I am pretty obsessive about working out. I have become more so since I hurt my foot and was told not to run until further notice. That admonition was basically like feeding speed to the hamster in my head, who started running on his little wheel like a madman with the anxiety of OMG NO RUNNING! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW?!?!
I have a schedule and a route for how I run while I am in London, so with that out the window, I was left to either adapt…or die. Well, it obviously wasn’t that drastic, but the hamster clearly felt that way.
And this is the situation in which we now find ourselves. Am I ever going to be able to run distance again? The jury is still out. Recall:
So last night, I found a spinning gym in Soho, and ducked out of the office before the onslaught of evening calls to hit the bike. I quickly changed into gym clothes and then I was off. As I was leaving the hotel, the very young, new doorman said, Going for a run, Madam?
No, I replied, Spin class.
He smiled. I walked off.
I am bad at London, I texted a friend, I am walking around in workout clothes and I appear to be the ONLY person to be doing so.
You ARE bad at London. That’s not really done, she replied, Then again, I know you also do that in Manhattan, so I think you’re bad at both. Kidding. [A brief pause.] Not really.
I laughed because she was right. I’d been reading an article — I think in the New Yorker — about how dressing slubbily was insulting to other people. And it was true, and it was a point I’d made many, many times over the years. I’d famously said in law school that I thought dressing down was insulting to one’s classmates. I’ve yet to live that one down.
I kept saying to friends, lately, that the dressing-up days were over for me. I didn’t know why, but I felt that they were. My female friends smiled sympathetically at me; my male friends — the married ones; the ones in relationships in particular — railed against it. Sometimes I wondered if my female friends didn’t feel a bit of relief. There was so much competition amongst us for mates — that Meredith-and-her-crazy-hamster had dropped out meant that there was one less.
Anyway, there I was, threading through the throngs of tourists, heading into the heart of Soho to go to a spin class. I am desperate to have a normal life wherever I go. And how does one make a normal life when so much of it is lived on travel; at a distance? The best one can do is keep up ordinary routines.
I made it to the gym; rented a pair of cycling shoes from the eerily chipper desk attendant (I will never get used to the British verb for “to rent,” which is “to hire.” The idea that I had hired a pair of shoes upon arrival was just so absurd to me.)
The class itself was an “endurance” class, which meant that it was conducted at mostly the same resistance throughout. But it was intense, and mostly mental. Very unlike a New York class, where there’s lots of yelling. The instructor was Swiss; impossible for me to understand; absolutely perfect. But the mind-clearing was what I needed.
I didn’t realise that I didn’t need to be yelled at. The endurance ride was quite a lot like running — which was what my head and heart had been craving so badly. There was music; some instruction; mostly being left the hell alone to meditate and focus and be in the moment with where my body was.
The hamster was exhausted.
At the end of the class, finally in shape to interact with other humans again, I fell into conversation with some fellow riders. Out of the blue, I blurted out, Wow, the instructor looks just like Telly Savalas.
Of course, he overheard, and smiled at me.
As it turned out, while my mind was clear and the ride was just what I needed, I wasn’t quite in proper shape to interact with humans yet after all.
Whatever. That’s me — prone to wearing my very nice, very tidy workout clothes in public; prone to saying whatever comes into my head, to whomever is within earshot. My life is not like it was before — I am not someone’s wifely china doll; I am not an invisible woman who can’t say anything right, who says everything wrong. At some point, I’ll recover from the past. And maybe it’s not that the dressing up days are done — maybe it’s that I’ve not yet learned to distinguish the old kind of dolling-up from what it means to dress for the present day.
In the meantime, in present day London, I dashed back to my hotel to take the evening’s conference calls, snatching one of the eerily, ironically placed lollipops off the bell desk as I walked back into the hotel.