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A Gym Story That Will Make No One Laugh (Least of All Me)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

If you'd asked Little Jolene what she wanted to be when she grew up, you'd probably hear something having to do with horses or to be a veterinarian. I sincerely doubt that I ever suggested being a princess. And I never wanted to be a ballerina.

Ballerinas are some of the most talented and strong and fit individuals I've ever seen. I just never wanted to be one. Under most circumstances, being called a ballerina would probably not insult me. What's to be insulted about?

Last night, though, being called one broke my heart.

I hate sexism. I HATE it. I hate when a politician suggests that rape doesn't happen on college campuses.

I hate when car commercials sell their product by putting a pretty pair of breasts on screen.

I absolutely loathe and detest Michael Bay films.

I hate being told I'm strong "for a girl".

But I am not often on the receiving end of blatant discrimination. Sure, sometimes the guy bagging my groceries refuses to hand me the bag, insisting Awesome Husband carries them instead. Sure the GNC salesmen made me feel uncomfortable when I bought creatine, suggesting that I probably didn't know what I was doing with it. But these things are minor. They make me mad. But they're minor.

When direct and pointed attacks happen, a few things go on in my head.

1. I get MAD. I rise to the occasion. I get ready to go to battle.

2. Shortly thereafter, I second-guess every single thing I said and think about all the things I wish I'd said.

3. I get sad. I get disappointed with humanity. And I feel terribly hurt.

4. I sit on the couch and watch television and refuse to speak for a while.

Last night, Awesome Husband and I went to the gym. I didn't want to. I was tired and feeling lazy. But I went. I set myself on a mat and spent a good ten minutes stretching because it just felt great. During that time, the subjects of my last blog (LegPressGirl and ThirdGirl) sat down on the leg press machine and were approached by like...........four different men. It made me chuckle. It was maybe going to be the subject of my blog today. It's not.

After stretching, I went over to the dumbbell area and saw a man standing near the incline bench that I wanted. I went up to him and said, "Excuse me. May I use this?" He nodded, smiled, and moved off. At no point did he appear to be using it. He was just standing near it.

I sat down on the bench to do incline flyes and he moved over to a smith machine where someone had left a decline bench. He did not appear to want to use it because he continued to just stand there. While standing there, another man (with incredibly tall spiky hair) came up to him and asked if he was using the decline bench. His response?

"No. I'm just waiting for this f***ing ballerina over here to be done."


I had my headphones in. It is very unlikely he knew I could hear him. At this point, I was not at all certain he was talking about me. I looked around to see who he could possibly be waiting on but I came up empty.

I realized at this point that my dumbbells were too light so I got up to change them out for another set. As soon as I stood, he came over and asked if he could take the bench. That made things a little more clear. I pulled out my headphones, looked him straight in the eyes and said,

"Am I the effing ballerina??"

I said effing. Because I am not about to cuss in the gym. IT'S RUDE, YOU NEANDERTHAL.

He got flustered. He said no. He said he was waiting on some guy on the other side of the gym who was doing some move with the bar behind his neck and uh....

I nodded, slowly, reached for my weights and said, "Go ahead. Take it."

He fumbled some more, smiled a little (I'll tell you just where to put that smile, sir), and said, "No no, are you sure?" I nodded again. "Okay, it's really no problem." I continued to tell him he could take the bench.

He took it and moved away and I sat down on a flat bench to do db bench presses. I was laughing at this point. It all seemed so absurd. Awesome Husband came over and I gave him a look.

AH: What?

Me: I almost just got in a fight.

AH: With who?

Me: That guy.

AH: What, you mean like, the opposite of that? (He thought StupidIdiotSexistJerkFace was hitting on me and I was being sarcastic.)

Me: Oh no. I mean exactly what I said.

I waited until SISJF had walked away and then relayed the story. AH's face got very red and he said, "You want me to do something about it?"

Me: "No! He knows I'm upset. He was embarrassed. I put him in his place."

But as time went on, I didn't feel so confident. In fact, I felt sad and embarrassed. I went up to the counter and told the story to the women who work there, one of whom I know personally. Because honestly, he may have been talking about someone else. But even if that were the case, both situations are terrible.

Either A)He WAS talking about me and is a huge sexist jerk pig or B)He was referring to someone on the other side of the gym, whose workout he felt was inferior. And to insult them, he referred to them as a female dancer. So he's a sexist jerk pig.

When we left the gym, all my rage-filled adrenaline went away and I just felt heartbroken. I was shaky. I felt like I should have confronted him further. I felt like I should have whipped my thirty pound dumbbell at his big sexist jerk pig face. And I didn't. All I did was confront him for saying something he shouldn't have said because he thought I couldn't hear him.

I do not want to be made to feel like I'm not welcome in the gym. I don't need to be handed a pink dumbbell. I'm not looking for the 3 pound weights. I am sweating and working hard and often lifting more than my own body weight. BUT EVEN IF I WASNT, I will not be made to feel unwelcome. I will not be made to feel less. If I want to lift three pounds and dance around the gym listening to Britney Spears and take up a squat rack for an hour I will frakking do it and I will not apologize.

Bottom line is, though, that if SexistJerkPigs are going to consistently ruin my workout, I may just look for another gym. I love to work out. And I do not want that taken away from me. I don't want to leave the gym feeling weak because someone has diminished me so thoroughly.

And he did. I wish I could say I felt strong after that exchange. I don't. I feel SAD.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • TIGER_LILY_613
    You handled that perfectly ! You called him out on it and he got flustered, because he KNOWS he was wrong. Nothing else needed. Perfect delivery.

    You are awesome. Don't change.
    1813 days ago
    What a jackass! Makes me wonder how many comments I haven't heard. I wear two hearing aids and they come out when I wear you got me wondering! I used to be very paranoid when I was younger that people were talking about me...when you can't hear that well, it just seems to be a natural reaction.

    I think your response to him was a GOOD one. I would have responded the same way. I Get really ticked off about stuff like that.

    UGH! Some people are so ignorant!
    1813 days ago
    There are SO MANY jerks like that around! Now & then things happen to me or around me which reminds me how far our country has to go to join the civilized human race and it IS deeply saddening and frustrating...YES!

    I get a little annoyed when folks hover around various weight gadgets at the fitness center, but always ask to be clear as to whether or not they are using them before I jump in. If I sense someone IS using it but might begrudgingly "allow" me access I'll just move along to something else. No drama thank you...!

    1879 days ago
    Just catching up with my SP friends. I live in an area where this is all too common. Some men feel that they can walk all over me because my dh is on the road. Some men around here respect the fact that I keep things up the best I can and only call for help after I try to do things myself or know I'm in over my head (as in plumbing).

    Some of the men who talk down to me seem to have a change of heart come elections. Funny on how they seem to think this weak minded woman will forget all their rudeness while I'm in the voting booth.

    Keep up the good work and the next time that clod refers to you as a f**king balerina. Thank him and remind him balerinas are some of the strongest atheletes in the world. There is nothing harder than making a hard thing look easy. Stay strong. emoticon
    1921 days ago
    Wow - you handled that exactly right at the gym. Now comes the hard part. Leaving the "jerkiness" to the Jerk and letting it go. It doesn't belong to you, it belongs to him. You, my friend, are emoticon
    1939 days ago
    Very sorry you had an encounter with a jerk. You handled it well. BUT it is infuriating to have to face rudeness and sexism!
    1940 days ago
    Sorry for your bad experience. Some people just really don't have a filter...and they don't have a very good thought process either...or they wouldn't have so much TO filter. Sad. I'm proud of you, though. You called him out. You made him step back and think about what he had said. Maybe you added a little bit to his otherwise non-existent filter...and in the future, he will think before he speaks. Lets hope so. Keep being you. You're fine. You do your workouts where you want and how you want. His problem is his problem. Keep up the good work! Thanks for the encouragement! Spark on! emoticon emoticon
    1940 days ago
    i imagine the guy looking like this... emoticon

    1940 days ago
    There are always going to be Bros; they're in every gym. Don't leave - don't switch - don't flinch. In the end, one stupid comment by one stupid man should neither define nor deflate you.

    Rather than flying off the handle, you calmly confronted him. That made YOU the victor in that situation. He probably wasn't even talking about you, and even if he was, he sucked that comment back in pretty dang quick.

    There will always be fools waiting in the wings.
    1941 days ago
    See, I would have been the person who said NOTHING and sulked and blogged about it here being sad for humanity. YOU had the guts to say SOMETHING and that dear is emoticon .

    You are my gym hero.

    And here's the thing....I LIKE pink dumbells and just above three pounds, but if anyone EVER calls me a ballerina,.....well, I'm getting my friend BAZOOKABOBCAT to set them straight :p

    You rocked it.
    1941 days ago
  • NEWSGIRL2177
    He's totally a jerk. And good for you for calling him on it. But please try not to carry this around with you for long.
    In the mid-'90s, I went to my first step class and toward the end, I had trouble keeping my arms moving along with the instructor. I focused on getting the legs down and did my arms as much as I could manage. After class, a guy in the class stopped me, looked me up and down, and said, "If you can't hang, DON'T come back." He was a jerk, too. And I carried that shame around with me for years. Way too long! I even stopped going to the gym for about 10 years.
    I'll never give anyone that power now. And I hope you won't either. Eff him. Move on. You've got more important things to do.
    1941 days ago
  • LYNSEY723
    It sucks that you had to go through that. I am sorry. I think he deserved a big ol' punch in the face. I don't know what I would have done in the same situation though. I am lucky that I go to the gym bright and early so the free weights area is nearly empty. It's a good thing too, because if it were busy I'd probably be afraid to go in there for reasons like your blog.

    1941 days ago
    I think you handled it well. I also think you give him far too much credit - he meant you, its obvious by his response. You handled yourself with waaaaaayyyyy more class than he did!

    Don't change gyms - because every gym has one - the sexist jerk who doesn't believe you can do things. Show them.


    ps - I LOVE your wallpaper! (Adventure Time!)
    1941 days ago
    Wow. When I read his comment I literally said "WOAH" out loud. How inappropriate, rude, stupid, ridiculous....I could go on. I think you did handle it awesomely, I know I wouldn't have said a thing because I'm scared of confrontation. He does deserve a major smackdown. I'm so sorry his words have hurt you. Don't give him the power of you changing gyms....that is if you still feel comfortable going there. You have a lot of gym stories. I sometimes look at other people on the floor but I never see anything exciting.
    1941 days ago
    Please don't let that THING steal your joy. Ugh ugh..... You probably can lift heavier and better than he can on any given day... grrrrr........
    1941 days ago
    You shouldn't have to change gyms. The truth is that jerkfaces are worldwide. I worked at a gym and it had several locations. I rotated amongst three of them. I have also worked out at a couple of different gyms. There were a plethora of jack-donkeys at every location.
    I hate that he made you feel that way. One of my biggest pet peeves are rude/mean people. But you have to realize that the comment was not directly about you. A jerk will always be a jerk. If you weren't the one sitting on that bench he would have said a mean comment about whomever was sitting there. That's what jerks do.
    You deserve to be in that gym just as much as he or anybody else does.
    1941 days ago
    Ouch, that's a bummer. I'd like to think that guy's in the minority....I travel a lot and work out in a bunch of different gyms. Most of the snide comments I hear about (and, I'll admit, the ones i make) have to do with people improperly using equipment. Something as racy as the ballerina call is out of line.

    I do get pissed at anyone doing barbell curls in the squat rack, or people socializing while taking up a piece of equipment, but never against anyone making an effort to concentrate on their training.

    keep at it....stay strong...keep're on the right track!
    1941 days ago
    BOOM - way to even call it to his attention! Some people would have just ignored it, I'm over here giving you props for SAYING what you said! Make him feel stupid! Aghhhh I can't stand people some days!

    And I bet most ballerinas are stronger and more coordinated than him anyways, he's just totally misguided.

    Chin up girlfriend, keep up the good fight though. Thank you for standing up to idiots especially on behalf of us ladies!
    1941 days ago
    Now I'm sad :-(
    1941 days ago
  • RSTM99
    I think you handled that perfectly. You gave hiim something to think about. He heard you loud and clear - more words probably would have clouded the message. Hopefully once the incident clears from your system, you'll feel even more empowered to be at that gym despite the idiots. Can't let them win right? However, having said that, would be nice to go without drama - if you have a choice of several gyms nearby, that's the power you still hold to make that choice too. Stay strong.
    1941 days ago
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