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