The weather has dipped to such frigid temperatures here in Charlotte that I have been not-so-secretly avoiding making the mere 500-ft. trek to my apartment complex’s gym all weekend.
After skipping my workout on Saturday, I finally sucked it up last night after reminding myself how much queso and guacamole I had inhaled earlier in the day at Cabo Fish Taco. To give you an idea of how much I consumed, let’s just say I was ready to lick both bowls clean if the server hadn’t taken them from the table.
I prefer working out later in the evening because I detest exercising when other people are present. I’ve always had this unfounded fear that someone will hear my hard breathing or notice my flushed cheeks, assume that I’ve pushed myself too hard, and step in to make sure I’m okay, humiliating me in the process.
I know, I know. That would probably definitely never happen, although I can picture the mortifying experience in my head in such detail that sometimes I wonder if it has actually happened. I guess the bad memories of embarrassment-induced, scarlet-hued blushing during my adolescence have manifested themselves in my adulthood as irrational fears. At least that’s what I think a therapist would say.
I was excited to arrive to a completely empty gym, so I shed my winter layers, popped in my earbuds, and stepped onto the elliptical. Nothing helps me get in the zone like cheesy female empowerment songs from the early 2000s, so I made sure to pull up the appropriate playlist on Spotify before launching into my routine. I may wimp out after trekking less than a mile if I’m listening to anything else, but if I hear even one riff from an X-Tina or Pink song, I’m ready to “Get This Party Started.”*
I was slightly giddy that I had the gym entirely to myself, especially after being stared down by a preteen creeper and coughed on by a pneumonia-plagued soccer mom during my workouts last week. I started pretending that I was Christina Aguilera circa 2002 as I belted out the lyrics to “Dirrty,” “Fighter,” and “Can’t Hold Us Down.”
As I was perfecting the Lil’ Kim rap interlude in the last song mentioned, complete with white-girl hand motions that somehow make me feel like a badass, I realized that I was not alone.
Presumably for the entire time I was rocking out on the elliptical, pretending that the handles were ski poles and that I was filming a pop music video set in the Alps, there was a man lifting weights directly behind me, undoubtedly enjoying the absurdity of the show I was performing. I won’t be surprised if it pops up on YouTube sometime in the near future.
As he got up to leave, he stuck the television remote into the plastic cup holder on the machine I was using, adding, “In case you decide to change your form of entertainment.” Then he shook his head and laughed at my inane behavior on his way out.
I waited for the familiar, mortification-induced scarlet hue to warm my cheeks, but I was filled with pride when I realized that it wasn’t coming. I hadn’t even cared that this thirty-something version of Liam Hemsworth had heard me rapping obscenities, dancing on an elliptical machine, and even high-fiving myself as I hit each mile-mark.
During my post-workout shower, I reflected on the plethora of embarrassing moments I have accrued lately as I lathered shampoo into my hair. An actual smile crept across my face as I realized that, in each moment, I had laughed at the hilarity of the situation and just moved on from it. It may have taken me 25 years to get to this point of personal contentment in even the most humiliating situations in life, but what matters is that I’ve arrived.
To celebrate, I’m going to create a new playlist filled with only tracks recorded during the early 2000s by scantily clad female pop singers. Embarrassment, you “Can’t Hold Us Down.“*
*I would like to express my utmost apologies for my tendency to create exceptionally cheesy puns using the titles of songs performed by female pop vocalists.