I go to a ridiculously expensive gym, and the clientele can be...difficult. Forget having anyone hold open a door for you, or nod in greeting...you're lucky if you get four seconds of eye-contact with anyone aside from the obsequious front desk staff. I know, I know...you're all probably asking the same question: "If everyone there is so rude, why do you choose to go there?" Quick answer: I'm spoiled. I was suckered in by the eucalyptus steam room, the mint-cucumber water, and the blindingly clean locker room. Also, paying lots of money to work out ensures that I can't skip without guilt. Missing a day of exercise feels like throwing money out the window. I'm hideous when I work out, because I go all out. I see lots of women at my gym slowly ambling along on the treadmill, in full makeup, wearing workout clothes that I would actually go out on a date in. Last week, no lie, a woman came to spin class in a tight cream colored leather blazer, skinny jeans, and leather boots. Seriously? When I am at the gym, I am dripping sweat, my face is crimson (perhaps even purple, depending on the class), and my bangs are plastered to my head. Why anyone would want to marinate in their own sweat within the confines of leather outerwear is beyond me.
Today I went to a spin class, and the woman next to me actually smiled at me, which is a first. I smiled back, and the class began. If you aren't familiar with spinning, it can be intense, and this class was particularly difficult. We huffed and puffed and moaned our way through seated races and steep hills, and I began to get that awesome endorphin rush that makes it all worthwhile. I looked over at the woman next to me and saw that she was flagging; she was panting and struggling to keep up. She finally muttered something under her breath that I won't repeat here, and slowed down until she was barely pedaling at all. I fought back the urge to join her and kept going.
About five minutes later, a Justin Timberlake song came on, and she found her second wind. Clearly a fan (who isn't?), she started belting out the song along with him, and I marveled at how anyone could have enough breath to do so that far along in the class. At first, I was slightly annoyed; there is nothing worse than someone displaying unbridled enthusiasm while you are struggling just to suck in enough breath to stay conscious. As she sang and sang, I started to appreciate the fact that someone at my gym was finally expressing any sort of emotion other than tight-ass. She was clearly enjoying herself, and while I wouldn't go so far as to call her enthusiasm contagious, it was refreshing. At one point, we were standing on the bikes to simulate riding uphill, and she started shaking back and forth with the music, dancing so violently I was afraid she would topple over the handlebars. And it occurred to me how infrequently I see adults expressing unadulterated joy in a public setting.
It's almost as if expressing happiness and joy is a guilty pleasure, and displaying it for the world to see is shameful. When we are children, we don't hesitate to laugh and beam and yell with delight...that's just part of being a kid. Then, as we get older, we grow more reticent. Keeping our emotions to ourselves begins to become a mark of maturity; the older we get, the more we hold our joy within. When you start to think about it, it's pretty sad, isn't it? How different would your life be if you were able to hold onto the childlike ability to fully feel and display your joy without fear of judgment?
So today, I applaud this woman in spin class, this woman who wasn't afraid to shake her ass to a song she loved in a room full of prudes. A woman who reminded me how awesome it can be to just let go and sing your heart out to a song you love. Most of all, to a woman who showed me that conveying joy...really putting it all out there...is contagious.