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TODAY

Friday, January 19

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Detour

It's 8 in the morning and the sun is peeking in through the vertical cracks of my sliding window blinds. I get up to brush my teeth and freshen up my face. To look presentable in public, I pin my hair back and tie it back in a cute ponytail a la Fergie (the Duchess). I walk around my room looking for my cute Puma jogging pants with a wide elastic band that pushes in my unsightly love-handles which, I am convinced, have worsened over the years due to these idiotic things called low-rise jeans. As I check myself out in the mirror, I glance at the clock. Damn... it's already 8:50am.

I run into the living room and turn the TV on — it's "Good Morning America." I turn the volume up so I can hear it while I'm in the kitchen. I grab some strawberries and a bottle of plain Kefir cultured milk out of my fridge. I wash the strawberries and chop them up then throw them into the little bullet mixer that my dad bought for me after watching a late night infomercial featuring the fabulous little invention that lets you create anything from basil and pine-nut pesto to festive frozen margaritas. I grab a ripe banana, peel it, and break off smaller pieces which end up in the blender along with the chopped strawberries. I pour in a half cup of the thick cultured milk, twist on the lime green cap with blades, flip the plastic cup upside down and press it down into the magical bullet apparatus. Bzzzzzzt...Bzzzzzzt...Bzzzzzzt... three quick grinds, and it's done! A fresh smoothie.

I glance at the clock, yikes... already 9:15am. I should get going. But Oprah's on. Great episode, I love that Doctor Oz guy — he has all the answers. I better watch this and inform my mom of all the things she should be doing to prevent osteoporosis. Maybe I should start taking vitamins. With the voices of Oprah and Dr. Oz in the background, I pack the outfit that I'm going to wear for the day into my gym bag. Panties, check. Bra, check. Jeans, check. Tank top, check. Sweater, check. I fold my tank top around my underwear, my sweater around my tank top, and my jeans around the sweater. I place my combination toiletry and make-up bag on top of my neatly folded clothes. My flip-flops fit snugly to the side of my clothes and my tennis shoes go on top of it all in a plastic Dominick's bag. I check the side pocket to make sure my headphones and lock are still there from yesterday. Check.

It's 9:50am and Oprah is giving away some organic cleaning products — lucky bastards. I turn the TV off, grab my cell phone and keys, and finally head out the door. As I walk down the hallway towards the elevator I realize my bag is too light so I peek into my gym bag. Dang, I forgot my water. I turn around and walk-run back to my unit. I run to the fridge and grab my bottle of Smartwater — which is really filled with green tea that was brewed the night before. I throw the bottle into my bag and run out the door. It's 10am.

By the time I get to the gym, the early morning pre-work crowd has come and gone. I walk past the plush sheep skin rugs and rustic cabin-like furniture and hand my keys over to the front desk attendant. She smiles, checks me in and tells me to enjoy my work out. Yeah right, I think as I walk towards the locker room. The faint music becomes louder. The bass is peaked at maximum volume. Ungdda ungdda undda. I walk into the dimly lit locker room past the first two blocks of lockers. I can hear the blow dryers at the end of the wall where the vanities are. I walk straight to the locker that I always use, number 175. Very few of the lockers in my section are occupied. Fabulous. I don't like when it's too crowded. I switch out my snow boots for the adorable Nikes that my mom got me for Christmas. I grab my headphones and lock out of the side pocket of my gym bag, hang my scarf and jacket on the hook in my locker and slide my bag into my locker. The door swings shut and I secure my lock to ensure the safekeeping of my personal items.

As I walk out of the locker room I pass by a fit brunette who is twisted around, checking out her well-spandexed ass in the mirror. She catches my glare, straightens up and quickly walks off in front of me. "She's here to get laid," I say under my breath as I follow her out to the main attraction, the gym floor. The weights are clanking and Madonna wants Mister DJ to turn the music on. As ass-checker continues to walk in front of me, all heads turn towards her. I should've seen that one coming. I take a glimpse of myself in the wall of mirrors. I look OK... don't I? Eh, who cares — how comfortable can it be to work out on the Stairmaster with string stuck in between your ass-cheeks? I prefer my cheeks to be floss-less and then I stop to pick up a towel and my mind lingers in places it shouldn't. Maybe she's gone commando! Slut...

Shame on me — I try to tell myself that I'm here to work out, not to judge. But those who know me well know that I'm not kidding anyone. So I'm off to work the elliptical. It's my favorite machine. I can get my heart rate up and get to catch the last half of "The View" on the little individual TV screen attached to my machine — another great invention. That little TV right in front of me allows me to watch all the cheap shows that I want without fear of being shunned by my neighbors who are probably tuned on to "Market Watch" or C-Span. When it's not "The View," it's the "Maury Show" or "Judge Hatchett." Sherri Shepard says something idiotic and I can't help but laugh. With a smile still glazed on my sweat ridden face, I look over to my left. A 30-something-year-old creep two machines down is staring at me with a goofy look smeared all over his face. I keep staring to make sure it's not a mistake and he smiles and nods as if we've made some telepathic connection. Sick. I check back a second time and he's still at it. I've only been on the machine for 21 minutes, 9 minutes short of my 30-minute warm-up. I unplug my earphones and abruptly stop the machine. Annoyed, I stomp off as if he's ruined my whole workout.

I head to a spot far from his gaze, the abdominal machine. I adjust the seat and set the weights from 70 pounds to 35 pounds. I do a set of 50 and stop to rest. As I sit there, I see a member of sales giving a tour of the gym to a young couple. "Oh wow... this is great!" The wife exclaims. She saleswoman asks the husband what areas he'd like to work on. He puffs up as if he doesn't need much work. "Oh you know, well, I'd just like to tone up a little. You know, stay fit. No area in particular." She smiles, "Well, we have great trainers here who can help work on problem areas." Yes, they do, I think to myself as the tour moves along.

Their ads feature half-naked body builders and nymph-like models; hands and legs all over each other. Their slogan: LOOK BETTER NAKED. Those three words haunted me for weeks. Even I didn't want to look at myself naked. My job at a graphic design firm didn't involve too much movement. With seven women and one very quiet guy in the Studio, we were prone to bringing in sweet treats on a weekly basis. Any and every occasion called for cake, cupcakes or cookies. Needless to say, my clothes started to fit differently. My midsection was growing and half the clothes in my closet were blacklisted for revealing the bulge. After I quit my job, I hit an all time low. I went home for a cousin's wedding and my mom was near tears when she saw me in my dress — it wasn't because I looked beautiful in it. Even my aunts, who are happily rotund and normally blind to weight issues, exclaimed that this was the fattest they'd ever seen me. The day I retuned to Chicago, I signed up for a tour and a free one-hour personal training session at the David Barton Gym. It didn't take much to convince me to join. Beautiful people abounded. I told myself that having them around would challenge me.

Today I'm 10 pounds lighter and feeling pretty good about myself. That is, until my gym nemesis walks by. With her long blonde hair parted down the middle, tied back in a low pony-tail and her cute matching gym outfit that doesn't leave much for the imagination. Once again I watch all the guys' heads turn. She looks like an old college mate of mine who lived on the same floor as I did in our freshman year dorm. Her name was Olga and she was of Lithuanian descent. Occasionally we sat together in the cafeteria and I would watch in wonder as she finished off a salad, have two rounds at the buffet, and an ice cream cone at the end of her meal. It must be genetics, I think as I watch Olga's doppelganger hop onto the cross-training machine in front of me while I try to make up for the cardio that I missed out on because of aforementioned 30-something creep. I curse and envy her as she effortlessly glides on the machine. She makes exercising look easy and sexy. After 15 minutes, she hops off of the machine. I cry inside. I've been on this freaking machine for 38 minutes and my body doesn't look anything like hers! I push on for seven more minutes more determined than ever.

Walking back to the locker room, my legs buckle at the knees a bit, but I maintain balance and control. High on endorphins and feeling better, I take a look at myself in the mirror. I definitely feel skinnier. Whether I look it is another story. In the locker room, soothing music plays in the background as the lunch time crowd trickles in. I walk to my locker but I stop. Some girl is changing into her gym clothes and decides to use locker 177, which happens to be right next to mine. Hello!? There are all these other empty lockers along the other walls, why must she pick the locker right next to mine? To make things worse, her things are strewn all over the bench and she doesn't even bother to move them over when I excuse myself and unlock my lock. I take my gym bag out and drag my feet over to the other bench on the other side and plop it down. I glare at her as I peel off my sweaty attire. She slams her locker shut, turns around, smiles at me then walks off. How rude.

I decide to release my locker room angst in the steam room. Wrapped in a towel, I sludge over to the scale to weigh myself before I get steamed up, but Olga floats out with a towel wrapped around her waist — flat stomach and perky breasts fully exposed. Now, I'm as straight and boy crazy as they come, but I cannot help but stare at her perfect body. I decide to forego the weigh-in and turn my back on the scale. In the steam room, I wallow in my pool of misery and sweat. I take a power nap and after 15 minutes come out refreshed and happy. I walk to my shower — not really just mine, but it's the best one there. The third stall on right. It has the best water pressure and the temperature doesn't waver between lukewarm to scalding hot like the other ones do.

While shampooing my hair I can hear two girls having a conversation with each other with voices loud enough to hear each other over the walls of the shower stalls.

"So how did the weekend with the family go?"

"Oh my gawd... I don't think that J** realizes that his mom is so rude and annoying. I mean, she's just so obnoxious. And it totally runs in the family, his sisters are the same way. I mean, the other day..."

I want to interject with, "Oh my gawd... I find it really annoying when girls speak ridiculously loud about something I don't want to hear while I'm showering." But I keep my comments and thoughts to myself, as usual.

When I go back to my locker, all is clear. I'm so relieved. I dry off and dress in my underwear. I walk over to the vanities to blow dry my hair, but I become sheepish when I see the other women putting on their make-up in their matching underwear. Do women really wear matching underwear on a daily basis? Here I am with my crazy floral patterned panties and uncoordinated tan bra while the one woman behind me is in a lacy black bra and thong, and the other woman next to me has on a maroon colored set. I become more nervous as the two locker room attendants exchange a conversation in Spanish and start cackling. Are they talking about my mismatched undies? My love handles? My thunder thighs? I want to die. Why didn't I pay attention more in Spanish class? I need to invest in matching underwear... this gym is turning out to be more than I bargained for!

As I go through my facial regimen, I see Olga appear at the vanity behind me. I can't help but stare again. Even her clothes fit as if every centimeter were hemmed specifically to match her proportions. I wait for her to leave before I even attempt to do my squeeze into my jeans dance. After the coast is clear, I do my denim jig and when all is buttoned and zipped I wipe the perspiration off my brow. There must be an easier way. I look up at the clock, it's 1 o'clock. This is too much. I need to find a better day job than spending all this time at the gym. Tomorrow, I start the magical leek soup diet.   ✶

 

About the Author(s)

Bora Un spends her days working out the gym and on her thesis. She's aiming to earn her master's sometime in 2008. When she needs a break, she wreaks havoc in Chicago and writes about her experiences on her blog.

Illustration by Phineas X. Jones.

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