Monday, July 14, 2014

Social Minefields at the Gym

I have recently started going to the gym again. I’d forgotten how many minefields there are there are for somewhere that’s supposed to be a temple of calm. There are so many ways in which you can make a total arse out of yourself, or want to disappear into a sweaty puddle (in the steam room, of course).

For instance, when going for a swim, what is the correct etiquette? Are you supposed to say ‘hello’ if another person goes into the pool? Or nod? Or even make eye contact? What is the acceptable limit of times you can look at said person to attempt some sort of greeting (It’s 3. After that, it gets a little embarrassing)? And don’t even get me started on the Jacuzzi (or hot tub, just to cover all bases). Are you supposed to wait to go in there if there’s another person in there or do they secretly want your company so they don’t have to spend the time staring aimlessly around the walls? I spent a good fifteen minutes attempting to look ‘natural’ and trying not to stare into the security camera when I was in there the other day, but that could just be me.

I’ve always found the sauna a little awkward, because, well, you’re basically sitting in a very enclosed, hot room in your underwear with several strangers. With complete visibility. And then there’s the inevitable conversation that you have because, well, it’s the polite thing to do. Sometimes it’s great, and your fellow sauna buddy could be really nice and interesting. But sometimes, God, it’s torture. Boring, tedious torture. And exiting the room is a concept just out of reach because you’re engaged in a conversation that won’t seem to end. Still, if it gets really bad, feigning heat exhaustion is always an option. The steam room is in a way, worse. Yes, good for hiding body from pervy old men, bad for recognising pervy old men and accidentally starting yet another weird conversation about their life story. Again.

The gym itself is an endless pit of staring. Some men stare at you as if you are some kind of anomaly (Newsflash: it is very normal for women to go to the gym). I’ll admit to be a starer too: mainly at self-important body-builders flexing seven different muscles and trying out different shades of ‘Blue Steel’ in the mirror (whilst I try not to giggle). If you’ve ever used a small gym, there’s also the tricky business of getting to the front of the queue for the sole treadmill whilst trying to appear nonchalant and not like you are about to pounce as soon as the current user hits the stop button.

I can only wait for more uncomfortable encounters.

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