“I usually try to visit another gym when I go away,” I told my gym-mate last night. “I’ll do it alone, but it’s much more fun to go with someone.”
“I hear ya,” replied Gym-Mate, a largish, solid, shaven-headed man whom I could be afraid of (if I didn’t know him or jiu jitsu) and saw him while walking down a darkened, deserted street. In reality he is my sweetest, gentlest, and most good-natured classmate.
“It can be awkward,” he continued, “going alone. Everyone else knows each other and they always pair up.”
“Plus, they have their own warm-ups . . .” I added.
“ . . . and everyone knows them except you . . .” he finished.
“Yeah, and there I am, looking like a fool, trying to get the crazy warm-up right. Oh, I’ll go, but it’s much more fun with, say, Cousin Of Shark Girl. At least if there is someone else who feels the same out-of-sorts, it’s more comfortable, easier to laugh about. Plus,” I said, “as a woman, I often get really weird reactions when I go alone.”
“Really?” Gym-Mate asked.
“Really.” I recounted some of them, (including this one.)
“Wow. That’s crazy. ”
“I know. People are like, ‘Who is this tiny, middle-aged woman, and why is she here?’ They think I’m spying for the NSA or something.”
“Yeah, but then when they roll with you, they know you’re legit.”
Wow. Legit. That word made my day. You see, I am a tiny, middle-aged woman. And I’ve never ever been remotely legit in any athletic context. Sure, I have done some marathons and half marathons in my day. But I wasn’t ever legit. I couldn’t hang with “real” runners. I’m slow and plodding. I get the job done, sure. But that’s about it.
Growing up, I was the four-eyed kid whom noone wanted on their team, because, well, I sucked. Hell, I wasn’t even legit in my kindergaten dance class. Mrs. C., my instructor, tried to hide me behind the hulking, ogrish girls because I “didn’t know the steps.” (“But I can’t see her,” Mother of Little Shark Girl complained.)
Maybe I would have been legit in aerobics. I went to town on them in the ‘80s, but in the late ‘90s the dance steps got too effing fancy for me. Give me some Paula Abdul and a hot pink and green step and I am so legit—except when I miss the step on the way down and roll an ankle.
That's me wayyyy in the back. . . . This is long but hold out for Alan Thicke's painful jokestering.
So, thank you, Gym-Mate, for your unassuming compliment. It meant so much to me, perhaps because I have always struggled with the mediocrity of my athleticism, and because now, in my 40s, I have found, quite by chance, a sport that suits me, and I long desperately not to be mediocre in this, too.
Folks, in the coming weeks Shark Girl will be going on vacation, and you know what that means. If you see a tiny, middle-aged woman coming in to visit your gym, she could be legit!
Here's another tidbit for you. I definitely see how the 1988 Crystal Light Aerobics Championship influenced early-90s dance moves.
Don't you wish the godfather of jiu jitsu would give you gi pants?