to remember my New Year resolution. His leg plops over mine – his code for “how about a little”. I have to disappoint to keep my appointment at Pulse. I turn and place a quick kiss on the nose sticking out from underneath the covers. He turns away. “Your loss” the back seems to say. He sulks back to sleep. I engage in a dialogue with self. Vanity beats lust, so I hop out of bed, quickly pull on my sweats and lace up my runners before my body has had a second chance to seduce me to the aerobics of the horizontal kind. I bolt out the door; earbuds firmly in place, The Boss belting his ghetto lyrics into my head, cell phone in the one hand and the $15 admission fee wrapped around my green iPod in the other, I jog the mile towards my destination. At the plaza mall, I take the stairs two at a time and present my flushed face to the gorgeous looking young thing at the front desk. She assures me I am on time. She’s been up since 4 a.m., I bet, putting a face together – the flower to attract the bees with the clear message that Pulse indeed has the power to turn the ugliest of ducklings into swans such as this.
I thought I would be one of the few showing up at a venue like this on a cold Sunday morning in January. Not so, there are at least 30 others – bright eyed and bushy tailed waiting for the class to begin. I am told to turn off my cell phone and get the ear buds out. This is serious business. Everyone is carrying a huge bottle of water and a towel. I have neither and consequently look like an oaf standing there holding on to my techno paraphernalia.
I don’t lose heart and cheerfully hop on one of the treadmills. I start to take long strides, and am getting ready to advance to a slow jog. No sooner have I gathered speed that I am tapped on the shoulder, somewhat rudely, by a full bosomed Barbie informing me that the ‘station’ is taken. She throws me a glare; pointing with a dainty manicured finger to the towel hanging on the bar – apparently the signal for the occupancy status of said machinery. I can’t stop the machine and don’t know what to do other than blabber that I am new and unaware of the protocol. Barbie looks bored and exasperated – she reaches over and presses the emergency button. I take note of her lovely perfume and refreshingly natural looking makeup. The pouty shiny lips have me mesmerized. I look dumpy and old next to this spandex covered madonna who appears to be visiting us from another planet. I am fascinated by the precision in her movements and the snarl she wears so elegantly. Then I look around the room and I see her clones. All these gorgeous looking women wear the spandex and the snarl in exactly the same fashion. I guess this to be the uniform of the higher life forms at this fitness mecca. I fantasize about being part of that crowd – rewind the clock a couple of decades, take off a hundred or so inches from my contours, slide into sexy spandex and gloss up my lips; then strut around this place wearing the elegant snarl. Yeah – I would like that. Then I would belong; wouldn’t I? Oh, would that I!
Back to reality, I find another station and am immediately greeted with a hearty hello from my right – a grandmotherly sort with killer arm definition. I say hello back. She checks me out saying “You are new here” – read “I see you have too much flab and this must be a new year resolution”. I smile back –“ Yes I am. Heard about this place and decided to check it out”. She turns to her torture machine and increases the speed, leaving me to wonder whether I should follow suit. I think better of it. I prefer to leave this place alive. I step off the treadmill and head over to a step station towards what I guess to be the back of the room where I can remain inconspicuous.
A hot looking package of muscle approaches me with a toothy grin. Hi I am Mark; your instructor; he extends a hand. I think to flirt back “Oh Mark, mark me if you please.” I instantly regret having refused my partner’s early morning amorous advances. “Hello, I am Solo”. I blurt out. “Aren’t we all?” he smiles knowingly. “No, that is my name, really – Flying Solo to be exact”. He has seen them all. This being the town where people call their kids anything from a continent to an eating utensil, he does not bat an eyelid at my unusual name. He grins back, assuring me with a whisper “A while here and you won’t be.” he winks. He does not omit to pinch at my nearly non-existent waistline presumably checking out the extent of the flab he sees as his duty to exorcise. I feel welcome.
And so the class starts and I find much to my horror that not only am I not at the back, but that I am slap bang in the middle front in full view of the mirror. There are rows and rows of gorgeous looking bodies with perfect chest, waist, and hip ratios. I spot bicep Gramma in the mirror waving at me from the back of the class. My wide hips, a gift of my lineage handed down through my Persian Grandmother, give me disproportionate dimensions of the regal variety. Against the backdrop of the svelte heavenly bodies, I, a mere earthling, look positively hideous. A couple of inches shorter and I would make the perfect candidate for the circus. Anyone blessed with such gargantuan proportions, who dares to show up at such a venue with no makeup, messy hair and yesterday’s clothes must either be mindless or homeless. I can read that on every face gazing at me in the mirror. I am familiar with the taste of ‘exclusion’. Never having been part of the ‘in’ crowd, I am comfortable in the misfit role. It gives me the freedom not to follow the rules. Maybe it’s courage, perhaps resignation, or simply rebellion. Whatever it is, I try to make the best of it. So I concentrate on Mark and the music.
The only way to overcome the pain this man is causing me is to drown myself in the crowd. The front row affords me a great view. Through the images reflected in the mirror I can ogle to my heart’s desire . So, I let my eyes roam around and my mind read the stories of the bodies.
The class is split into two groups; as one set works on the machines, the other hops about on the floor in between steps lifting weights and stretching elastic bands. I am in the ‘floor group’. I spot the diehard exercisers on the machines, females on the left, males on the right with their posteriors strategically pointing at one other. The mirrors afford perfect viewing for everyone. The beat of the music, the low lights and the gentle hum of the machines, together with the moans and groans led by Mark’s counting numbers up and down, remind me of the rituals of some primitive tribe during mating season. All that’s missing are loincloths and spears.
There is a smorgasbord of buns; the tightest derrieres in the middle, the wider ones gravitating to the far ends with the widest belonging to yours truly displayed at front center. Everyone is on show at this early morning bordello. I check out the women first. There are the busty Barbies on the prowl. They have high maintenance written all over them. Then there is a sprinkling of bean poles with silicone implants in strategic locales. I later find this particular group is referred to as the baggers; all body and no face. I hazard a guess that they come with their own purse. For that they want action to their liking and they won’t take no for an answer. Amongst the mass of synthetic globes, the double-bagger sporting the natural D’s has me senselessly green with envy. I try not to stare, but absolutely must snatch a glance now and then.
Successful at maintaining my composure I focus on the folks in my own age bracket. There are the females desperately racing to slow down the clock in the hope of extending the lease of the marriages to the money bags. In between botox shots, collagen injections and religious visits to the spa, there is still hope to retain ‘arm candy’ status for a couple more years.
Slightly older and there you have the ‘therapy once a week and Xanax popping’ crowd. They move in droves, sticking together to stave off anxiety. I shudder to think of the chemical cocktails circulating in those bloodstreams. I hope for their sake whatever they are on will do the job of washing out, albeit momentarily, the misery that comes from having too much. I fancy that at least one from this set knows full well that as she is pumping iron in this dark room to the tune of the unattainable Mark, her husband is humping a young rump somewhere in the hills. The days of footloose and fancy free wifedom (or waif-dom – depending on how you look at it) are numbered. Once she spots the replacement drive past the family home, to check out the landscape of HER soon-to-be abode, she would be wise to get her ducks in a row. It won’t be long before the lawyer and accountant will be her only buddies, dishing out vice and advice in exchange for the lion’s share of the settlement - the settlement for which, I might add, she and not they had to put in the 25 years. These very same friends, who won’t leave her side right now, will soon be found tut-tut’ing about her demise, before flicking her off into the abyss of abandon. Divorce is contagious - everybody knows that. The ones infected with the virus deserve only faux-pity, carefully doled out from a safe distance, over a glass of Perrier, poolside perhaps, by the members of “Phew, Thank God it was her and not me” club.
Then there are the tootsie rolls. I wonder what they are doing here – they should be in yoga. These have the look that comes from not having touched red meat or carbohydrates in eons. As a result, all form of aggression and zeal has been obliterated - leaving in its stead, pallid complexions, vacant eyes and insipid smiles. The chic clavicles are worth it, I suppose. There is an aroma of arrogance enveloping this set which appears to consider itself to have married below par. Yet the niftiest pricey gadgets they sport seem to more than make up for having descended a rung or two down the social totem pole. For this set Pulse promises to leach out the last of the hormone slurry which is the annoying daily reminder of residual womanhood. Chances are while the overpriced homeopathic pellets keep these grazers in the state of total relaxation, the sponsoring husband is off gorging on a beefy mistress in some safely remote zip code; one more than likely closer to that of his childhood home.
What about the men? The gorgeous gays all seem to be on the maintenance program. One ounce extra fat and they will be yesterday’s news. In a town of beauties and stiff competition, these men have to work extra hard to keep the abs and buns in ship shape marketable condition. They drink the most water.
There are the middle aged married ones – thrown out of bed by the wives for whom sleep is a luxury more precious than pearls. Rather than be rewarded with an embrace for a week of toiling at a boring job which pays the bills and keeps Mommy carpooling, they are forced to screw the mean machines instead. Squeezing their eyes shut they emulate the release they know they deserve but have been refused for the single sin of pudginess. They hope, nay, pray for something more than a scowl when they return home with an armful of flowers from the local farmer’s market, provided the kids are on a play date, that is.
Over to one corner are a couple of straight guys, not great lookers; well-built though, the male equivalent of the ‘bagger’. Money trumps looks so I surmise them to be on the poor side of well-off if they lucked out last night. They are taking a hit at the morning crowd hoping for an early score. They are talking to each other, lying probably, checking the female species, puffing out their chests - Tarzan fashion, and showing off their straight backs which could mean one thing and one thing only - they can do many pushups. The older females take note.
Then there are the three bona fide mature, single, fairly normal looking men laughing at some private joke - one has big hair, the other is bald and the third snorts when he laughs. Phermones and libido in equal proportion ooze out of the trio. A closer look and one can’t miss the greasy stares and uncontrollable drools which bespeak of contagious diseases a mere prophylactic would be ill suited to guard against. I surmise full body lamination to be the order of the day for a close encounter with these chumps.
I spot the recently divorced – fresh blood dripping from his pores. The girls sniff around the easy prey; fantasize him to be game for a roll or two. Unfortunately for them he seems far too engrossed in the mechanics of the treadmill, for now pounding out his pain at a seven-minute mile. I guess it will be at least a month before he has washed out the initial foul taste of betrayal from his system to be ready for the first round of bedroom acrobatics.
Mark keeps counting and by now I am sweating profusely while my mind has gone into overdrive. I can no longer feel the pain. My body has secreted enough endorphins to sedate the whole neighborhood. Once in a while Mark passes me and whispers “good job”. I sense that he is trying to assure me that though I don’t belong here among the beauties and the beasts, he still likes to keep me around as a warning sign to others as to what will become of them should they miss tomorrow’s torture session or, God forbid, partake in a second helping at dinner. He pokes my waist – cheeky bugger. I tell myself the next time he tries this maneuver I shall deliver a slap and NOT the seductive kind either. I seethe and continue to pant and sweat.
It is then that I spot the cutie in the corner checking me out in the mirror. How did I miss him? The look is unmistakably lascivious. I am flattered. In this room full of every kind of vibe and hormone what would he want with me – the premenopausal round female, on a mission to prove a point about keeping a New Year resolution? He is young, I note, young enough to be my son, if I’d had a kid in my teens that is. Still, I enjoy the attention for what it is – animal instinct.
Finally the class ends. Cutie approaches. His sparkly eyes, straight carriage and clear complexion scream good health and hopeless naivete – an irresistible combination. This body has seen little use and zero abuse. He introduces himself but I don’t remember his name. I am drowned in those dimples adorning oblong cheeks which hint at top notch early orthodontia. He tells me we could grab a green tea across the street. This must be the new lingo of “I dig AND I’m clean”. Or could it be that he wants to experiment with an older woman; thinking me too homely to turn him down. He must consider me the sure thing. My insecurities surface to mock me. I thank him politely and inform him that I don’t really care for tea, green or otherwise. Truth be told I would not have the guts to take off my shoes in front of this man, let alone my clothing. Cutie is a little miffed and finishes the brief dialogue with “Cool – Real AND Honest – a rarity around this place”. “How wrong you are darling on your little assessment – how wrong”, I chuckle to myself. I smile and show off my straight REAL teeth “Cool – later”. I may be too chicken to take him up on the offer of a May-December tryst but am fast catching on with the ‘tude. My teenager would be proud. He walks off treating me to a rear viewing the description of which a mere sentence could not do justice, so I won’t even try.
I get home sweaty and smelly hoping for the aroma of coffee and eggs to greet me. No such luck. I have disappointed and I shall be punished accordingly. It is grits and laundry for me – I figure. I head to the bathroom, stripping on the way. “How was it? I hear him shout. I hate shouting and he knows it. Half naked I stick my head into the bedroom and lie “Waste of time and money.” I am greeted by a tent. I follow the line of the bedclothes to the face propped up on the pillow sporting a Cheshire cat grin. “Bia Inja Pedar Sookhteh” (come here you little brat) - the face orders jokingly. Ever the dutiful wife, I do as I am told.
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