On Monday mornings, me and a few of the school moms gather at a boutique gym that’s actually for young beautiful people but they let us in because we travel in packs and we can pay. We shoulder our way past the pristine twenty- and thirty-somethings who are shifting out of the earlier class. They look toned. Strong. I hate them. I put my elbow into one of them as I walk by to get a towel. I’m an old crone now, and I can’t be responsible for every brief, aggressive movement of my body.
One of my friends had saved spots for all of us off in one corner. A handbag here, a sweater there, she distributed her belongings so that our little battalion could descend as one, united, into the jacked-up pilates studio. Describe the class? Sure. Imagine walruses doing yoga on your kid’s red wagon and you’re nearly there. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how you picture this as long as you see me, a middle-aged woman, in too-tight clothes with no muscle tone, expanding and contracting, complete with all the folds and wobbly bits. Are you with me? Take a minute, I know it isn’t pretty but stay with me.
There I am on my knees, sweating, arms out to the sides like the crucified Christ, tricep fat ready to take flight. The instructor tells us to relax our shoulders and necks and honestly, I wouldn’t be taking this class if relaxing my shoulders was a priority. My shoulders are not relaxed. My shoulders are pissed off. My shoulders are shouting hey bitch, would’ve been good if you noticed us some other time in the last six months.
And then, as if the instructor could hear the voices of my little muscle fibres, she moves us onto the next sequence.
Anatomically speaking we all have the same butt muscles. I mean, I don’t want to get science-y, but you’ve got the gluteus triplets and a couple of piriformis muscles in there. You’ve got some hamstring attachments and the snobby superior gemellus accompanied by its closely related inferior cousin. All of us have the same arse muscles, but my mine have all been on a family vacation. Mine had all been sipping margaritas on a beach in Colombia, midway through their fourth Elin Hildebrand book. And as you would be, holiday interrupted, they were in full temper tantrum mode.
As I’m shakily squatting, one-legged, I catch the eye of my friend, who honestly, I thought was crying and I didn’t blame her. After a second glance, I realized she was laughing to the point of tears because it was mid-way through the class and the instructor had spent most of her time rotating through the five of us, unsuccessfully coaching us to get our form right.
She whispers to me, how much longer?
And there is the question, really. How much longer. How much longer do I need to live with this rude bitch of a body? Well, I have an answer, but you are not going to like it.
Probably forever. I mean, we’re not giving up or anything, but that bendy body of our twenties is long gone; it’s probably somewhere in Eastern Europe on a bus trip.
But don’t fret, my friends. Because fighting with our rude bodies means we are still alive, and that is glorious.
There we were, five middle-aged women, multiple surgeries and babies, short on endurance and heavy on abdominal fat. I had just had arthritis confirmed in my knee, and my estrogen was somewhere in the south of Chile. I had started a whirlwind and intense relationship with bread, which had moved into my thighs and midsection, a roommate I wasn’t yet willing to evict. Some of us had been on a long hiatus because of injuries, some of us were fair-weather exercisers, but we were awesome. We were shaking and sweating and swearing, but we were in it together and we were alive.
And listen, that’s the thing about girlfriends. I’ve seen all the movies. When the mean girls are in full force, and telling us that we can’t or that we shouldn’t or that we are too fat or too weak, when we start to listen to horrendous things they are saying, our real friends step in. When our bodies are beating us down and fucking us around, our friends stand up.
They suffer through the classes, they help us find the bigger size, they help us step over that boulder that is screwing with our knees and they tell us we are beautiful and capable.
And when our arthritic hip leans against a lamp post and lights up a cigarette, saying, you can’t do that you old hag, you are too old, our friends sweep in, shouting, damn straight she can.
And if we can’t, who the hell cares anyway, we go and get cheese fries and buy amazing shoes and move on with our lives. We join a book club, eat a salad, go for a slow walk and be reluctantly grateful for the cheeky set of bones and joints that hold us up into the gorgeous, imperfect woman that we are.
Stephanie Wyeld made her writing debut in grade eight when the teacher read her story about the Titanic aloud to the class with the lights off for effect. She has a B.Sc.(Kin), an M.Eng, and a penchant for volunteering. She has recently given up the prestige of counting money for the PTA and is now on the executive of the Canadian Author’s Association – Toronto branch, and the Writer-in-Residence at Heliconian Club. Her first novel is currently out on submission . While she waits she bites her nails and writes her next book. Her words can be found in SavvyMom, The Woolfer and Sammiches & Psych Meds. She is on Twitter, @steph_the_twit and on Facebook.