Monday, February 8, 2010

Six Weeks to Lovelier Hair (Or: Ronald's Big One)

I work out daily across the frozen river at Newburgh’s Planet Fitness, which bills itself as the No-Judgement Zone, with judgment misspelled; the idea is that competing gyms will sneer at you or call you a flabboat if you come in bearing little resemblance to Brad Pitt in Troy. Grunting of the sort so popular at the Gold’s in Fishkill, which was full of obvious steroid abusers who wanted everybody on the premises to note the superhuman amounts of weight they were lifting, is forbidden, and everybody makes a huge display of wiping down the various machines after they’re finished, almost as though surgery’s going to be performed with them. Retractor. Scalpel. Lat pulldown machine.

There are no hot mamas at Planet Fitness, no gleaming spandex leotards, no highlighted hair held back by $17.95 scrunchies purchased at accessories boutiques. There are instead a tiny (she comes up to about my ribcage) female bodybuilder whose perpetual glower suggests steroid use of her own, and a great, great many middle-aged women in ill-fitting sweatpants, huffing and puffing valiantly on the treadmills.

I begin my own workout each day with 30 minutes on a stationary bicycle, on which I set the resistance quite high. If I’m enjoying the book I’ve brought with me — and as this is written, I’m enjoying the hell out of Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, which I found quite difficult in the beginning — I forget within the first few minutes that I’m even exercising. I probably got through 30 books in this way in 2009.

Often I find myself on a bike beside a guy who gets lots of calls on his cell phone — which has the loudest, most annoying ringtone in the world — and then talks loudly enough into it to make me keep reading the same paragraph over and over. Sometimes I want to strangle him with my bare hands, but then I remember that I’m no steroid abuser.

The gym recently had individual TVs attached to all the so-called cardio machines, the bikes and treadmills and elliptical trainers. I try not to notice that most of my fellow fitness-seekers are watching mind-numbing crapola. I occasionally think of proposing to the gym’s management that they require people on those machines to read books favorably reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, or at least the New Yorker, but in view of their reaction to my pointing out the misspelling of judgment, I think I’d be wasting my breath. I am indeed a frightful snob, but won’t apologize for not wanting to be surrounded by the willingly benighted.

It amused the other day, that on which I wrote about the disinclination of the typical alternative rock group even to think about what it wears on stage, to reflect on the fact that a great many of the guys who spend hours each day at the gym making their bodies look nice would condemn as unmasculine the idea of choosing their attire with care.

I was getting funny looks in the locker room there for a while. My friend Toni had recommended a kind of shampoo and conditioner that comes in pink bottles. But I left them behind in the shower last week, and have had to make do with stuff I bought at Dollar Tree. I am consequently able to offer this tip: it’s a mistake to imagine that the most attractively packaged hair product will be the best one. I am looking forward as I write this to trying out the Target’s-own-brand shampoo and conditioner I bought last week when I noticed it among the Pantene products, with a little note beneath daring me to compare them. They seemed to have the identical ingredients, and the Pantene was very much pricier.

After physical education at Orville Wright Junior High School, we boys were compelled to shower together. It was the first time those of us without brothers had ever seen anyone else’s dick, though of course we were understood not to be noticing. I was amazed, at age 12, to notice while not noticing that Ronald Adams, only months before the shyest boy at Loyola Village School, had a great big one, this before many of us had even entered puberty. To our classmates’ credit, I don’t recall his having been beaten to a pulp.

Would I rather have lovelier hair, or save a few bucks? May I think about it for a few minutes before answering?

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  1. My niece's friends tweeted that it reminded them of their grandparents dancing inappropriately at a party. I countered, only if their grandparents wrote the music at the party.

  2. Wasted asset. That's what my hair was termed by one of my best friends. I know what she meant. There's no style. It doesn't make a statement. Now, your hair on the other hand is not a wasted asset. It makes a statement. Whatever shampoo and conditioner you're using, it's working for you!