Now again, those of you who know me figured out a long time ago that I am not the kind of person who embraces exercise. I have an active imagination. I think I should get points for that. Sometimes after I change my mind, I need to rest. But it wasn’t always this way. Way back in the middle school/high school days I played softball, basketball and volleyball. Sometimes I even ran when no one was chasing me. But I never really formed an attachment to sweating. That’s why the P.E. teacher, old Mrs. Bray and I couldn’t get along (who am I kidding. She was 24 and looked like a model). She insisted I run, do jumping jacks and tumbling and I insisted it would kill me. One day after a particularly hostile stand-off, she gritted her teeth, shook her finger in my face and said “One day you’re gonna be FAT!” If anybody knows where she is, you should consider letting her pick some lucky numbers for you. She’s good.
But when Vonda and I decided to join the aerobics class I wasn’t fat, just fluffy and headed on the fast track to chunky. The first discovery we made was that the class was taught in a store-front building with huge picture windows. Who plans these things? I mean, do the people sit down and say “Let’s get a room with a view. I’m sure all the chunky ladies would like to exercise in a well-lighted room, after dark so that people passing by can observe them.
The next gruesome discovery was that all the ladies wore cute little pastel leotards. This almost cost us the friendship. I was ready to let my deposit go and drown my sorrow in a strawberry milkshake. But Vonda, being the good friend as always, decided we didn’t have to wear one of those things. We went shopping together for sweat suits. She found a nice lightweight grey one that looked great on her. But they had nothing like that in my size. Mine was orange. Clemson orange. I wasn’t happy. Great, I thought, now I can go try out for the new team mascot, the Clemson Cow. Things weren’t off to a good start.
The first night came and we entered the room with our new sweatsuits and the smell of fear in our nostrils. There were a lot of happy, peppy women there. The instructor was the peppiest of all. I didn’t like her attitude. Okay, she was the size of a Barbie doll and excited about exercising. She didn’t stand a chance with me. She put on some lively music and instructed us to start stretching.
I’ve blocked so many of the memories out, but one of the first things we did was divide into teams of two, lie down with our feet touching and do sit ups facing each other. I found that easier than anything else I tried that night because with each sit up, I reached for Vonda’s neck. I never quite got my hands around it but I gave it all I had. After that we stood up and started doing some more complicated exercises to get our heart rates up. My heart rate had been up since I walked through the door. I couldn’t help but notice all the women around me delicately perspiring. I was sweating like a pig and huffing and puffing. My deodorant had raised a white flag of surrender during the sit ups and I had a cramp in one leg. I was ready to quit and that’s when I saw her. There she was across the room. Bless her heart. She looked as miserable as me. She actually looked worse than me. Her face was so red it looked like a fat tomato. She wasn’t in step with anybody else and her hair looked like she’d stuck her finger in a socket. Poor thing. Somebody should rescue her, get her a cold glass of water and tell her it was too late. Nothing could help her now. She should just go home and drown her sorrows in a bowl of praline ice cream. And what was she thinking wearing that orange sweat suit? It was then that two epiphanies hit me. One, I needed glasses and two, that was me in the wall to wall mirrors across the room. Score two points for the Clemson Cow.
About this time Vonda noticed a guy hovering outside the building near the door. She poked me and of course, I tried to hit her back but I pulled a muscle in my shoulder. “Hey look at that guy. He keeps watching all of us. He looks suspicious.” I looked in the same direction and sure enough, there he was, leaning against the brick wall trying to look nonchalant. I caught his eye and gave him my very best “you disgust me” look. He wasn’t fooling anybody. I had seen his kind in movies, always lurking in the cover of darkness, leering at innocent victims. Just a minute later, one of the women near me grabbed her bag and told the girls around her she had to leave early. She hurried outside where she kissed her husband and they jumped in the car together and left. Poor guy, he was just waiting for his wife. I decided exercise really brought out the worst in me.
We were worn out after that first class. About the only things on my body that didn’t hurt were my teeth and my ears. I don’t remember ever going back. I decided Vonda and I could be friends if she never talked about exercise in my presence again. We went on to cook together, bake cakes together, write stories together and even have our first children while we worked together. We never took another aerobics class together. There are some things even the best friendship can’t endure. I stuck the orange sweat suit in a dresser drawer where I’d come across it occasionally and be reminded of our exercise adventure. I’d laugh and remember the Clemson Cow. May she always find green pastures and good friends.