Thursday, December 19, 2013

Damn You, Gymo-orexics

While my ample thighs and noticeable jiggle might lead one to believe otherwise, I'm typically a gym-goer. I hit the treadmill, lift weights, do a little yoga. I even hop on that escalator machine they call a StepMill, which really deserves a more telling title. Maybe one with some kick-your-ass to it like, The Destroyer or The "You Want Some of This?"

But I digress. My point really is that I go to the gym and I do my fair share of sweating and grunting and panting (oh my!). As soon as I step into one of those group classes though, I feel like a "before" contestant on the Biggest Loser. Sure, I get through the warm-up just fine, but fifteen minutes in, I'm thirsty, out-of-breath, doing that little hands-on-hips, walk-in-place, gimme-a-minute kind of move that can only mean one thing, "That bitch is out of shape!" In my mind, I run through a litany of excuses: "Well, clearly I just didn't have enough protein at breakfast" or "I must have a lower sweat threshold" or "Uh-oh, maybe I'm dying." (If you know me, you know it's something I occasionally wonder.)

Of course, you can't interrupt the class to explain why you're so embarrassingly uncoordinated and out-of-breath. So, I'll usually stop to get water since, hello, you have to keep hydrated. Or I'll pretend to be one of those people with an ongoing sports-related injury. You know, I suddenly stop and bend my knee over and over with a "Now, that's curious," look on my face. To make it more authentic, I keep the accompanying internal monologue going in my head, Is that my knee clicking? Oh WHY does that bum joint of mine have to act up now, of all times, in Zumba class?

So my own shameful performance is just one reason I hate group classes. The other problem: Those damn Gym-orexics. You know those women--of any age--who are all fit and muscled and clearly don't have day jobs or young kids, so I hate them. They're the ones who always do the "extra challenge" in yoga and say "ohm" like super-loud and longer than anyone. They're the ones who are jogging in place between boxing combinations. They're the ones that the teachers know by name. Bitches. 

There are also the Pre-Cardio Ladies. The ones who come to class already sweaty and worked-out. They did the cardio before the cardio, as though the 45-minute session that busts my butt and leaves me panting in the corner just isn't enough for their 5% body fat frame. Sometimes they've done an hour-long run already. Sometimes, they hit the Booty Boot Camp class just before. Again, bitches. 

That's okay though. It motivates me...sorta. If these women can do two classes in a row, I can at least make it through one, right? Mind over matter? But no, even if I spend the first twenty minutes bouncing and kicking and salsa-dancing like never before, even if I stop for only two sips of water, even if I don't fake an injury, I rarely make it more than thirty minutes. No, just when I start to feel like that lady who swam from Cuba, the Pre-Cardio Ladies start adding in their own extra twist, they start double-timing it, they lift three times their body weight. And suddenly, I feel like a big, blobby mess all over again and my motivation dies.

I go to the gym to feel better about myself. I work out to feel healthier. I don't need to feel like I'm not exercising good enough, especially since the "not good enough" thing haunts every other aspect of my life. So from now on, I'm sticking to my solo exercises, those beautiful machines that allow me to just do me. At least that way, the only person I have to prove anything to is myself.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

OMG, Make The Overeager Talk Stop!

(This essay, originally titled "Like OMG! Why Grown WOmen Speak Like Teenagers Online" was originally published on Role/Reboot.)

 I have a problem, an embarrassing problem. I’m ashamed to even admit it, although I have a feeling that my friends and family may already be clued in. I don’t think I’m alone in it either, so maybe by speaking out, I can help other women come clean too.

So, with a deep breath, here’s my confession: When I text, email, and IM, I talk like a freaking preteen.

No, I don’t take selfies, I don’t twerk, and I don’t follow the Biebs, but I use so many acronyms, you’d think I was writing in NSA-level code. My emails are studded with so many exclamation points that the page looks like a paint-splattered Jackson Pollock. I begin many texts with an OMG, even if it’s to say, “OMG, clementines are on sale!” or “OMG, Target’s dollar bins are amaze right now!” I’ve somehow managed to avoid falling into the LOL trap (go me!), but I feel compelled to respond to a clever email with multiple “haha’s” to indicate genuine gut-busting laughter instead of sarcasm. Although not a huge fan of emoticons, I do use Emoji’s on occasion, jokingly, like responding to a “See you soon!” text with two tango dancers and a peace sign.

So why, oh why, have I adopted the enthusiastic e-speak reserved for cheerleaders? Am I trying to keep up with the kids these days? Is it because it’s just so adorable? Or is it because I have some kind of aversion to being taken seriously as a grown-ass woman, one who can spell and speak in full sentences? I’m in my mid-30's, for God’s sake. I have children. I’m a smart, articulate, thoughtful adult who actually writes for a living…with real words. What am I doing?

Sadly, I know exactly what I’m doing. In the fuzzy world of cyber-connection, I’m trying to make sure I come across as pleasant, friendly, happy, easy. Without my voice to indicate tone, I have to rely on my words and when words don’t cut it, I turn to enthusiastic exclamation points and gold-star-sticker language (Awesome! Great! You rock!).

As I write a simple exchange, I think about the other person, and how he or she will interpret what they read. If an email gets too serious, too direct, I sweeten it with rah-rah language. I try to convey that I’m psyched to turn in a piece on a super-tight deadline. And that newborn of yours is especially super-adorable because I told you, “AAAAAAAAH” in all caps and then said I was dying of cuteness overload. And what you just wrote was way funny, so funny that I can’t stop typing “h” and “a” over and over and over until I get carpal tunnel of the thumbs. Your boss was flirting with your husband? Maybe I’ll throw in some all-caps to express my shock and awe, and a question mark/exclamation point combo that really highlights how confounded I am. I might even extend the vowel for that gasp effect. (WHAAAAAT?! REALLY?!)

Am I overthinking it? Um, duh, you think? In my efforts to be engaged, I’ve clearly created my own monster. When I think back, I realize that I may have even started using OMG ironically. Once the overeager cyber-speak began though, I couldn’t just stop. After all of my usual excitement, a simple period might come across as abrupt, rude, cold. Seriously. I’ll admit that sometimes I’ve read emails from friends, family, and editors and assumed annoyance in a simple “sure” response. At some point, they clearly hit me with the “thanks so much!” or “xoxo,” and now I’ve come to expect it. Ah, it’s a vicious cycle, stemming from one very common affliction: a need many of us women have to be nice, almost too nice.

It’s not a problem that men have, at least as far as I can tell. I’ve never once received an abrupt email from a man and wondered, “Is he mad at me?” Even when I’m bugging my husband at work via Gchat, his series of “ok,” “np,” and “ttyl” lines don’t offend me. (Just in case you need me to translate, the latter two are “no problem” and “talk to you later.”) I just assume he’s busy. If I get that kind of short answer from a female friend though, oh, hell no, I’ve got to ask, “Everything OK?” And nine times out of 10, yes, they’re just busy too. Still, I readily accept this kind of shorthand from men, and question it from women, either because of my own e-patois or theirs.

I know that those of us guilty of this have good intentions. We want to keep things pleasant. We want to let someone know we appreciate their kindness or their sense of humor. Sometimes we want to avoid confrontation. And, yes, sometimes we just want to be liked.

Whatever the reason though, I worry that I may be coming across as fluffy, empty, and weak-minded, even in business emails. I am easy-going, I am friendly, I am happy to help. I also think my friends’ stories and quips are really funny and that their children are especially cute, or else I wouldn’t say anything.

My feelings are genuine, but thanks to all of my effusive language, it’s awkwardly expressed. I think I’m doing myself a disservice. The problem is that, as annoying as I’m starting to find my own e-speak, it may be too late to stop now.