Complaint 3/7: Calisthenics, or, unneeded movement.

Me: Didn’t we get into the academy so we wouldn’t have to like sports?

Colleague: I think we went to grad school for different reasons.


Dear ones,

All of my friends and colleagues have turned traitor and now exercise–and my blood is filling up with fat. Driven by fear and peer pressure, I have decided, once again, to  ‘work out’. I will not pay for a gym membership. Not because it is immoral—although I suspect it is—but because I won’t actually go. I once bought a membership and went twice, meaning that I ended up paying seventy-five dollars an hour to engage in meaningless lifting.

This leaves yoga. Yoga works  because it is absolutely humiliating. The humiliation reminds me of all the things I enjoy, without, of course, being enjoyable. More importantly, in a Yoga class, there is a Person with a Voice who will pass judgment if you get up and leave part way through. And after about 10 minutes, I so very much want to leave. After 20 minutes, I feel like I’ve been tear gassed.

Have you ever been tear gassed, dear ones? Tear gas, in the right dosage, convinces your body, your blood and muscles, lungs and brain, that you are going to die. Not in the future, but Right Now. Calling this effluvium ‘tear gas’ was a bit of PR brilliance. Yoga is more or less the same for me, but despite being convinced that I’m done for, I don’t try to run.

I remain, because the Voice’s disapproval is more terrifying than the fact that my flimsy body is convinced it will die after spending more than 3.5 second in whatever scoliotic variation of downward dog I can muster. Dear ones, you think I’m joking, but I really do panic, every time.

So, I have developed a strategy. It is not as good as my old strategy, which was to never exercise, or the strategy I developed after that, which was to end each session with a beer and a burger, but it is the strategy I can now afford: I turn my panic, which wants to run, into a paralyzing fear. Only fear can stop me from fleeing when, as it always does, The Voice say something like this:

“This is good place to relax, and breath into your body”

But I cannot. I cannot because I am in pain, because my muscles are burning, because a woman twice my age is gracefully sliding through the same pose, while a man twice my size is grunting with sweaty self-appreciation in the corner. I cannot because I am weak, and should not be here.

But the doctors have spoken, the cholesterol is mounting, and the Voice must not see me falter. So I stay there, quivering, squinting through sweat at a clock that does not move, cultivating my fear.

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