It’s been so long that I’m not sure. Maybe they do it differently these days, and I’ve been out of the game an age, but . . . there is a strong possibility I have been flirted with.
Lemme ‘splain. As part of my proactive approach to clawing out of the hole, I have been searching. I have tapped into creativity, I’ve been writing, I have read, and I have been taking long walks. Part of how I deal with emotions is by not dealing with them (read that here). When something is difficult to process or get through, my mind says “feel something different you can control – eat/drink/walk/sing/etc. until that’s all you feel. Crowd out the bad stuff.”
So I walked, and walked, and walked. I was walking 5-6 miles a day on the trail. I would leave the house and say “you can’t turn around to come back until you stop crying.” It would take twenty minutes or so, but I could stop crying. Then I would just keep going. There were some blisters, and chafe-age in awkward areas, but at least I was feeling that and not whatever emotion I should have been dealing with in a healthy way.
I had just discovered instagram story, so I documented every moment of it to give myself a purpose. I watched the trees change and felt pollen fly up my nostril directly to my brain and make me sneeze (which I lovingly refer to as a ‘face party’ because FEELS SO GOOD). I discovered the gender neutral bathrooms in the renovated 1950s train caboose outside the Danville History museum, complete with creepy train conductor mannequins and “choo choo” noises. I had people that were my “regulars” and we smiled and said hi every day.
The miles added up, the feelings started to dissipate, but my Trump ten+ since the election and the post-job depression pounds wouldn’t budge. My cousin got into amazing shape doing SoulCycle, which I had only heard of in passing. But I rode a cruiser during college (you know, just 11 years ago…) and I also forget I’m not 21 when it’s convenient for me, so I figured I’d be up for it.
I thought I was in decent shape, despite the visible evidence that indicated otherwise, so I went into this class, imagining i’d look just as cute as Ariana Grande does in her video.
I looked more like a sweaty Christmas ham on the verge of cardiac arrest. I was near tears and convinced everyone was looking at me (they weren’t), convinced I was going to die and no one would notice (very far from true; I’m sure as beautiful and fit and focused as they all were, someone would’ve noticed a body slumped over the handlebars). I was hyper aware of the sweat stains spreading in all sorts of places; as aware as I was of the muscles that I had apparently always had, lying dormant somewhere in my body, suddenly activated by the fresh hell that is Soulcycle. And complaining loudly to me about it.
The nice thing is that now nothing on any emotional or spiritual or physical plane hurts as much as my bike seat parts do at all times.
But after the initial free class and discounts, the prices are steep, and when you’re living an income-free life (doesn’t that sound cooler than “unemployed?” It’s all about the spin, baby) you just can’t pull off 30 bananas per class.
So I decided to join a cheap gym. I chose this kind of lame 24-hour joint after a few hours of yelp-review deliberation. I called and said I might come in and wanted to know the plans for joining if I were leaving in three months. The guy on the phone sounded friendly enough, but like he didn’t know heads from tails. I went in anyway.
And then. He’s cute. And for some reason smiling at my face. Which remembers how to smile back. And I’m suddenly realizing that my armpits have had only the vaguest sort of relationship with a razor in the last few weeks. And for reasons we had to stand and talk to each other politely for 30 minutes waiting for the manager. This forced me from my usual ‘we don’t need to talk much at all’ defensive posture towards all unknown males, to ‘chit chat is acceptable’ to ‘why are you being so nice to me; I look terrible and this membership sale isn’t on your commission so calm down.’ to ‘well arent you a nice guy. Go on.’
Thing is – I am a train wreck around guys I think are cute. I don’t know why I am like this. It wouldn’t bother me to lead worship or the Macarena or to officiate a wedding in front of thousands of people. But one cute guy pays more than zero attention to me and I lose all composure. (It should be noted here that I have some really weird and specific things I find attractive, so it’s rare enough to find someone I’m attracted to…this is another post.)
I say stupid stuff, if I can talk at all. I am generally stand-offish; I sweat profusely and worry about all the things about my personality and appearance.
But this odd behavior of mine rarely comes up because in 99% of all circumstances involving interacting with the opposite sex, they aren’t interested in me. Even when I was younger and more attractive, I have never been a girl that guys just walked up to and wanted to know based on my looks. My relationships were always slow burn friendships where suddenly you look at each other and think “I am completely in love with you and if I don’t kiss you now I will die.” But I am generally happy (although fiercely protective) while performing the role of the chubby, opinionated, entertaining sidekick to the main attractions that are my gorgeous friends.
And in this moment, at the 24 hour fitness that closed at 10pm, I knew I looked like what the cat dragged in, and always would, especially compared to the upper middle class suburban moms and teens I’d be side-by-side with. I explained that I was moving to Hong Kong in July. And yet he was still so persistently nice . . . one of those conversations where you find yourself admitting pretty private things very casually because you figure ‘what the hey.’ And it felt good.
And then I went in the next day, and he wasn’t there. I felt mild disappointment. The second day, the same thing. Now we were up to medium disappointment (because I scale feelings like salsa, apparently).
But the third day, after I had decided I was being silly and had not joined a gym to flirt with guys who were probably not even remotely interested in me but just bored behind a desk and I am going to prove to myself that I don’t even care by just wearing whatever and no makeup and just ONE swipe of deodorant but NO chapstick . . .
Feeling thus empowered, I went in, saw him, and immediately blushed. And felt that pleasant bottoming out of your stomach and that not so pleasant instant rush of sweat to the underarms when you have a crush. We said something stupid to each other as I tried to enter my check in number on the keypad. I can’t remember the words exchanged because even though my key code is my own phone number, being perhaps flirted with managed to wipe my memory clean of the cell number I have had for 15 years.
In passing in the few days since then, he’s said some silly things which might indicate attraction. I mean, it’s terrible, but I’m enjoying it.
For example, the other day, I checked in and he said “you’re here again?” To which I replied “um…the gym is kinda like, a daily thing?” He fumbled the response to that one, but I was so tickled I can’t really remember what he said. I do know I sprayed some cheap Victoria Secret body spray on before I walked out past the front desk, and did that STUPID thing we all do where we pretend not to see someone, secretly hoping they’ll say something to you first, so you can act like you’re cool and just respond instead of initiating.
Anyway. He did say something. I win. I win the game that no one knew about but me and I was the only one playing but I still won.
And nothing will ever come of it; we’ll just keep making awkward eye contact in the eight million mirrors that line the walls of the gym, and saying goofy things to each other at the check in desk, maybe graduating from knuckles to a high five one day. But its fun and harmless and gives me a reason to comb my hair. I’d forgotten that roller coaster stomach wave of butterflies and heated flush of catching someone staring at you that you actually want to stare at you. I wish it happened when I was doing something cooler than grasping the handles of a stairmill and trying not to slip off in a puddle of my own sweat and tears but . . . it’s a start.
if you haven’t heard it yet today and you need to, go outside and catch some nature. She loves you.