In a kickback to my college days, I’ve joined the rec center as an alumni. I forgot how old, sagging, and generally unpleasant I look working out in comparison to the fresh young pups who are delicately perching on the ellipticals next to me. Their inability to sweat while exhibiting makeup perfection at all hours of the day is and has always been their power over me.
Regardless, I took off on foot around the track to do what I do best. Two laps in, the other part of what I do best kicked in and I started to hack out a lung. The collegiate male in front of me was walking laps, and turned to stare at me. After an uncomfortable silence- one in which I was trying not to yell an explanation to cover the 25 or so feet in between us- I gave up. His stare was relentless.
“I have asthma. No worries!” I yelled.
“Oh that’s okay, I was just checking.” he said. He flashed a smile back. Cutoff shirt and colorful Nike frees on…I know this type well. I checked that my wedding rings were visible.
I kept on hauling buns. On the next lap, I noticed he had planted himself in the corner of the track, doing calf stretches and staring at me. I smiled out of awkward ‘stupor.’ I couldn’t run away; I was literally running in his direction and couldn’t release the hold until I rounded the corner.
On the next lap, I could see in his face that he was going to say something. Brace yourself, I coached.
“You sure do have a**, but you’ve got some wheels on ya!”
Stunned, I let out a ‘bagh!’ noise, gave him an accordingly distorted look, and ran away. Mercy, thought, I’m a married woman! I must look very good for my age. And yes, thank you, my butt is nice.
It took me about half a lap to realize he assuredly couldn’t have said what I thought he said. Asthma. Asthma was what he said. And here I was balking at him like he was pervert.
He was gone by the next lap. And I was embarrassed. Years of being hit on in this very place, mostly by non-white guys affirming what I thought he had said, had convoluted my reality. I am an old maid. Rings on or rings off, all I’ve got are some ‘wheels.’