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Category: humor

Oh to Be a Gym Bunny Again (wait, I never was one!)

sadly, this rat looks cuter than I do at the gym
sadly, this rat looks cuter than I do at the gym
I’ve become a gym rat, which is a good thing. I say gym rat, not bunny, because there is a serious distinction between the two, and sadly, I’ve aged out of the gym bunny phase. Not that I ever was one, mind you. Somewhere along the line I missed that stage, darn it. Gym bunnies are those gorgeous, svelte young women who turn heads at the gym even when they haven’t showered and are drenched in sweat. The only head I turn these days at the gym is my own, in an attempt to get my nose far, far away from the smell that is the very byproduct of gym-going. But that’s okay, I’ve resigned myself to my rat status. It’s better than not being a gym creature of any sort (i.e. sofa sloth), a status I had adopted by neglect for a good while there. So it feels good to be back at the gym, even with the assignation of some disease-bearing rodent.
she is a rodent, isn't she?!
she is a rodent, isn't she?!

Although being middle-aged at the gym does present its levels of shame, no doubt about it. Take for instance the day I was in an abs class. The gym bunny instructor was blasting music while we strengthened our core (or attempted to, in my case) and I recognized the song from long, long ago (back when I should have been able to enjoy the benefits of being a gym bunny, only gyms weren’t so common back then, even though I still wasn’t bunny material, regardless).

“Now most of you are too young to recognize this,” I said, a hint of joviality to my voice. “But this is the intro music to the Jane Fonda Workout Record.”

Yes, I did say record in that sentence. As in record album, circa two thousand years ago. (As an aside, my son has found it to be very hip-retro to have purchased a record player and now stockpiles cheesy old LPs just because he can occasionally find them at antique stores. Argh, who ever thought one day articles from my era would be considered antiques?! I feel like Martha Washington.)

I looked around the gym, hoping to see a face of solidarity (the kind with telltale crow’s feet). Someone, but someone, who would a) know who Jane Fonda is, and b) fondly recall Jane in her soothing post-Vietnam protest voice reminding us to “feel the burn” while the Jackson Family crooned “Can you feel it?”

Instead, here’s what I heard in a squeal from the instructor: “Oh, I think my mother had that album!”

Shoot me now. But at least she didn’t say her grandma had it. Thank heavens for tender mercies.

The gym offers up so much delusional potential. It hooks you on the fantasy of the you-that-will-likely-never-be. Shy of a hollow-leg budget allowing for endless personal trainers, maybe (and one rife with plastic surgery and liposuction to boot). It’s sort of like Hollywood, luring us in with the fake reality of it all. But we buy into it, hook, line and sinker. Yes, I can look like a gym bunny, if only I try, we tell ourselves. If only I go to every class and succumb to the unspoken peer pressure that is a given, like it or not.

Take for instance Nia. Now, if you take away all of the encumbrances of pride and self-respect, Nia is a really fun class. You flail about in a la-la state, getting a surprisingly good workout, all things considered. The instructor is all flow and grace and wears funky clothes that look amazing on her and you project yourself onto her image, foolishly thinking you too look as sleek flitting about the ballet floor. Until you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and realize that in fact you look like the dancing hippos from Fantasia, and that oversized t-shirt ain’t doing you any favors in the style department. What we sacrifice in dignity for a good workout. But trust me, Nia and it’s contemporary cousin, the hip-happenin’ Zumba, these classes are for gym bunnies, not the rhythm- and physique-impaired like moi.

The peer-pressure factor is hard to resist at gyms. It is subtle, and usually self-imposed. It comes in a few forms: the “I’m not too old to do this” form—always a killer. Or the “if she can do it so can I” method. Natch. What happens with the self-imposed peer-pressure is you kill your gym fantasy with a career-ending injury, like, say, a torn meniscus, that makes it nigh impossible to work out without public tears, something you should never, ever reveal at the gym. Crying betrays your wimp factor and even if you’re near-dying, even if you have to take the elevator after your workout, your knee hurts so badly, you cannot cry.

The moral to the story (at least for me) is you leave the class when the kickboxing music is speeded up to high-on-crystal-meth level, so fast that injuries are inevitable. And when you see the yoga class is called Flying Dragon, you turn the other direction and fly away from it. So what that technically you can do it? Doing it and surviving it are two different things altogether. Repeat after me: anything with the words “flying” and “dragon” in it involving exercise are not for the faint of heart (or failing of physique).

Yeah, I’ll remember that for next time I find myself jonesing to be a gym rat. And remind myself that I’ll never be a gym bunny, so don’t even think I can act like one. Can you feel it?

Finally I Get to Welcome Memoirist (!) Kim Stagliano!


Kim Stagliano and I go wayyyyy back. We were cutting our teeth in this business at about the same time. Back then she was trying to have a novel published, but the more I learned about Kim and her extraordinary story and her even more compelling wit, the more I knew her efforts would be best directed at writing the memoir about her life. And she did it! Her story is about, as she puts it, “How one woman raises three daughters with autism, loses one at Disney World, stays married, has sex, bakes gluten-free, goes broke, and keeps her sense of humor. ‘Dr. Spock? Check. Penelope Ann Leach (remember her?)? Check. What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Check. I had a seven hundred dollar Bellini crib for God’s sake!'”

…and so begins Kim Stagliano’s electrifying and hilarious memoir All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Theresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism, about her family’s journey raising three daughters with autism. In these stories, Stagliano has joined the ranks of David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs with her amazing ability to lay everything on the table—from family, friends, and enemies to basement floods to birthdays to (possible) heroin addictions—eviscerating and celebrating the absurd. From her love of Howard Stern to her increasing activism in the autism community and exhaustive search for treatments that will help her daughters, she covers it all. Always outspoken, often touching, and sometimes heartbreaking, Kim Stagliano is a powerful new voice in comedic writing—her “Kimoir” (as she calls it) will be a must-read within the autism community and the literary world at large.

Here’s a little bit more about Kim:

Hi, I’m Kim Stagliano, wife, Mom, writer, tired. My husband and I have three gorgeous girls – who have autism. Kind of impossible, considering autism affects boys 4:1 over girls. Mark and I have learned that impossible is often inescapable though. My book is a humorous look at a life that has been anything but ordinary or easy – and yet is full of laughter, joy and love. I promise, you won’t need a Prozac to read it. :)

I’m available for Skype bookclub appearances and would love to learn about your story. Email me at kimstagliano@gmail.com. I’ll be happy to send you a free signed bookplate to pop into your copy if you’ll email me your receipt. Check out my website at Kim Stagliano for more info. I encourage you to support your local independent bookseller. Thanks!

And I really do urge you to pick up Kim’s book. She’s hilarious, to begin with. And her family’s story is unbelievable, really it is. And on top of it all, Kim busted up a crime ring! Seriously. Check it out here!

Oh, My Achin'...

once you hit middle age, sometimes you feel like this guy must
once you hit middle age, sometimes you feel like this guy must

“What’re you in for?” I asked an acquaintance I ran into while at physical therapy the other day.

“Bum hip,” she said, hobbling toward me as she winced. “You?”

“More like what am I not in for,” I groaned, pointing to my swollen knee and rubbing my aching lower back.

Seems I’m doomed to serve a life sentence in rehab (physical, mind you, not addiction-related), what with my perpetually disabled everything. And so far there are no signs of potential time off for good behavior.It’s gotten so bad, that I’ve had to triage my aching joints to capitalize on the hard-to-obtain appointments with the physical therapist to help mend my injuries-du-jour. I’d already had a standing date with a fabulous PT to work on my always-nagging lower back issues, but when I tore my meniscus (that’s in the knee, for all you age-related injury neophytes), all of a sudden the back issues had to take the back burner, in order to figure out how to work with a niggling knee problem instead. Like a medic on the war front, I’m dispatched to relegate the least of my injuries to the back, while refocusing on the worst of the worst just to get out of the line of fire and remain as intact as possible. Shame, too, because I always looked forward to my PT appointments for my hobbled back, as the therapist was masterful in loosening up those culprit hip flexor muscles that were causing my back to misbehave in the first place. And while the pleasure/pain factor was at a premium during that deep-tissue work (at times deep enough to nearly land me on the threshold of tears), the end results were worth the pain.

Sometimes I love physical therapy. Like when they hook you up to that fabulous e-stim and get your muscles tingling with the electrical zap being transmitted intra-bodily. Throw in one of those ultra-heated therapeutic warming pads and I’m sleeping like a baby in no time flat. But now the bum knee demands e-stim with ice, not such a stimulating event. Well, actually overly stimulating, as I sit there with my teeth chattering, watching my muscles jump involuntarily with the zap and counting the minutes till the torture is over.

Now, while all of this “kneecapping” (i.e. being cut off at the knees by physical limitations) is easily attributable to the lamentable deterioration of a body due to wear and tear (also known as aging, in layman’s terms), I fear that much of it is my own stupid fault: it’s thanks to me behaving as if I’m eighteen rather than not-quite-forty-eight. Refusing to accept that maybe kickboxing isn’t such a good idea at this point, for instance.

Although sometimes it’s due to other circumstances I should have controlled. Take, for instance, the Sam’s Club injuries. Who here hasn’t thrown out some bodily part while lugging an item far bigger than we need to purchase while shopping at Sam’s? Come to think of it, that’s how I originally threw my back out, years ago: hauling cases from shelf to cart, then cart to car, and finally car to home. Buying something in product-on-steroids volume that I don’t even need a case of, but only because it’s the only way you can purchase it for cheap: a gross of this, a palette of that and whammy, you’re wounded. The irony is that the cost savings of Sam’s Club acquisitions should go directly into the medical-insurance-physical-therapy fund, because guaranteed you’ll ultimately hurt something lugging that stuff around and need medical treatment for it, the cost of which will far exceed the ten percent you saved buying it there in the first place.

I’m convinced it’s no small coincidence that Sam’s Club sells bottles of Advil large enough to supply a small hospital for a month: most of their customers probably need the pills simply to ease the pain and inflammation from shopping-related physical damage. They might as well put Don’t Forget the Advil reminder poster at the exits, right by the little old folks who swipe those receipts with a highlighter marker to ensure no theft (God forbid the megalithic retail chain lose a buck or two along the way). I’m thinking the real theft is in Sam’s Club stealing my well-being away from me by forcing me to act in the capacity as a virtual longshoreman, hauling enormous cargo needlessly. Maybe Sam’s needs to contribute to my insurance bill at this point.

I remember as a child hearing my “elders” lament their age-related failings: the aches, the pains, the feet that hurt when rain was in the forecast. And I distinctly recall my smugly thinking at the time, “Well, if they’d only been more active and taken care of themselves they’d not be in this position.” Little did I know my cockiness would come back to bite me, dammit. More like chronically wound me. Trust me, I’m paying for it. And you know what they say about payback. Not only does it rhyme with witch, but it hurts like a rhymes-with-witch as well.

(and a day after my first appointment for my knee, the insurance called to say I was out of physical therapy appointment allowances for the year, dammit!)