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I have taken to working out in the early afternoons, going to the gym a couple hours after lunch, after the lentil soup has settled. But who am I kidding: I still shake my head and raise my hands to the heavens when I get gassy on the step-climber. Why? Why? I’m a writer, not a scientist.
I like going to the gym in the afternoons because that’s when the Silver Sneakers are there: older people from sixty all the way up to over ninety, enjoying an exercise program just for them, sneakin’ around. Last week I arrived in the middle of an ice cream social, and while I did not parfait, it was fun to see old people of all ages, entire generations really, sitting around in our plush lobby on the leather couches and the stools up at the smoothie bar, eating ice cream from cones but some from dishes—we have our celiacs, you know.
Not that these older folks don’t sweat. While they can definitely visit and snack—especially the men, who like to congregate around the tables in the lobby, holding forth and solving the world’s problems while they wait for their wives—most of the Silver Sneakers are very devoted to their exercise program, whether it’s low-impact aerobics, core-strengthening, or light weights. There are elderly men who pump iron and have bodies that a twenty-year old would kill for; there are elderly women with sweet physiques who you think are going to be twenty when they turn around.
I love working out in the early afternoons, not because I’m usually the youngest and strongest and most determined (that buzz was killed when Miss America 1965 walked in, along with her husband, Mr. Natural America 1968) but because there is a general sense of kindness in the air. While we all might wrinkle our noses and give each other the “What up!?” look when Mr. Handler walks through without his shirt on, drying out from the pool, still: the general mood is all-accepting and tolerant. Chairs are skitched across the tiled floor to make room for oxygen tanks. Machines are set far enough apart to allow for walkers.
One lady is there every time I go: a petite Asian woman with a scarf around her neck. She does weights and only weights, core strengthening suggested by her doctor, I assume. I high-tail it on the stair-climber and the treadmill, and she does the weight machine circuit, pushing and swinging around, pumping and lifting. I’ve seen her in the gym about a million times, this lady with the scarf.
Always on a mission to make friends, even though it’s against my grain, I finally said hello to her in the women’s locker room yesterday. Me being me, I yelled, “HELLO MY NAME IS KATE WHAT IS YOURS?” because, as we all know, when there might be a language barrier, loudness is called for.
The lady—still wearing her beautiful scarf, which to my credit I didn’t ask about—smiled up at me from her shortness. She yelled back, “MY NAME SUE! LET’S WEIGH!” Then she put her tiny hand in mine and led me to the scale, which—at our gym—is a little rickety, cannot decide if it’s American or European, and often needs to be reset…even though there are signs posted on it: DO NOT TOUCH. We touch it all the time.
“YOU FIX!” Sue yelled. Nobody else was looking, so I did my usual scientific inspection and unplugged, reset, and pushed buttons. My new friend Sue stepped up on the scale and registered a whopping 107 pounds. 107.6 to be exact.
“That’s great,” I said. “You look great!”
“Now you go,” Sue said, gesturing towards the scale’s platform where I have stood many a day.
I haven’t been feeling my lightest lately, but I know I’m not out of control, so I gamely stepped up and waited for the red digits to finalize my weight. 130.
Sue pulled on my hand again: “Wow! 130! Where you keep it?”
I was paralyzed in this moment. First, so pleased that I could make a friendly connection with someone who seemed so opposite of me—after all, I never wear scarves. And then, with all the foreign fields that I thought might separate me and Sue and prevent us from ever connecting, here she was, just another girl talking about weight. I kinda liked it.
I looked down at my body and wondered where I keep my 130 pounds. I shifted things around a little—obviously my body is not like breastless Sue’s in any way. Where am I keeping these pounds? That’s two ten pound bags of taters between me and Sue.
It seemed like so much, but what’s twenty pounds if it brings people together? Better than twenty pounds that keep people apart.