The gym I go to in the little village just over the border, in New York, is clean, quiet and, on weekday mornings when I am there, mostly empty. There is a men\’s exercise room, where the weight machines are upholstered in blue, and a women\’s exercise room, where the machines are upholstered in red.
There are a couple of machines in the women\’s room that are not in the men\’s—a stationary bike and a stretching machine—so men will come in and use those. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, I\’ll see a woman exercising in the men\’s room.
While I\’m working out, I watch some impressively athletic women go through their routines. They run on the treadmill for what seems like hours. They lift heavy weights. They sweat and they pant. But they are silent. Not a moan or a groan or a grunt escapes from their lips. They are discreet about their strength, and so the women\’s exercise room is almost silent, like a shrine. I like that a lot.
But last week two guys showed up and shattered the devotional atmosphere. I don\’t know why they came to use our weight machines, since the men\’s room was practically empty. But there they were, two balding guys in shorts, spotting for each other, egging each other on, cheering, laughing and guffawing so their voices bounced off the walls and the whole room seemed to shake. And the groans! The moans! You\’d think they were being torn apart by hooks. You\’d think they were lifting elephants, the way they carried on.
No sooner had one finished a set than, after appropriate rejoicings and high-fives, he would swap places with his buddy, and the groaning and grunting and exclaiming would begin all over again.
These were not teenage boys, surfing on a testosterone tide, but men in their fifties. Why were they making all that noise? Were they showing off for each other? For us? For their absent mothers?
And why was I so furious at them? Why did I want to yell at them to shut their stupid mouths and go back to the men\’s room, or, better yet, leave the gym? Why did I begrudge them the joy of behaving like five-year-olds at the playground (watch ME, Mom!)?
I have no idea. But I get annoyed all over again, just thinking about it.