what a drag it is
Such an interesting moment today at the YMCA. I'd finished my squash game, and was strolling towards the locker rooms past all these women, dozens and dozens of them, waiting outside the gym for the popular Zumba program to begin. (Zumba is the latest fitness craze, combining aerobics and martial arts and dance music in a workout that looks -- to me -- very much like every other fitness craze of the last decade.) It being 9:00 ish on a Wednesday morning, the women were mostly of a certain age. Fit and feisty, chatty and jolly -- and well over forty. Gray hairs and neck wattles were bouncing up and down as their owners jogged in place, warming themselves up. (Does that sound grotesque? Heavens, I have my share of gray hairs. Anyway, as can see from the picture there, I do not mean to make fun of old folks.) There were greetings and catcalls as I walked past in my sweaty shirt. These were confident and friendly women, outgoing and collegial, strong in numbers and shared commitment to a better self. I smiled and joshed back. And then I saw her. She stood alone by the door of the gym, a much older lady, thin as sticks and fragile as tissue. Her hair was white, her skin so pale the blue veins shone through. Her sneakers and metal water bottle were heartbreakingly stylish. She held her head slightly forward, looking down. She did not smile, but there was a sense of hopeful shyness about her. She was the new kid at school, hanging out by herself on the playground, knowing she doesn't belong and yet hoping against hope that one of the older cooler girls will notice her ... I thought about how we move up and then down the ladder of life, standing on many of the lower rungs for the second time on our way back to ground level. It's a sad business. Ask Samuel Beckett. I said hello to the old lady. She smiled up at me, but I could tell that she was disappointed. Oh, hello, she said. Meaning, It's only you. And that took me back to my own playground years where I was -- so often -- not as cool as I had hoped to be. Enjoy the Zumba, I said. You should change your shirt, she told me. And I went to the locker room.