Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Secreting Awesomeness, not just sweat

So this went viral this week: some guy wrote a FB post to a large man he'd seen at the track at their local gym, "congratulating" his effort. The author of the original post was (and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt to say he was probably unintentionally) condescending. The object of his post wrote an eloquent reply, and you should probably read the whole exchange.

I love the reply from Tomy Posnanski and I agree the original poster is a douche. But what really is getting me thinking was the discussion in the comments (and a similar discussion is going on in other people's comments in various shares on FB, I'm sure.) A lot of people are taking this situation, comparing it to their own, and drawing similar conclusions.

Where I start to feel bad is that suddenly, many (not everybody) seem to be comparing him to any person who reaches out to lend a little encouragement to somebody on a health journey, whether that be weight loss, getting in shape, lowering one's cholesterol, etc. Many of the comments are people who don't want to be acknowledged whatsoever, and this person nailed it:
Because of the baggage I bring to the figurative table, anyone who tried to high five me at the gym no matter their intention would just remind me exactly how much I don't belong and how everyone knows it.
I consider myself fortunate that I really don't give a crap if there's anybody at the gym who looks down on me, because as Polansky points out, they don't know my journey. Also, I'm one of those people. I (like a few other commenters at the link) have always had this attitude that I am who I am and fuck you if you don't like it. (Albeit, I had to grow into this to really believe it). But I love riding my bike too much to worry about how fat it makes me look. A response in that thread really put into words what I genuinely believe:
Absolutely everyone who isn't a royal asshole is only seeing a fellow person working out. And the assholes ... they're thinking shitty about everyone for all kinds of random things that have no basis. That guy in the post is scary hateful and not the norm! 
There probably is someone at my gym giving me the side-eye because I'm sweating all over the elliptical. That's too fucking bad for them, actually. I'm not sweating, I'm secreting awesomeness (which I will, of course, wipe off when I'm done) and if they'd quit giving me the side-eye and instead throw up a high-five, then maybe I can spread some awesomeness to them.
The point is - if you want to go to the gym or get in the pool or go slog around the track, then DO IT. Don't worry what other people are thinking, because what you're doing has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. So go. Do it. I will high-five you.
My two cents may not have belonged in that thread, because frankly, I don't mind if somebody acknowledges that I and my obvious fat are there to do something about it. Hell, if I wasn't fishing for high fives and "God, You're Awesome" compliments, I wouldn't be go all public about my "journey" (are we sick of  that term yet?) on this public blog, now would I?

I'm running around the track (hey, folks, I'm up to 2 miles now -- at a 12minute/mile pace!) and waving at the "regulars" who I pass and pass me. There's Kathryn, who runs longer and faster than I do, smiling at me. There's the girl the key desk who waves when I pass her. There's Janet, who has a wave and a smile for me every time I walk in there, and story to tell when we're winding down in the steam room. (All of them are considerably thinner than I -- and I don't get a single vibe of patronizing attitude.) There's Emily, who teaches a class and we kvetch about raising our 10 year olds. There's the built-like-a-marine-drill-sergeant guy I sheepishly ask "Um, do you happen to know what the weight is on this bar I'm lifting? It doesn't say and I have no clue" who encouragingly replies, "Oh, that's at least 45 pounds!" There's the people who "like" my FB posts when I mention this in my status. If somebody is being condescending, it's their problem. It really is, and I really believe this. And I really need to believe that original poster's heart was in the right place -- but just hasn't been there long enough to know how incredibly condescendingly he is coming off.

Because I've been on the side of offering the literal or figurative high five. I've seen the person struggling with climbing that nasty hill on the bike, or trying to squeeze out one more rep on the bench, or just stopping their run because they can't take it one more damn step and I give them a nod or smile of encouragement because, well, frankly, I'm looking in the mirror. I've been  that person  wondering if I even belong there in the gym, in the pool, on the bike trail with all these other "athletes" and every time when I'm showering off the sweat and walking out clean and dry and high on endorphins, I know I do belong there. And if you've bothered to lace up your gym shoes and drag your tired butt in there, you do too, no matter what your story or journey is, and and if you look like you could use an encouraging smile I'll have one for you.

That's what bothered me about a lot of the responses. Sure, original poster dude doesn't know Posnanski's story (and that OP made some ferocious assumptions) but when I offer you a word of encouragement, maybe you don't know my story. Before you get all insulted that I offer you a BTDT, maybe you might want to consider that I have indeed Been There Done That and lived to tell the tale. So, if for whatever reason you're reading this blog, you think I'm inspiring, or just think it's cool that I'm doing this, or writing this, or whatever, I'm totally happy to get your encouragement. I'm insecure enough as it is not to take a compliment or encouraging word at face value.  I won't think it patronizing, and if you are trying to be patronizing, that's your problem, not mine.

Hmm. Maybe I'm not as insecure as I thought. Because I am one fat chick tha-whumping around the track, jamming out to My Chemical Romance not giving a crap about what people are saying about me (unless it's good!) (Yes, I'm a 53-year-old fat broad who jams out to her teenage daughter's playlist.) And (I love this phrase, I wish I'd come up with it) I'm secreting awesomeness as I do it.

In the meantime, here's another great post about how to put a condescending asshole in their place. Enjoy.

2 comments:

Louie K said...

OHHHHH, Veronica I LOVE you! I have finally gotten to this point- on a post re: Target naming a color for Plus sizes "Manatee Grey", when the color name for Non-Plus sizes was "Heather Grey". They've since changed it back, but I DID post my true weight on the thread...206lbs. Because I'm NOT ASHAMED.

Jennifer said...

You rock, my friend. See you on the tri course!