Outta My Yard


By Elizabeth Peavey
By Elizabeth Peavey

Wringing in the new

I’m not the type of person who makes resolutions, and I’ve always been suspect of people who do. Especially at New Year’s. Really, who in their right mind would select the darkest, coldest, grimmest time of the year to deprive and beat themselves up, when we all should be wallowing in wretched excess? (Actually, that’s my general, year-round code of behavior.) 

It’s not that I’m against people trying to better themselves, I just wish they’d crawl off into a mud hut and shut up about it while they do. Because the problem with people and their resolutions is they feel the need to advertise them.

Honestly, aren’t we all a bit sick of hearing people announce they are no longer eating carbs or — whoops — are now on an all-carb diet? Or the new Salt ‘n’ Lye diet? (Burns the pounds right off!)  And do we really need to listen to one more person explain in detail the new workout regime they haven’t quite started because they haven’t yet found the perfect pair of Pilates pants? And don’t you just love being seated beside someone at a dinner party who wants to tell you how this year they are finally going to start or finish that memoir, create a charitable foundation, kick smack and whiten their teeth? 

Oh, really? How about something simpler, like a personality transplant? Pass the lard and gin, please.

But this year I was overcome by a genuine sense of “new” in the New Year and started making changes. It all began with switching gyms on Dec. 31. I’d often thought about leaving my old gym of 10 years and its SUV-driving, Fox News-watching, weight-slamming clientele, but doing something about it required, well, doing something about it. So no one was more surprised than I when, heading out of town for the long weekend, I stopped to sign up at my new gym.

I can’t say things got off to a smooth start. The first day I walked into the weight room, trying to figure out which machines most closely matched my old machines, the dreaded Helpful Guy approached. Now, in the 15 years I have been going to a gym, I still have pretty flabby abs, but I sure have developed Don’t-Talk-To-Me face muscles of steel. I know Helpful Guy was just trying to lend a hand, but his friendly yammering and following me around only made me want to punch him in the throat. I already had first-day-at-a-new-school jitters and didn’t need the fact telegraphed. 

I finally escaped and sequestered myself on a treadmill in a dark corner, where I felt safe. Except the metal sidebars were a different length than the bars on my old gym’s treadmills, and the minute I got a head of steam going and started to pump my arms, I clocked one with my middle knuckle, which instantly turned purple and swelled up. It’s difficult to act like the cool new kid when you’re writhing in pain.

The final insult came when I hit the locker room. It’s not that it was any ickier than the one at my old gym, but it was larger and more peopled, thusly multiplying the cootie count. Huddled, murmuring women were peeling their Pilates pants on or off. Some were sitting with their bare asses on the metal benches, where I might’ve — not now — placed a bag or a shoe. A woman in a white bra and underpants was blow-drying her armpits with the house hairdryer. All I could think was Prisoner: Cell Block H meets Magdalene Laundry. 

Meanwhile, in the showers, an oversized fan was mounted near the stalls, so the interior cootie-curtain was likely to waft up and wrap itself around you — that is, if you shut it, which I did not. As I scrambled back to get dressed, eyes focused on the floor, I noticed a woman who resembled my friend Sally, but I wasn’t going to make eye contact. The absolute last thing I needed was a Locker Pal.

As it turned it out, it was Sally, who had also recently defected to this gym. We met up at the hairdryers (I was careful not to use the pit machine) and ran down our list of new-gym indignities like boarding-school girls sent to public school. We promised to watch each others’ backs. Funny thing, though. I’ve never seen her there again. (Sally, did you defect back?)

The gym was only the start. There was, after 20 years, a new wallet. (OK, I’m already back to my old one, but I tried.) And getting the Poland Spring monkey off my back after 25 years. (The trick, I’ve found, is to drink water only from my bathroom tap.) And acting on good deeds rather than just thinking about them. Except that when you offer someone you recognize but do not know a ride home from the grocery store, it can kind of make you feel like a perv. Hi, need a ride? Where do you live? 

Oh, and there’s so much more. So why don’t you draw up your chair and I’ll tell you all about it.

Speaking of new, Elizabeth Peavey would like to welcome Elliott Richard Smiley Stepp (and all his names) to his excessive extended family.