Monthly Archives: December 2019

Dance of the Kettle Bell Fairy

Anyone wandering into Tracy’s gym for the first time might wonder, where’s the gal? The one who’s going to whip me into shape? Then you see her. A woman who’s so tiny, if you stuck a pair of wings on her back and set her on the branch of a tree, she’d look right at home. I remember gazing at the whiteboard with it’s strange set of instructions and wondering, what’s a thruster? Is it appropriate for public viewing? How about a deadlift, a man maker, and a Turkish get-up? Is this a gym class or are we doing some work for the mafia?

I watched Tracy skip lightly over to a set of parallel bars on the floor and raise her body in the air until she was upside down. Still talking, of course. “I’m not doing that!” I yelped, forgetting I was supposed to just shut up and listen. It’s a lesson I’ve yet to learn. “Oh, you will,” she said airily. I stared at my friends, the ones who’d talked me into joining the gym. They didn’t look any more convinced than I.  But they were smart enough not to complain.

Whiners get handed extra weights, so wearing a pitiful facial expression is key. Channel your inner pillaged villager and you’ll have it about right. There’s no such thing as appearing too defeated, unless you want to add a hundred extra lunges to your day. Friends reading this are thinking, ‘Quit telling her all our secrets!’ I think she knows.

It’s also important to say how much fun you’re having, but without sounding sarcastic, which is much more difficult than it seems. Tracy loves it when we’re having fun. Because she’s always having fun. You can’t wipe the grin off her face as she hands you two kettlebells and watches you hoist them and squat like a constipated gorilla.

On the other hand, I’m stronger than I was at half my age. I wish I’d been working out like this before I gave birth, because that’s what it feels like when I’m shoving a kettle bell into the air and grunting like a cave woman. As desired by wicked Maleficent the kettle bell fairy, there are many who leave class smiling, their elegant muscles and endorphin highs an example to all. I’m cheerful, too, but more like the guy who just escaped from Shawshank. And yet.

I love the way I feel the rest of the time. I like my arms, and I’m at an age where no one likes their arms. I like my legs, and ditto. Mostly, I like the way they work and keep me balanced. As I mentioned before, I’m more ungainly than I look so I need all the help I can get just to stand upright.

I remember telling Tracy that I didn’t want to have ‘one of those weight lifting bodies.’ After much laughter at my expense, she said, “Never gonna happen. This is the wrong class for that.” I was relieved, but also puzzled. I felt like I was working as hard as humanly possible. Not only that, but I still had to listen to my muscle’s ongoing debate. My butt, for one, is a serious whiner with strong opinions.

“Look, Tracy said don’t use your glutes!” my butt says bitterly. “I wish that effing core would show up for once.” My glutes are right to be cranky. Though my core has returned from the Haufbrau House in Germany, it’s still as self indulgent as a hung over teenager. When Tracy says, ‘Tuck in your belly button,’ it replies lazily, “I don’t know how. Just leave me alone.” My rhomboids, trapezius and deltoid muscles also use the F word a lot. “Shut up!” I scream back, startling my fellow gym members. It’s very hard to do all those swings and deadlifts when your muscles are deeply engaged in arguing.

The gym is a loud place, anyway, what with all the grunting and the heavy music telling us we can’t do it. Or reminding us to go balls to the walls. (Seriously. That’s a thing.) I can’t get over how Tracy never gives up on us. I’ve tried to convince her I’m a lost cause, but she just won’t buy it. Based on her optimism, some things I might try in the future are:

1. Take part in a bar fight and win. ( Although I’m not really much of a fighter. The last time I even went to a bar was in Liverpool, England, where I tried to convince all the Scousers to emigrate to Canada. Though my success was limited, I made sure to let my fervor show. My fervor has increased along with my strength.)
2. Save someone. Even if they’re not in danger, I’d just like to try it. I don’t care about the situation, either. Burning building, someone trapped under an anvil. I’ll use all my skills to save them. I’m still clumsy, but also stronger than I look.
3. Do the Turkish get-up. This is an exercise where you get up from the ground without using your hands. My son in law, Bob, can do it with his tall, nine year old daughter clinging to one arm. When I told Tracy about it, she said, “Oh, you’ll do that, too.”
No, I won’t. I’m not that ambitious. I just pray for the day I can get up from the floor hands free.

Tracy is starting a class for beginners, in January. In spite of my bellyaching, I can honestly say that anyone who joins will have their lives changed for the better. It doesn’t matter if you need a hip replacement or had a hip replacement, have bad knees, shoulders, walk with a limp, or are in your eighties. We already have people that age in class, and you will only be stronger and healthier for the workout. (Going for coffee after and whining about everything is an important part of the routine.) There is no gun to my head as I write, but I’m hoping this earns me ten less squats in my first workout of 2020.  Happy New Year, dear readers. And you too, dear Kettle Bell Fairy. Besides brimming over with dread and excitement, I’m filled with too many chocolates, glasses of wine and servings of turkey. It’ll take some heavy lifting to get this body into shape again. And that’s no joke.

It’s a Stepford Family Christmas. Someone Bring the Cheese

There are some hallways I will never enter. Strange doors I will never step through, and belief systems I cannot embrace. I’m not talking about scientology. It’s the appeal of the Hallmark channel with its 24/7 Christmas movies that I cannot understand.

I know full well their popularity.  I have close friends and family members who wait all year for Christmas and the magic of Hallmark. These movies are a monetary success story, not just for the card company but for actors, writers and many who work in the business. Yet there’s something almost subversive about them. The characters don’t stare blankly like the women in the Stepford Wives movie, but still. I find their steady cheerfulness and unusual prosperity just a little creepy. There are other unexplained phenomena. Like the constant baking and the drinking of multiple cups of hot chocolate, yet no one is overweight.

As I write this, I’m eyeballing a movie called ‘Christmas in Evergreen: The Tiding.’ Perhaps they’ve done many shows in the fine town of Evergreen, and this is the latest rendition. I have no idea, because the only time I watch them is when I land on the channel accidentally. Still, I have to confess. There’s something mesmerizing about the way they capture their audience.

The first thing I notice is the clothes. Everyone is so well dressed, like they’re ready to attend their own wedding. Even the children look fresh from the hair salon. Toques (that’s Canadian winter head gear) are accompanied by matching scarves. Boots gleam, and fun mittens adorn every pair of hands. All this fashion finery is backed by elaborate decorations that make Rockefeller Center look small time. Lights everywhere, wreaths on all the doors and even the smallest store is wrapped up like an extravagant gift. Nobody ever frowns in Christmas movie land. Well, nobody except for a child whose mother, (let’s call her Amanda) is just too busy.

Amanda has an immaculate, amazingly decorated house, works full time and is always home for supper. And yet, little Jenny feels neglected. She needs a Christmas miracle–one that will have her mother come to her senses and get her priorities straight. Amanda loves to shop. That could be the problem, except everyone in town is constantly shopping and strolling around toting beautifully wrapped presents. By the end of the movie, Amanda has found both love and more time for her daughter.

Then there’s little Jimmy, who needs a new mother. His handsome father  is too heart broken to date the boy’s gorgeous teacher, though she’s funny (Hallmark funny, not Tina Fey funny) and smart and perfect in every way. Jimmy’s father looks off into the distance as he speaks about his wife. He was too busy working when she was alive, and now he is filled with regret. Jimmy can’t act as well as his father, but we’re supposed to root for them both.

The men of Christmas are as well groomed as the women. They look like Ken dolls, with hair that stays put no matter what winter sport they’re playing. Usually it’s something light, like skating. Or shopping. Even if their car broke down on the highway and they had to spend the night in a village resembling Santa’s workshop, they still look like mannequins. Their fastidious appearance leads me to believe that these men are all gay. Except I don’t think they have any LGBTQ people in Hallmark movies. Not any who are out of the closet, anyway. Please let me know if I’m wrong.

There are no drunk uncles in a Hallmark Christmas movie. No one ever confesses to cheating on their spouse. If they have a child and they’re a single parent, they’re never divorced, they’re a widow. Or widower.

I hate to diss the company, because I’ve been known to wander through Hallmark stores, reading cards while sitting in the aisle and weeping. After a good half hour of this behavior, I’m usually approached by a clerk with a strained look on her face. “May I help you?”
“No thanks. I just like to read the cards. This is the one,” I say, holding it up with the solemnity of a woman buying herself a $10,000 ring. I’ll spend $8 because this clever writer deserves the pay.

If these movies were cheesy novels, (which, maybe they were, once) there’d be a bare chested cowboy leaning over a beautiful girl while doffing his Stetson. But TV Christmas movies require clothing. Well fitted, stylish, fake casual. Young couples strolling down snow covered streets, flakes drifting softly past their faces, a church spire or an old brick bank that needs saving, in the background. Maybe a dog. I haven’t seen one yet. There must be a Hallmark dog movie out there somewhere. Dogs are emotionally available, and therefore popular.

No one in a Hallmark movie is Charlize Theron beautiful, just very good looking for regular town life. Even the old people look fit and attractive. There’s a lot of botox and filler, but its subtle. I can’t help thinking, oh, please. Give me one heroin addict dying in an alley while people wander by, unseeing. An old person neglected in a neighborhood of uncaring young people. Any touch of reality that acknowledges the messiness of real life. Our houses may look nice for half a day, but who can keep it up longer than that unless they have domestic help?  Especially if there are kids around. I want to see a Hallmark character step on a Lego piece and yell, ‘Fuck me!’ It will never happen.

I’d love to see a guy say, ‘Want to hook up, just for the night? Nancy next door has been talking about a three way. You up for it?” Wouldn’t that shake up the audience. As their Christmas movie coma fell away, the viewers would blink their eyes and shake their heads. “I have to get a life,” they’d say, getting up from the sofa for the first time in eight hours.

And yet. The people I know who watch and love Hallmark movies are busy with their own jobs and kids and full lives. At the end of a hard day, they long for the comfort and dazzle of a well decorated town. A simple story line where love waits for the pretty, and kids have small, easily solved problems. No one’s parents have dementia, no one’s dad is trying to kick his drug habit. Small problems, magical fixes. Yet watching these movies makes me want to try heroin, or lie down in a back alley with a bottle of 90 proof home brew.

I guess what I really want is to burst people’s bubble. Apparently this is the reason I can’t stand the movies. I’m a bubble burster. A Christian scrooge. Bah, humbug. Christmas for me is about Jesus, but I can’t stand the church people in these movies, either. Anyway.

Wait a minute. They just kissed. Why is she leaving? Is she driving away? I thought they were going to get married! What the…?? Dammit. Now I have to watch to the end. Sigh. At least I’m dressed badly. My old flannel bottoms and torn sweatshirt represents the realities of regular people’s lives. Because someone has to keep a firm grasp on… Wait…she’s back! She’s getting out of the car with a string of lights in her hand! Oh, for the love of God! Stop decorating, already.