By Louise Chamis
See, I have this titanium knee – no Bionic Woman jokes, please. It cost Medicare $85,000 and I ended up walking like the comedian, Tim Conway, doing his old man bit. I know that exercise helps, so I decided maybe I should join a gym, although to say I’m a mature person is putting it mildly. A dear, sweet physical therapist I know suggested a place called L.A. Fitness.
She knows – I don’t – so I went and checked it out. I found the place with no trouble and walked up to the front desk. A sweet young thing that looked like Snow White in spandex gave me the pitch. “If you sign up today, blah, blah, blah.” I’d heard that before, but it was true: A special: twenty five dollars if you did it today and then twenty-nine dollars a month. It seemed fair and if I could exercise and walk better, it would be worth it. I asked the young lady what her name was. I always do that, because it’s more personal.
She told me it was Yeva, but she didn’t know what it meant. I suggested she make up a meaning, like Magical Princess. She liked the idea and as a thank you, she assigned Roberto to show me around. Roberto was a delicious young man, about twenty or twenty-five, a romance novel-hero type, with black hair and smoldering dark eyes. He was adorable, in a sexy but naïve way. He guided me past the huge front desk to a large room that housed seventy exercise machines, all in use.
There were the ubiquitous treadmills, stationary bikes, ellipticals, etc. The room had the feeling of a frantic beehive, with beautiful young people trying desperately to stay young and become more beautiful. Even though I am way past it, I can still appreciate a tight young tush and there were plenty of them. Roberto showed me the location of the showers, the lockers and the pool. He was being very helpful. “Are you an actor?” I asked as I was leaving. “No, m’am.” How we hate the m’am thing, but it’s just part of his politeness. “Just as well,” I said, “You probably could work, because you look like George Clooney.” “Tell me, m’am…” There’s that m’am thing again. “…what is it about George Clooney that has all the women gaga about him?” “Well, first of all,” I answered, “He doesn’t take himself too seriously and he has those wicked, smiling eyes. Just one look and he can melt any woman’s heart.” I could see from the blank expression on Roberto’s face that he just wasn’t getting it.
So I elaborated: “Like this.” I dusted off my Italian come-hither look and hit him with it. It still worked! Roberto suddenly became very uncomfortable. He missed the point, though; he thought the look was for him. “Now, check out this look.” I gave him an angry, now you’re- in-trouble look, so he wouldn’t misunderstand. “See the difference? It’s all in the eyes.” As I started to leave, Roberto said, “Goodbye, m’am. Behave yourself.” The next day, I stuffed my generous, round, Italian body into last year’s black bathing suit and stood in front of a mirror. We always wear black, because we oldies think it’s slimming. ‘Not too bad’, I thought. Then, ‘Who are you kidding?’ I do talk to myself, which isn’t unusual, but I also answer. I put street clothes over my bathing suit and carried a terrycloth cover up for after the swim.
At the gym, I took my place on the one elliptical machine that was free and took a walk uphill for twenty-two minutes. I was very proud of myself. I locked my outer clothes in the new locker and ventured out to the pool area in my cover up. I took it off cautiously. Nobody laughed. But then, nobody even looked because they were so involved with their own glorious bodies. There were four big bully guys swimming laps, two in each lane.
When I tried to enter the water, they informed me chorus-style that only two people were allowed in each lane at one time. This was when I wished I were a big weight-lifter type, so I could push their fat heads under the water, because nobody told me that rule and the air temperature had risen to about a hundred degrees now. I think they made it all up. While I waited for my turn, I checked out the hot tub. They’re not kidding: it’s so hot, you could use the water to make tea. I passed. I finally got my turn in the pool and did several laps. That was when I realized how out of shape I am. I am a determined Taurean, however, and there is always tomorrow. Just call me Slim. —