Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The New Gym Ladies

“Don't you just love this aqua-cise?” the lady in the locker room says to her friend. “I've gotten so addicted I come in every day, even when there isn't a class, and swim by myself.”

I'm impressed. A sidelong glance reveals her to be no naiad: she's almost as wide as she is tall, and in her none-too-well-preserved seventies. “Let me tell you,“ she goes on, groaning as she bends over to tie her shoe, “walking yesterday was no fun. None of the sidewalks had been cleared, so I had to walk on the road ...”

I repress a gasp. I almost killed myself just crossing the parking lot to the gym just now, and she was out walking yesterday? On the icy, slushy roads of Granville, NY? What kind of woman is this?

She is one of the New Gym Ladies. I see them on my way to the locker room. They're standing in the shallow end of the pool in their flowery suits, their breasts bobbing just above the water line, lifting their heavy arms over their heads. Over their gray, curly, sparsely-haired heads.

I see them in the exercise room, large of thigh and heavy of breast, spending surprisingly long times on the treadmill, earphones on, watching the soaps. As they make their way from one weight machine to another, they walk with the swaying gait of those whose hips hurt badly. But they flex their biceps, and work their triceps, and squeeze and lift and crunch. And they carefully wipe down each machine after they've used it.

New Gym Ladies, wait for me! I'm not that far behind you. I was in high school when you were in college, maybe, in college when you entered the motherhood cloister and disappeared from view. But here you are now, doing something no woman your age has ever done before: working out, lifting weights, growing muscles. You're not in this for looks—a trivial thing--but for survival.

I'm amazed and touched and frightened by you. Because you are my future and you're showing me that it's both appalling, and not so bad.

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