If you’ve ever heard the expression “as red as a tomato,” you now have a clear picture of what I look like every time I work out. Even during those rare periods of my life when I’m “in shape,” it still happens if I exert myself for more than 10 minutes. First comes the sweat, then my cheeks start to redden, then my nose, then my forehead, then my chin…e. Ok, I might be guessing the order, but the fact is, my face turns completely and utterly red, minus a weirdly distinct portion surrounding my mouth. Basically, I’m this monster demon of red with a bloodless circle around my lips just pounding away on the treadmill, tomato sweat flying everywhere.
I still don’t really think you get it. You think I’m exaggerating.
Let’s put it this way: I’ve been approached at the gym way more often than those people who get all glammed up for the gym, then glance over their shoulder every few minutes to see if someone will hit on them. Ladies and gents, take it from me: the best way to get strangers to talk to you is to look like your health may be in danger. The only problem with this is when people come up to me, they don’t compliment me on my rhinestone embroidered spanks or my tastefully displayed cleavage…instead they run over to me with wide eyes and say “Oh…oh my god are you okay??”
(Still, a conversation is a conversation, if that’s what you’re looking for.)
And I, in my mom’s shirt from the 80’s and hand-me-down shorts from middle school (no exaggerating here either; I’ve got pics), nod my head wearily and do my best to reassure this person that no, I will not die, and yes, yes I really do know how red I am. You’ve never seen someone this red? Oh, you’re too kind.
At the very least, I attract lots of suspicious glances. Over the years, I’ve trained myself to think of these as people checking me out because otherwise I would never have the courage to ever leave my bed.
Since my appearance is a bit unsavory, I have a couple tricks to mitigate the reactions I tend to evoke. Mostly, I pretend to be super athletic. I’m convinced that if it looks like I’m a beast at running, people will totally forgive me for my “oh my god, she looks like a cartoon character that got angry” look.
A couple of my pseudo-athletic tricks:
- Wear t-shirts that say CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP (that I bought at high school regional races that I came in about 100th place out of 120 runners…or was it 110th place?)
- Wear t-shirts that display the name of my university prominently on the back so that people assume that I’m smart, which obviously means I’m athletic too.
- Be ridiculously competitive with people on nearby treadmills. I’ve perfected the sideways glance to see my neighbor’s speed for just this purpose. Unfortunately, I usually lose these competitions, and it just makes me even more red in the attempt.
Best hope you never run into me at the gym. If you do, please know that I’m fine and there’s no need to call an ambulance.