My Epiphany

Listen to me: If you marry an oldest child, just expect a lot of competitiveness.

I should know.  I’m an oldest child married to an oldest child — and boy, is he competitive.

Take two days ago, when I was calmly returning from a yoga class.  You know, all warm and fuzzy and Zen, not at all concerned with my own ego, very outer-directed, loving, accepting, beatific.

“Don’t you ever work up a sweat in yoga?” my husband wanted to know.

“What do you mean?” I asked suspiciously.  “Of course I work up a sweat.  Yoga’s a lot harder than you think it is.”

“Yea, but you don’t sweat nearly as much as I do when I jog,” he pointed out.

Well, I should have known.  Ever since we got to New York, he’s become some kind of jogging weirdo.  He talks about it constantly, gauging the weather, the ice, the traffic.  He reports on whether anybody passed him running or not.  He tells me his distance, his time, his state of mind.  He returns from his every-other-day runs red-faced, catatonic and sweat-soaked.  It usually takes him half an hour after his shower to utter anything coherent.  Then, he almost always says something like, “God, running is miserable.  I hate every fucking minute of it.”

I’ve stopped asking him why he runs, since it’s so ghastly.  He usually tells me I wouldn’t get it, which is true.

At the age of 40-something, I had some kind of deep and spiritual revelation about exercise: I would no longer do anything I hated.  I believe this breakthrough came to me in a vision when I saw one of the most depressing sights I’ve ever glimpsed: A young woman at the Y was pumping up and down on the Stairmaster while she read The Bell Jar.  Good grief.  Like either one of the two wasn’t torture enough.  I practically had to be airlifted out of the Y after that incident and immediately resorted to a heavy, two-pint intake of my drug of choice, Haagen-Dazs.

I took a stand.  No more Stairmaster, no jogging, no aerobics, hold the sweat and forget about Plath.  I’m completely against torture, whether governmental or self-inflicted, and committed to my principles.  I’ve tried to explain this to my husband, but he just doesn’t get it.  He just plods on, in his competitive, oldest-child way, convinced that suffering is the one-way ticket to health.

I wish I could help him, but you just can’t make other people see the light.  They don’t realize it’s a lot easier to never let them see you sweat if you make it a point not to sweat in the first place.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my favorite posts about how not to talk to a woman

11 comments… add one
  • I’m with you, Pennebaker.
    I’m afraid a lot of folks approach exercise like they do medicine: if it is awful, it MUST be good for you.
    I never saw a jogger look like they were enjoying themselves.  Most of them look thirty seconds away from puking.  I’ll stick with enjoying myself, walking and talking with friends, working outside in our garden beds, etc.  I looked up “health” and “healthy” and “suffering” doesn’t occur anywhere in the definition of either.

  • This is why I refuse to do hot yoga. Working up a mild glow is one thing; dripping sweat onto your yoga mat while fearing myocardial infarction is something else entirely.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Don’t forget about the most excruciatingly boring exercise ever invented: lifting weights.

  • Alas, I have to work out, Ruth. If I don’t, I get pudgier and pudgier. I blame it on a sluggish metabolism (ahem). But I’m with your husband – I hate every fucking minute of it. “When am I going to get that famous runner’s high I’ve been promised?” I scream at the heavens. But the heavens ain’t listening.

  • Love this post. I tell people to think about exercise differently. Just move more. And don’t do anything you don’t enjoy.
    When asked what’s the best time to exercise? When you will.
    What’s the best form of exercise? The one you enjoy!
    What’s the best piece of equipment? The one you will use.
    I don’t always sweat when I exercise, but I am always enjoying the movement.
    Great post.

  • Sheryl Link

    The Bell Jar AND a Stairmaster?? Double the torture.
    Great post – thanks for the guffaw!

  • I’m the youngest married to the youngest – we get along great.
    I’m fascinated by this birthorder thing, btw – perhaps another post is in order? 🙂

  • Haha! I don’t do exercise I hate either and I have found there are actually several kinds I really enjoy, which was kind of an epiphany to me!

  • Amen to that, Ruth! I have NEVER been a gym type. When I get my heart rate up, I just want it to go down again. I DO like to play tennis and walk with my dog, though, so that’s my exercise!

  • Thanks for making me laugh out loud today. I am SO with you, of course. I am all about yoga. And not about doing exercise that I hate.

  • Oldest to oldest, and the very first thing the priest said to us at our  first meeting was “really, oldest to oldest? Does that worry you?” It didn’t, but should have. Although being two oldest we would have laughed, convinced that we knew what was best. We butt heads daily and I wouldn’t have it any other way, I think. Wonderful post.

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