Tuesday, March 9, 2010

HARMLESS BANTER AMONG FRIENDS?

My midday gym workout was more painful than usual. True, I was still sore from Saturday’s bicep sets, not to mention my 5K Sunday swim and yesterday’s chest routine. But it was the company that bothered me more than anything.

Due to my year of writing, I have the luxury of going to the gym at any point in the day that I like. (Mornings, however, are never an option. The body is simply not awake enough. Serious injury could occur.) The gym is usually close to empty midday and that’s perfect for me. I don’t go to socialize. Do the drills and get out.

As I pulled into the parking, I was dismayed to see so many pickup trucks. The gym was fairly crowded—packed, considering the time of day—and most of the people were congregated in the weights area, right where I intended to be. Four twentysomething guys talked loudly, liberally throwing in “fuck” and “fuckin’” to prove their masculinity (aka stupidity) to one another. I was not impressed, but I found a free bench, altered my routine based on the weights that were available and tried to tune them out.

That proved fruitless. They talked with an intention of being heard and, worse, they were not content to have a millisecond of dead air. Maybe it’s because I work in solitude at home, interrupted only by the occasional bark as a robin gets too close to the patio door, but the banter was grating.

And then it became more than that. While I did a set on the calf machine, I heard one of them mention AIDS and the guys started laughing so hard they had to stop the sets they were doing. I assumed I’d misheard since the subject seemed far removed from the previous conversation about diminished volleyball skills from drinking beer and a flatulence issue due to a pre-workout coffee stop. I moved to another machine and one of the guys, still laughing, said, “HIV isn’t funny, man.” Another replied, “Especially if you’ve got it.” More hooting.

I frowned but they were too busy enjoying the joke to notice. What decade was this? How had I ended up here?

I said nothing. The moment passed.

A few minutes later, one of the guys complained that the weight they were using was too heavy and his buddy said, “Don’t be a fuckin’ homo, man.”

Homo. The standard putdown. (Funny but I was using heavier weights than them.) This time I couldn’t frown. I turned away, utterly repulsed and opted to further switch up my workout order, doing my ab crunches in another area of the gym. I wasn’t far enough away to completely block out the noise, but I couldn’t make out the conversation.

Fifteen minutes later, the gym was quiet, the guys onto other endeavors. Perhaps a trip to the library. Maybe a quick tour of the latest exhibit at the town’s fledgling art gallery. Surely it was too early to hit one of the area’s half dozen pubs or the liquor store.

With the peace restored, I had plenty of time to think about my inaction. Should I have spoken up? Would it have changed anything? Would I have become the new object of their bond-strengthening homophobia?

I suppose I’ll never know. Cherishing my world of silence, I said nothing.

1 comment:

feralgeographer said...

Oh fuck, that's terrible... Reading this, I felt the chill of recognition and fear, just like when I was back in trade school a few months ago. I *did* choose to call those guys on it, but only after calculating the risks: I am a femme-queer young woman who "looks straight" and thus was protected not only by that, but also the fact that I was in an institutional setting with an established code of conduct (which my homophobic classmates had to abide). Still it was hard for me, and I completely understand you not saying anything, because the risk might not be worth it. If it's a public gym, like at a community centre, you may have some recourse through their safe space policy, but even then, what does that look like? In my experience, they'll put up some posters and nod a lot, and that's all. Le sigh. I'm so sorry that you, and any of us really, had to hear that trash.