Back from South Africa and with some time on my hands, I was hell bent on keeping the promise I had made to myself to get back into shape. For most people I know, this would mean eating better and going to the gym more often. But for me, it meant eating better and going to a gym for the first time in my life.
I went to an elementary school with no athletic program. In Junior high, there was a minimal program but the other students I hung out with and I had figured out how to skip gym. Always. I did not attend high school. I did not attend college. I never joined a gym prior to the fateful Kalahari excursion with Lynne.
When I did eventually join a gym, and I’m going to tell you that story in a moment, I was an adult in my 30s, and the first time I went into the men’s locker room I saw more naked men all at once than I had seen in my entire life previously. That was also the first time I smelled a real gym locker room. Talk about sensory overload.
So, I went to a gym not too far from my house, and told them I wanted to join. This led to a meeting in an office with a couple of guys: a sales rep and a trainer. I had no idea that joining a gym would involve a committee meeting, but what the heck. The two men asked me a number of questions that I did not expect. They wanted to know why I wanted to join the gym. What were my objectives. At first I didn’t really have an answer for them, so they kept talking about why one might want to join a gym, a bit about their own personal experiences, and so on. They kept mentioning Thailand. I began to think that there was a connection between the Southeast Asian Sex Industry and joining a gym. Or maybe it was just these guys. I was confused.
Now, I should mention that as a biological anthropologist I was not totally ignorant of some of the fundamentals of diet and exercise, at least at the theoretical level, and before joining this gym, in the first two days after returning from South Africa, I had purchased and devoured a couple of fitness books. (In case you are interested, the most useful book I read was the then current version of Covert Bailey’s The Ultimate Fit or Fat) The point being, I did have some idea of what I was doing there, I had just not articulated it yet. But while these guys were talking about Thailand and other stuff, I formulated the answer I should have given them when I first walked in. So I interrupted their conversation and told them.
“I know why I’m here.”
“Huh? Wha… Oh, OK, why are you here?”
“I want to be the kind of person who sits down in a public restaurant and orders three pieces of pie, and while I’m eating the pie other people in the restaurant look over and say to each other, ‘Wow. Look at that guy. How does he eat that way and stay so trim and fit?'”
They looked at each other. They laughed. They looked back at me. I was not laughing.
Then one of them said, “Let me introduce you to Lenora.”