Friday, May 25, 2007

Why exercise is bad (continued)

Meelyn, Aisling and I are starting a summer homeschooling project, the 30-Day Challenge -- exercising, eating better (without such a reliance on Hostess Chocolate Pudding Pies in our daily diet), praying more frequently, doing acts of kindness....Oh, at the end of this thirty days, you likely won't even know us. Or if you do, you will think that our bodies have been taken over by gentle, pious aliens who have lost a few pounds.

We started out today in fine form by going to the YMCA. Meelyn and Aisling go there frequently with my husband, but I haven't been since December because of my Achilles tendon, but also because the very thought of exercising makes me want to fall prostrate to the ground and pray for a merciful death to smite me.

I do not like to exercise. I do not like to sweat. I don't like wearing clumpy, ugly-looking shoes. And most of all, I don't like being in the smelly cardio room, waddling away on the treadmill like a giant hamster.

The things we do for our kids.

We got to the YMCA, which is only about four blocks from our house, and parked as close to the door as possible because, exercise? Why do more of it than you have to? I am the proud possessor of a handicapped parking placard, earned because of, well, my handicap. I was in a really terrible car accident when I was twenty-one (and no, I wasn't drunk, which is what everyone else in Henry County thought, so who can blame you for thinking the same?) and I have permanent reminders that wearing a seat belt is a really smart thing to do. In case of a front-impact car accident, it will keep you from putting your head through the windshield and also help prevent the engine block from breaking both of your legs.

So I showed my YMCA member identification to the person at the front desk who looked at it and then looked at the girls and said, "You're usually here with your dad!"

Yes, and I'm usually home, eating barbecue pork rinds straight from the bag and watching Jerry Springer.

I smiled at her and asked for a towel, trudging off after the girls to be greeted by a treadmill that was roughly the size of an aircraft carrier.

"Go ahead and step on," said Meelyn cheerfully, pushing buttons. The treadmill sprang into life, with numerous little lights and beeps. I was very grateful that there was no honking siren and an electronic voice saying, "Weight overload! Weight overload!"

We got me started at a very slow speed. I held my shoulders back and put one foot in front of the other, walking with dignity. Aisling went to an exercise bike and got on and began pedaling furiously, hopefully burning up about eighty million kilowatts of excess energy, energy that she would normally expend by torturing me at 5:00 p.m., which is the time of day when my will to live is at its lowest ebb. Meelyn hopped aboard the treadmill next to me, her towel slung around her shoulders. She flipped numerous switches and made adjustments and began walking briskly.

"Isn't this so much fun?" she asked, beaming at me. I smiled back at her and said yes, which was a big lie.

Two minutes later, I was still walking with pride on the outside. On the inside, I was bitterly rehearsing every naughty word I know. Meelyn kicked up the incline on her treadmill and walked for a little while longer, then started to jog. She jogged and jogged and jogged while I watched her, thinking, "This is my child. This child who runs and tires not!"

After fifteen minutes, my Achilles tendon was saying, "Hello? Remember me?" so I disembarked, leaving Meelyn running like a princess, her blonde ponytail bouncing, her sweet face glowing with pleasure at the sheer joy of moving. She took a big drink of water and waved at me as I left the treadmill area and went to the back of the room to sit and wait for the girls to finish their half hour.

I happened to have my Shakespeare book with me and happily opened it up, swigging from the one quart bottle of cold water I'd brought along. It was pretty hot in there, especially in the back of the room where there were no fans, so I drank in large gulps. The water tasted so good.

Aisling was still pedaling madly on her bike with a fierce look on her face. Meelyn was running. And I was starting to feel like...oh gosh. Like, throwing up? Really soon? I put down my book and picked up my towel, swallowing, trying to ignore the fact that my tongue suddenly felt like a great big piece of wet army blanket in my mouth.

I managed to hold off that feeling of impending doom until the girls left their equipment and came back to get me, both of them immediately noticing that something was wrong. "I feel really sick," I said conversationally, just in case they hadn't noticed.

Meelyn looked at my empty water bottle. "How fast did you drink that water?" she asked.

"Pretty fast," I said. "I was hot and thirsty and that water was so nice and cold."

"I think that's what's wrong with you," she said sympathetically, patting me. "It's happened to me before. You just kind of have to pace yourself."

"Okay," I said meekly, and drug myself and my stomach, uncomfortably sloshing with a quart of cold, crampy water in it, back out to the van.

"That," said Meelyn enthusiastically, "was the most fun we've had all week!"

"It was! It was great!" said Aisling, not sounding quite as subdued as I would have liked to have heard.

"Oh, yeah! Good times. Go-o-o-od times!" I lied, driving away rather quickly.

The saga continues....

Okay. As we were driving away, I looked at the clock and realized that we didn't have time to go back home and change; we were due to meet my husband at his workplace in just over half an hour and half an hour is not nearly enough time to make my middle-aged self look presentable, especially considering that it would take us twenty minutes of that half hour to drive there. I didn't want to keep my husband waiting, knowing that he wasn't going to go get his lunch until he'd given me the week's housekeeping money. I decided to put on my sunglasses and sit low in the seat.

My husband was watching for us and came outside to talk, very touched and pleased that I'd taken the girls to the gym and he loaded the three of us down with many extravagant comments that, in my case, were completely undeserved because not only was I still feeling slightly pukey from the over-consumption of water, I was also still brattily resentful of the whole exercise schtick.

I always feel very, very special with a big wad of cash in my hand, never mind that the bulk of this cash was going to be immediately pushed into the greedy minvan's gas tank.

"What shall we get for lunch?" I asked the girls.

"Salads," said Meelyn. "Either that or Subway."

"Subway stinks," said Aisling. "Let's go to that salad bar at the grocery."

The grocery store in the little city where my husband works is very posh. It has a decor that makes me feel that the designer watched Under the Tuscan Sun a few too many times, due to the expensive distressed floor tiles and the artfully arranged bottles of wine and fruit and imported cheeses that are placed so that people like me can accidentally run into them with a cart and cause a disaster.

But this was not the scene of my humiliation. That comes in just a few more minutes.

Anyway, this posh grocery store has a magnificent salad bar with all kinds of imaginative and traditional salad bar items on it. They justify their insane price per pound by having large black and white images from La Dolce Vita on the walls, presumably because this atmosphere makes you feel as if you should be paying in lire or euros instead of boring American dollars. Which makes it, like, a little vacation.

As I was getting my salad, I began to be uncomfortably aware that Nature was Calling, if you know what I mean. That quart of water was making itself known. If you've ever pushed babies out of your business, you know just how loudly nature can call. That call goes, pre-childbirth, from being a faerie's dainty little whisper to being a strident, whiskey-voiced Cockney yell, "Oy! Better find a loo, missus, or there's going to be a h'accident 'ere!"

I stood with my legs crossed as the girls finished getting their salads and then paid, hustling the girls back out to the van, hissing, "Let's hurry. I have to pee really bad."

They thought this was really funny and started being deliberately cruel by saying things like, "Oooh, Mommy! Look at the creek down there! Look at all that running water going under the bridge!"

By the time we were about halfway home, I knew I couldn't make it. I hastily pulled over in the parking lot of a nice little mini-mart, the place where we usually buy our gas and get an iced green tea to go. Today, the very thought of iced green tea was terrible to me, and I hoped I'd be able to get out of the van without disgracing myself by walking like a stiff-jointed action figure, eyes popping out of my head. Or...worse. Plus, there was the fact that I was wearing exercise clothes, no makeup and a weirdly pointed ponytail.

Thank heaven, the restrooms -- unisex -- are just inside and to the right of the mini-mart's door, so I walked as nonchalantly as I could back to the first blessed door, gave the door handle a jiggle to test for occupancy, and then walked in.

There was already someone in there. THERE WAS ALREADY SOMEONE IN THERE.

I walked in on someone in the stupid unisex restroom, which of course meant it was a man. I mean, I know we're all obsessed with Europe in this tri-county area and I know that unisex restrooms are the hallmark of European (Eur-a-pean.....ha ha ha, get it?) forward-thinking chic, but this is INDIANA, for heaven's sake.

The man in the restroom was, thankfully, washing his hands and not...not...weeing. But still. I mean, I already had to go pretty bad, and if I'd walked in while this man was urinating, I would have been standing in a warm puddle.

He looked very surprised, I must say. His head jerked sideways to look at me. My hands flew to my burning, cosmetics-free cheeks and I gasped, "Your door wasn't locked! I'm so sorry! I...just....walked in! On you!" I have never been required in my adult life to meet such a social crisis without lip gloss.

The man recovered his poise much more quickly than I did and gallantly held the door for me. "I must have forgotten," he said ruefully. He exited the restroom with a little wink and a smile at my discomfiture.

Now if there's something I will never forget, it is to lock the door of a public restroom. If restrooms had furniture in them (other than the kind attached to the walls and floors), I would lock the door and then push the china cabinet in front of the door, after booby-trapping it with empty soda cans and buttering the outer doorknob. So how he managed to forget is something I don't know, unless he was some kind of perv who gets off on the idea of ladies walking in on him while he's weeing. Eww.

But he didn't look like a weirdo. In fact, he was terribly handsome, with dark hair and some nicely-groomed stubble and a mango-colored Lacoste shirt over khaki shorts, accentuating his deep tan. He looked, in fact, like someone who was either getting ready to tee off on the nearby golf course, or perhaps someone who was going to lay flowers on his grandma's grave at the nearby cemetery.

I'm not sure why it mattered that he was good looking lawyer-type. Would it be any better to humiliate myself by walking in on a good looking, peeing construction worker-type from the nearby mall-in-progress? Probably not.

This story should serve to prove to my husband, Lilly and Susie that exercise is bad. It makes you hot and thirsty and then you drink too much water and get a stomach ache and then you have to wee really bad and then you walk in on handsome Lacoste-wearing strangers who are amused by your embarrassment.

The YMCA is a den of vice. I've known crack houses that are less dangerous to one's well being.

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