Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One of these things is not like the others

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
"To tell you the truth, I don't plan on outliving this one!"
I overhead this in the sauna after water aerobics.  A group of older ladies were soaking up the heat and chatting about going to the casino last Friday and the cost of movies these days.  One of them tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, the spot you're in, that belongs to the lady out there with the walker."  She pointed to the pool, and I saw an elderly woman slowly walking up the stairs out of the shallow end.  "Oh, of course, I'll move," I offered back.

The sauna at Evans Pool, Green Lake.
I fumbled my way up to the second tier of benches and did my best at both joining in the occasional bursts of laughter and seeming aloof, like I was busy with my own thoughts and wasn't desperate to be a part of their group.  When the woman with the walker came in she sat in her spot and and the other ladies began complementing her.  They talked to her in a voice that people use when talking to small children, kinda higher pitched and sing-songy.  I thought this meant they knew she was at another level of old compared to themselves.

"Is that a new bathing suit you have on?  It looks so nice on you."

"Oh, this?  No, Joanie gave me this when she gave me all those other suits.  It's a good thing too, I don't want to go shopping for these things.  To tell you the truth, I don't plan on outliving this one!"  She said to them all, and gave a short huff of laughter at the end.

I waited to see the reaction.  Was it going to be sympathetic?  Would they tell her, no, of course you'll outlive it?  What?

Everyone burst out laughing again.  I was relieved.  I laughed too, but with some reserve.  I am, while not young anymore, still younger than my sauna cohorts were.  I wasn't sure how appropriate it was to be laughing at someone talking about dying sooner than she would be shopping again.  But after this, they included me more.  The red haired woman next to me started tilting her head back and to the right, toward me, when she laughed.  And I felt included.

"Got more energy than me."

Today at my Hydro-fit class, my favorite one at Green Lake and the one with the previously mentioned sauna, I was giving it my all.  We were well into our warm up and at the part where you are getting your heart rate up.  The class was doing a cross country skiing motion while raising our arms up and out of the water in an alternating pattern.  I was just beginning to get all rosy-cheeked, as the instructor likes to say.

There was a man and woman to my right, chatting and participating.  As I huffed by, I heard the woman look over to the gentleman and say, "Got more energy than me," and pointed at me with a nod of her head.

To be completely honest, I was a little deflated when I heard that.  I want these old people to like me, cause I like them.  I mean, I don't know them, but I inherently like them and want to know them better.  But I also want to get a good workout.  I don't want them to out me from the cool crowd just cause I am younger.  And faster.

Maybe it will just take time.  Maybe I'll have to keep going longer than the woman's swimsuit lasts.  And then I think to myself, "Who cares, Melissa?  Just be yourself.  These ladies don't seem to give a shit, and that's exactly what you like about them."

I think I can learn a lot from these classes, a lot more than how to do ab crunches in the water and what casino has the best slot machines.  "Look for the flaming 7's, baby!  The flaming 7's!  Those slot machines were the best, I won a lot of money on those.  They just don't make 'em like they used to."  It was the last thing I heard as I shut the sauna door and headed into the shower.



Sasha said...

Whenever I visit my parents during the week, I make apoint of joining my mom at water aerobics - the older ladies and men LOVE the young energy. You really needn't be self-conscious, Melissa. They're stoked you're there, though OF COURSE they're going to be a little prickly - that's what a head full of silver hair earns you, the right to be sassy!

I think you need a reminder that I get from you and Amy: Life is about having fun! Have fun! :)

Melissa Baumgart said...

Well said, Sasha! I can simply have fun, how refreshing! It's funny how I can get so caught up in my head, when it's quiet out there in the pool splashing around in the water.
Thanks for the reminder ;)

Bob Redmond said...

Nicely written, Melissa--flag this one for the book!