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I had never been a bona fide card-carrying-endorphin-enthusiast gym member. Oh sure, I joined lots of classes but never a full gym experience. Classes were less of a commitment. I would enthusiastically pay my money for fitness and yoga, meditation and swimming promising myself that this time I would keep it up. This time I would go to the all the classes. This time I would participate fully. This time I would even make new friends with the other folks in the class. This time I would trade in my bad habits for good ones. Hah. Except for a yoga class, where the instructor was mesmerizingly fabulous and who actually became a friend, none of the others took. So how could I possibly justify slapping down the money for a gym membership?

It was my doctor who finally pushed me into this world of locker rooms and camraderie. She wasn’t subtle — I don’t think she knows how to be subtle — she implied, as we discussed the results of my physical, that if I didn’t do something fast that inner-tube of flab around my middle combined with the nasty kind of cholesterol that had crept into my blood might, might, just mean heart attack! It was enough to scare me into joining the neighborhood gym. It fit my only criteria for exercise: close to my house and affordable.

But nothing prepared me for the culture of the place — especially the locker room. There were veterans here — women who have been coming to this same gym for decades — yes decades. I haven’t been going anywhere for decades — not even the same address or even the same country for that matter. At first, I found their ownership of the space more than a little intimidating. They knew I was an outsider. Didn’t even fit the socio-ethnic-economic profile of 80% of the women in this gym. But that didn’t matter so much. What was important was that I was a bit slow in picking up the unwritten rules of this particular locker room. There were protocols to be followed that I tripped over more than my share of times. Like when I innocently took a locker in a corner that everyone else in the entire gym, knew belonged to a certain member at a certain time of a certain day. It wasn’t easy.

Initially, I coped by consistently breaking what I’m sure was the world record for Pool-into-Shower-Dressed-out-the-Door. It kept me in my little bubble of solitude and away from the blah-blah-blah of conversation that sounded an awful lot like gossip. But the more often I went and the more people I met, I found myself becoming part of the blah-blah-blah and realized it wasn’t all gossip. There was a lot of useful information passed back and forth: movie reviews, hot-spots to eat, health tips, recommendations for doctors and healers, interesting blogs to follow, technical know-how and, of course, travel.  I didn’t have much to contribute on that subject since going to Columbus, Ohio twice for weddings didn’t seem to compete with sailing the Mediterranean. But, then, just the other day, one of the women was talking about her upcoming vacation. She was going to Amalfi and from there to Seville. She was doing a part of Annie’s Odyssey. Now those were travel destinations I could talk about.

I’ll never really become one-of-the-veterans here, I don’t have enough decades left,  but I am definitely becoming one of the regulars and that’s just fine.