Monday, February 18, 2008

Tribes

Waking up is an ache, eyelids ebb to darkness. The sheets tangle my legs like tall weeds, the blanket a weight. This is the first battle of the day, 6 am, mid-winter morning. If I can get out of bed soon enough, I have time to go to the gym. Thirty minutes of cardio, a quick shower and then, I am off to work. I am hoping that this will shave off a few pounds.


It's only been a couple of weeks since I started going to the gym in the morning. More than anything, starting a new routine is the most difficult. Mentally, you fight it, you just want to just sink deeper into the couch and reach into a bag of potato chips for comfort. But today, the imaginary sound of jeering at my lumpy abs pushed me out of bed.

The gym in the morning is not a pretty sight. The people here stumbled out of bed in their rumpled shirts, ponytails, stubble and beards. I call these folks The Determined. They include people who are generally optimistic: people who are determined to stick with their New Year's resolutions; 40 year-old guys determined to lose weight faster than losing their hair; brides who are determined to fit into their wedding gowns by June.

There is hardly any talking; people are either in the zone or they have morning breath. I'm of the latter.

The only people chatting are the ones lifting weights. Weirdos. Who lifts weights in the morning? Besides, it's hard to be chatty first thing in the morning, especially after you just woke and realized that your body has gone to shit and unless you can come up with $5,000 for lipo, you have to be on that damn treadmill.

After my run, I don't dawdle in the locker room. For gay guys, the locker room has sort of a languid effect: we take like 30 minutes to put on a sock when it normally takes seconds. I shrug it off, I can cruise the showers when I come back later after work.

Come back later? Yes, you heard me right. After work, I head back to the gym to do some weight lifting. My biceps cry when I neglect them.

The gym in the evening is a totally different scene. The regulars--the ones who have managed to stick around after their trial membership was over--are a very peculiar bunch. I call them The Deranged: homos in our standard lung-crushing outfits; women in full make-up and hair; businessmen in pit-stained undershirts. Some are multi-taskers, combining their work-out with reading a book, catching up on the news or twirling an imaginary baton.

There are also the American Idol hopefuls, who sing along with their iPods, melisma included; the ones who do little dance moves as they go from machine to machine; and my personal favorites, the rapper wannabe's who rap under their breaths, throwing arms and hands as if they were on BET.

Then, there is Lance. Lance is a tall black guy who does the most insane dance moves on the elliptical machine. He puts on his tunes, then does full-on dance routines as if he was auditioning for Bruno and Carrie Ann. I serious. He crank dat and superman dat ho the whole 30 minutes on the machine. I don't know whether to laugh or give him my phone number.

(And listen folks, just because we have our tunes on, and we can't hear you fart, doesn't mean we can't smell you. So please, at least move to a corner or stand next to somebody really annoyingly skinny before releasing your fumes.)

But I try to avoid going to the gym at lunch time. The people who work out at noon are whom I call The Desperate: brides one week from their wedding day; bridesmaids who don’t want to be the 'fat one' in the party; Adnan Ghalib. These are the people who have the motto "Starvation = Hope," sort of ironic, I think in these post-Katrina times.

I understand completely of course, if I don’t lose 5 pounds before the Oscars, the superbowl of the gays, I'll just die. You know there will be a bunch of A-list parties that won't let me in because I will flunk the body fat detector machine they put by the door.

But I am of The Determined; this is my tribe--for now. It's already working: I pulled out a pair of jeans that I used to wear 5 years ago and I can almost snap the button around my thigh. Pretty soon, I will be able to put both legs in. I still have just a leeetle bit of time to lose some more weight before I have to start working out at lunch...

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