The author with her Bill Boston Bike...1979
A sweet young college girl made this remark to me at the end of a Senior Zumba class. She, freshly made member of the gym, had gone up front to complain to the instructor that she had “barely broken a sweat,” and that she was “used to a higher level of intensity” because “I’m a dancer, you know.” I’d divined what was coming from her manner of approach to the instructor, who was new on the job herself, but I also knew that I, personally, was raining sweat, and that I’d had to go to the floor on one occasion to perform the exercises which usually move my bulging discs back into place. I wasn’t about to have her barge in and think she could tell the instructor what to do. In the first place, this was called a “Gold” class, which, in this gym’s particular parlance, means that it is supposed to be geared to older people, people who are less physically fit, and to Zumba beginners, who need to learn the steps.
I touched the instructor on the shoulder and said “I thought this class was great!” And to the sweet young thing, now looking cross, I said, “This gym has almost no classes geared to old people, and I’m really grateful to them for providing this one. It is identified as a ‘gold’ class on the schedule for a reason, because it is supposed to be slower.” The doe eyes regarded me with only slightly veiled contempt. “But--You’re not old!” she declared, trying on a smile, as if by simply giving me what she took for a compliment she could make me see things her way.
In return, I said nothing, but my mind seethed with possible retorts, my first choice being, “I’ll change bodies with you for a day and then you can tell me whether I’m ‘old’ or not.” Instead, I just patted the instructor again on the shoulder, said “thanks for a great class,” smiled at Ms. Slim-Toned-and-Fit, and remarked that there were plenty of hard, high speed classes available, and left the field.
The whole interchange was typical, in a world which worships youth almost as much as it worships the almighty dollar. The young critter expected to get her way with a little sweet talk. It’s her right, you see, simply because she’s young. She was also quite certain that saying “but, you’re not old!” would please me and put me on her side in the matter, simply because of the Joan Rivers type vanity she’d assumed I must have.I don’t, though. Truth is stronger than vanity or the desire to please a pretty child. I am ‘old’ and I know it. I had several bad bicycle falls (dog attacks) in the '70’s and now I pay the price in arthritis and joint pain. I typed for a living for forty years, and have the office worker’s bad back/neck to prove it. I’ve nearly died and been cut and pasted back together again-twice. My physical self is no longer seamless or supple, and I have bouts of pain for no apparent reason. This is the reality with which I live, and although I don’t usually go around bitching to the world at large, it’s real. I take ibuprofen and get on with it, just like everyone else in my age group. (I'm lucky to be alive!) Still, I’d like to think that I can go to a few gym classes and have a little fun dancing, along with others of my age who are also neither fit nor young anymore.
That shouldn't be too much to ask.