I was at the gym a couple of days ago and I complimented a woman on her flexibility. She was 20 years my senior and leaned over and put her palms on the floor moments after she walked in and took her coat off. It was a simple and natural movement for her, comfortable and easy. In my years as a dancer, or a yoga practitioner, or as a runner, I have never been able – even for a minute – to just drop into a stretch like that.

It took me 15 minutes to work up the courage to compliment her. You see, I’m thin. Not without effort or thought, but so far a metabolism that matches my dad’s has made it relatively easy to stay about where I want to weight wise.

Here is what I know people think about me, because they’ve told me so …
“You must be able to outrun me”
“You must judge me because of my shape”
“You know people hate you.”

My mom told me that she spent years feeling like she was stared at, by people who look like me, when she tried to go to the gym. I asked her recently if there was anything I could say to someone at the gym that wouldn’t be heard as condescending. She thought for a long time, she actually said she would need to get back to me … when she finally did she said what I had suspected – there was nothing I could say to someone who was not thin.

There was an interesting article that I read this morning at XO Jane (via Already Pretty). I had a strong reaction to it, like I do to many articles in a similar vein – I wish people would stop making assumptions about me and putting words in my mouth.

If I saw her at the gym and she was getting her groove on while on the elliptical I would have a two thoughts –
1. I wonder what she is listening to (because I like new music and her’s apparently rocks)
2. The amount of coordination she has is enviable
I would never talk to her, never ask her about her music because my conversation isn’t welcome because somehow it is assumed that I think I know something about her.

I don’t work out to rabidly avoid being overweight (is that my problem?), I do it so that when I flex a muscle I can see something happen. I don’t assume that I can out run, out lift, or out perform anybody because 90% of the time I lack the desire to push myself to better performance.

I think that the people in the gym are simply there because they chose to be there instead of someplace else. They have their motivation and I have mine. They might be there to beat away their demons or to chase after the endorphins. I will never know, and it simply doesn’t matter. Some days we choose the gym and some days we don’t.

So, as I walked out, I stopped where Ms Flexibility was, and I said, “I’ve just got to say, I envy the amount of flexibility you have in your hips, I would love to be able to stretch out that well.” When I started to talk to she looked suspicious, when I finished she smiled but disowned that there was anything special about what she did. I hope that I made her day better, but I suspect that my shape invalidates anything I ever say about body shape.

Which is too bad, because I never give a compliment that I don’t mean.

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