Confessions of an exercise-phobe

Let me say this from the get go so we’re all clear on where we stand with one another. I do not exercise to be healthy. I don’t give a rat’s testicle about a strong heart or good lungs or avoiding osteoporosis. I exercise so that when I sit at my computer (like now) my stomach doesn’t protrude over my jeans to the point that I can’t inhale. If I was one of those people with a turbo-boost metabolism who can dig into a mushroom risotto and still wear jeggings in the morning, you wouldn’t catch me dead in that stinking hell-hole of a gym. Sadly, god did not bless me in that way, so I have no choice but to make (what I must admit are) somewhat half-hearted forays into that weird, underground world of sweat and protein drinks and strange, beeping machines.

Frankly, fit people piss me off. What business do they have pummeling away, looking so focused and smug and like they’re not even in pain while I spend the entire session staring desperately at the time which, by the way, never goes slower than when you’re running. Just this morning I found myself behind one of those demonic gym girls from hell. By the time I got to my machine, took ten minutes to untangle my earphones, get my water sorted, remove my sweater and find the eighties music channel – oh, and check my phone seven times in case a very urgent call had come through with stuff I needed to attend to immediately – she’d already been running for some time. Fast. I could tell by the casual way she stopped and wiped her sweaty brow, glancing briefly around before continuing her sprint, how she pitied the rest of us for not being her.

She was dressed from head to toe in sexy black lycra, her long brown hair tied back in one of those don’t-fuck-with-me-I’m-in-training ponytail-plaits, and the cool white stripes on her leggings blurred as she ran, making her look like she was going even faster. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the techno music suddenly went quiet and Chariots of Fire started blasting from the sound system, while everyone stopped what they were doing to gather around her and clap and wave their small towels in slow motion. It’s one of those moments when you realize ‘the zone’ just wasn’t meant for you. While other hateful people space out and get into a ‘running rhythm’ where they forget they’re running and start relaxing, for me ‘the zone’ is like the VIP lounge of a cool club. I can take hours getting dressed and show up in just the right shoes, but they’re never going to let me in.

Plus, I don’t sweat. It must be so gratifying sweating – when you can see the results immediately, you know you’ve done something good. My husband might try and tell you that I don’t sweat because I refuse to go anything above the lowest resistance on those machines, but that’s just unfair. It’s the aircon, and the fact that I’m always wearing some flimsy little vest. How’s a girl supposed to sweat in that? Next time I go to the gym I’m going to leave the lycra and instead wear one of the nice (if slightly mangy) floor-length fur coats I picked up at a charity shop in Sweden and insisted on bringing home to South Africa despite the fact that winter rarely goes below 18 degrees. Not only will I build up one hell of a sweat, I reckon I’ll look pretty fancy. That’ll put Chariots of Fire girl right in her place. I knew there was a reason I bought them.

No, I can’t bring a fucking salad. Or, when B.Y.O. goes O.T.T.

A while ago I was invited to a 40th birthday celebration by a kind-of friend. She had rented a hall, and the invitation read ‘bring your own meat ‘n booze’ and then, beneath the picture of a disco ball and a couple dancing, a request in small print that everyone bring along ‘a salad of (our) choice.’ A salad of our choice? That we have to make? Are you kidding me? I thought BYO meat was a bit cheeky, but a side dish? Okay, that’s just rude. How about I bring my own chair to sit in, cutlery and the fridge? Or, how about I just don’t come.

Thing is, past a certain age that starts with an ‘f’, a major incentive to finding a sitter, paying said sitter and standing around in heels all night is the fact that I don’t have to drive to the supermarket and drag two bored children around the meat aisle. I don’t have to slice cucumber, toast seeds or make vinaigrette because you, the host, have presumably done this for me. It’s what is called ‘hosting.’ And that’s what is in it for me.

Yes, I get to drink wine and make conversation, but that I can do in the comfort of my own kitchen and what’s more I can wear slippers. But make me bring everything I’m going to eat and drink, and I’m not going to come to your party. Now, I understand not everybody can afford to feed and water 50 guests so, by all means, let us bring wine, and lots of it. I’ll even throw in a bottle of Jose Cuervo to get the party started. But you have known for, well, forty years that this occasion was imminent, so maybe you should have put some of that Guess jeans money aside so that we, your friends, didn’t have to cater for your party.

I am all for entertaining having become more casual. If we still – god forbid – had to come up with three courses plus canapés we would never, ever see our friends. I say, bring on the braais, the curries, the takeaway pizzas – anything that does away with undue hassle and stress. But if you decide you want to host something, get into the goddamn kitchen.