I survived my last birthday, and even learned to live with the pile of unwelcome gifts from Mother Nature, including roots that give Fifty Shades of Gray new meaning. Some of Her presents, after all, were as subtle as sweat in the middle of winter, and as tiny as the cluster of smile lines barely visible to the farsighted eye. She even sent me a greeting card in the mail under the guise of an AARP membership, which fluttered to the bottom of the trash with the other junk mail.
She also blessed me with saddlebags full of cellulite and a healthy dose of absent-mindedness which I promptly forgot all about. But surely this is one of the more glaring gifts of aging I thought: agreeing to do something that just months ago in my cautious youth I would have had the good sense to refuse.
“How’d you like to teach the spinning class tomorrow?” the manager of Bally fitness dared me on the way to Zumba last night. “I just lost my instructor and I’ve seen you take the class,” he eyed me warily. “Unless it would be too much for you…”
“Sure!” my 20-something mind answered, flattered. “I’ve been taking the class for years,” I bragged, so much for being older and wiser.
“Are you crazy?” my 50-nothing body argued back. “You weigh more than you ever did nine months pregnant and will have to wear spandex. In a mirrored room!”
Somehow, the next day, armed with an iPod of 80’s hits and a sense of false bravado, I sucked in my stomach and entered the Spinning room, smiling confidently at the class already seated on the 14 spin cycles facing the mirrored wall.
“Where’s Veronica?” a blonde in a pumped up jog bra whined through bee stung lips, giving me the once over. “Seriously!”
I plugged in my iPod and climbed onto my bike facing the class, trying to ignore the fact that my spandexed bottom was on display from every conceivable angle. “I Will Survive” bellowed from the speakers and I began to pedal as if what was left of my life depended on it. A bored young man glanced at his watch. I turned up the volume and pedaled faster. The blonde rolled her eyes. It was then that I remembered another advantage of growing older: you just don’t care what people think anymore, unless they think you’re old.
“She’s old enough to be my mother,” the fit young man hissed, then smirked as he witnessed my confidence exhale like the air in a balloon.
“I’ll show you mother!” I muttered, and made it my personal goal to wipe that snarly smirk off the man’s face. This was war, and it would not end until the blonde’s sweat was pooled in a puddle at her feet and her boyfriend begged for mercy.
Faster and faster I pedaled, cuing the class through standing climbs, jumps and switchbacks. I was a vision in the mirror, a crazed woman with a halo of hair frizzing around my face, one lone gray hair standing defiantly like a diamond studded exclamation point at the top of my head. My varicose vein pulsed to the beat of the music.
“Old enough to be your mother,” I mumbled under my breath. “What a load of bull… “
“Sprint!” I demanded. “Faster!”
It was then I noticed an older gentleman at the back of the class. He met my gaze and smiled, fanning himself with his hand. If I could have caught my breath at this point in the workout, I would have breathed a sigh of relief. At last I had some positive feedback. “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA came on and to my surprise, he pointed to his chest, then gestured to me, clearly moved by the words. I felt my face flush, and looked away.
It had been several years since my divorce, and I had devoted myself to my children, which gave me little time to meet new men, to date. I glanced back at him. He looked me in the eye from across the room and pantomimed his hand holding a drink, bringing it to his lips, suggestively. I glanced away, embarrassed at the attention. I was a professional. It would be inappropriate for me to meet with a student out of class. Still his desire was unmistakable. I took the class through a grueling series of jumps, trying to clear my mind.
I had always pictured myself with someone closer to my age, but if I squinted, he almost resembled the Dos Equis man, the distinguished bearded model on all the beer commercials. I don’t date men from the gym often, but when I do, it’s…
“Dose of your own medicine, that’s what you need,” I thought, looking at the fit young man and the blonde in the front row. Good things come those who wait and I’ve waited a long time for this, for a second chance at life. I might be old, but I’m not dead, and I’m not going to let this opportunity race by me.
I began the cool down, and looked back at my admirer. He winked at me this time, tugged at his shirt collar, and raised his hand to his mouth in a drinking motion. Then he hugged the handlebars of his bike as the last song came to an end, a man spent and satisfied, soon to be hungering for more.
“Yes!” I cried, smiling triumphantly as I hopped off my bike. I will meet you after class for a drink. I will ride off into the sunset with you. I will be yours forever, my knight in shining Under Armor.
I started for the door.
“That was a killer class!” announced the fit man, his mouth hanging open in surprise. I stopped long enough to gloat as the blonde beside him swiped at the rivulets of black mascara crying down from beneath her Botoxed brow. “That old dude’s barely moving.”
“They’re just jealous,” I thought as I hurried to the locker room, wanting to freshen up before happy hour with my new friend.
Fifteen minutes later, I floated out of the locker room in a cloud of Cavalli and waited expectantly for my date to show up. I would never quit my job, I thought, even though he probably is a retired millionaire and will want to travel the world with me. I will always remember my humble beginnings, my first class. Deep in thought, I almost didn’t hear the wail of the ambulance outside.
“Where have you been?” my manager demanded, rushing up to me.
“I was just getting changed. I had the best class! Everyone loved me. Well, some more than others, obviously.” I glanced around for my date. If he stood me up, he was a dead man.
“You’re fired!” my manager barked at me. “Didn’t you see that poor old man in your class? He collapsed! This blonde told me he was trying to get your attention. Didn’t you notice? We had to call an ambulance!”
“That’s impossible!” my 20 -something mind argued. “Things like this don’t happen.” I clutched my mouth as the paramedics wheeled my ashen admirer out of the Spin room. He winced when he saw me, and weakly pointed his middle finger at me, a last defiant gesture.
“The nerve of him!” my 50-nothing body protested. “If he thinks I’m going to nurse him back to health, he’s got another thing coming.”
I turned my spandexed bottom to him and strode out of the gym. Dating was like riding a bike. All I had to do was hop back on and it would all come back to me. And thankfully by tomorrow, my aging mind would let me forget my broken heart.