Pam offers to treat me to a free class at The Bar, a group exercise class combining movements borrowed from ballet, pilates, and – in my own personal summation – hell. But all of the bun-searing, muscle burning horror is rewarded with a firm body and an exercise regime that warrants its own PR Celebrity Kit. Yeah, me and Drew…you know, Drew Barrymore…we’ve got the same ass. Well, we would have the same ass but I’m not sure I have the stamina to return.
I sign in at the front desk, greeted by three smiling faces. I later feel that this enthusiasm is a little misleading; like farmers leading the cows to slaughter. But for now, it’s charming and beguiling. I am thus beguiled. I fill out a piece of paper limiting their liability if I somehow destroy myself in the next few hours. Mom is listed as my emergency contact, per the usual, even though she is 400 miles away in Los Angeles and in this case there is probably someone who could more quickly aid me if said destruction were to actual commence.
Pam leads me to the ladies locker room, across the way from the gentlemens’ locker room. Judging from the predominately female crew hanging around the water cooler (literally), I imagine this to be a mere visual courtesy, giving the illusion that men might actually join in the frolicking to tighten up their backsides. Behind that door I imagine cardboard cutouts of toilets and sinks. After placing my purse in my personal locker, safety code 4444, I remove my shoes and put on my little gray and pink socks purchased from Marks & Spencer the day I wore Veronica’s size 8 shoes on my size 10 feet.
I head into the exercise room. The floor is covered with delightfully padded carpet and the walls are mirrored. It feels like Mommy and Me class gave birth to a ballet studio. Pam gives me a set of 2 lb weights and other set of 3 lb weights, something that seems unnecessary until I realize that every additional ounce make the difference between my arms falling off completely and immediately or just shaking uncontrollably, attempting to run away from my body. I make note that Pam is expert enough to use the 3 lbs and the 3 lbs only. She is my hero.
The instructor wears a headset even though the room is small enough that her voice would carry just fine on its own. It’s an impersonal device in a personal space and I am perplexed by it for the duration of the class. She compresses the sound of her own voice neatly and tidy as pre-sliced deli meat, packaged and vacuum sealed. She’s like an 80s work out video vixen with the voice of a thoughtful child therapist. “And tuck…tuck…tuck…tuck…” she continues while I burn.
We start off with arms, an experience that leaves me with a debilitating charlie horse and a greater respect for a 2 lb dumbbell. Pam corrects my posture which makes it harder. Throughout the next hour and a half I will continually cheat with my body, making it infinitely less painfully and also less effective. I had initially dreamed of Drew’s bum, but now all I want to do is get through to the end without running for the door like an wimpy little nancy pants.
My lack of skills is increasingly apparent when instructed to do a move aptly called “The Pretzel.” It involves a sort of splayed contortion that I am capable of, but movement from that point forward that I struggle to achieve. I stare at myself in the mirror, legs splayed face down in the shape of a swastika, watching while everyone moves a specific leg up and down, up and down. Pam motions for me to move my leg. And if I could, I would. The instructor kindly mentions over her headset that those of us who cannot do the lifts are suggested to mimic them. So I try that. I look like a sand crab with broken back legs. I stifle a laugh for my own benefit.
At the ballet bar, I throw my leg up in a most unladylike fashion and am then told to touch my toes. I go for my shins instead because toes have always been out of the question for me in terms of flexibility. I am convinced that I have the hamstrings of someone a foot shorter than me and when I try to touch my toes I look like a fat man trying to look over his gut to his shoes somewhere below. Impossible. We switch sides, at which point Pam looks over at me and says, “For someone so tall, you’re sure not graceful.” Nope. I am most definitely not.