BY: Bella Baxter
I have a very demanding job. I love my job, but it is consuming. When I finish for the day, the gift I give myself is to run really fast and really hard on a treadmill at my local gym. As I run, all the feelings and thoughts that fill my being during the day drop away and all that is left is a very compact body whirring and clicking. The 35 minutes that I spend in the gym is my own little oasis of nothingness. No one needs anything from me, I am not late to anything, and I have no responsibility or task. I am just one blur of motion.
You can imagine my surprise then, when one of the giant muscly trainers hopped onto the treadmill next to me and motioned for me to take my earphones out. I complied and looked at him, red faced, ragged breath, gently sweating.
“Hey, you know I see you in here a lot doing the same thing…with not many results.”
He looked me up and down.
“Have you written down what you eat in a day?” he asked generously.
“No” I said “… I’m not trying to loose weight just…ah…clear my head.”
“Yeah…” he agreed, “…I wouldn’t say you’re fat…but you look…” he leaned his head back to take the full sight of my body in.
“…You look swollen.”
“Too much salt…” he offered helpfully.
I stopped the treadmill and thanked him for his help. I try not to hold idiots accountable for their words and actions you see. But he followed. Dear reader, he followed because he wasn’t quite done with the conversation.
“What would you say the strongest part of your body is?”
“My mind.” I answered.
He laughed. It is simply not a muscle.
I felt for him standing in front of me, blinking in confusion. His face open and trusting. He wanted to help.
“My legs.” I offered.
“I agree,” he said, smiling and giving me a couple of pats on the upper thigh/ass area.
“I see you on the treadmill and I think …agh… she’s just going to bulk up…”
He shook his head at me, grimacing. He clearly did not like this image he was painting for himself.
“What you want is an ass like …” with this he cupped his hand through the air making the shape of a ‘c’.
“And the only way you get that is squats” he nodded earnestly.
I thanked him again and made to leave.
“Get my number off the notice board if you like, I can train you. Write you up a diet plan. Give it four weeks you’ll look different.” He signified the end of the conversation by walking backwards and pumping a fist in the air.
Clearly there are so many things about this interaction that are wrong. He commented on my body. He assumed I was there to loose weight. He touched me.
But the thing that bothers me most about this interaction, the thing that keeps me up at night imagining all the ninja kicks I could give to his tiny head dignified responses I could have said, is that fact that I am so socially conditioned to make awkward situations nice, that I smiled at him, thanked him and left. My protective cloak of feminist theory and self-esteem disappeared as soon as his mouth opened and a criticism came tumbling out. I smiled, signifying happiness.
I thanked him, signifying gratitude. I left, signifying I had nothing more to say and never in my life, dear reader, have I been less happy, grateful or finished with something.