Overthinking at the Gym

I decide to walk on the track this morning. I can do the elliptical tomorrow. As usual, there’s the older woman who hugs the inside railing instead of staying to the outside like she’s supposed to. Twice I have to pass between her and some other person who’s decided to accompany her and take up the width of the track. I am polite but curt when I excuse myself and ask to pass.

Later in my journey, Seu Jorge plays as I encounter two older white men who are flaunting their privilege in the way that they swing their arms so no one can pass them. I want to dance to the music that fills my ears, but I don’t dare for fear that I forget the steps or someone laughs at the fat girl who thinks she’s a dancer. I realize I’m at a crossroads. My pace surpasses the two men’s pace, but if I were a cat my whiskers would tell me that I cannot squeeze through the tiny space the man on the left has provided. I’m all at once aware of my size and my timidity, afraid to ask to pass because I perceive what they might think of me. The feminist in me screams at the rest of me not to slow my pace, but to claim my space. I have just as much right to be here as anyone, I scream to myself, but here I am, throttling my pace so as not to make a fuss.

Thankfully the men decide they’ve had enough and leave the track. I push myself one more mile than I intended to prove to somebody—myself, I guess—that I can. I listen to powerful women singing songs of rebellion and defiance, hoping some of that strength seeps through my ears and makes me more powerful. I know I’m strong, but in moments like this I let self-doubt creep in. In moments like this I give voices to other people, and the things they say about me are unkind, which means there’s still a voice in my head that’s unkind. I wish it would shut up, so I write things like this to let it know its days are numbered. I turn the music up louder to drown it out, and for one brief moment I feel more powerful.

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