She was doing alternating bicep dumbbell curls in much better form than usual for the bimbini who venture into the back of the gym, good enough that I forgave her the T-shirt reading “College Republican Women’s Club” (I think it was a pretty old T-shirt). I was actually on the verge of complimenting her, but then, how much of a compliment is “You’re not as big a duffer as most of the women who come back here”?

Then she startled me by remarking on my warmup. I do this thing where I punch to alternating sides with a seven or ten pound dumbbell in each hand, thirty or forty as an icebreaker. (T-shirt worn by Crossfit orthopedist-fodder: “Your workout is my warmup.”) Four or five more things come after this before I am ready to chuck serious weight, but I am always thrilled to share. I showed her how powering the weight straight out works the delt and levering it back taxes the bicep. Before I was done, she had picked up the baby weights (smart move on a new exercise) and was trying it out.

She had the drab complexion of someone who doesn’t suck in much oxygen and a paunch that was less about total weight than heinous, body-illiterate posture, but she had latched onto something. The strict-form curls. The curiosity.

I forgave her her College Republican trespasses and coached her on the punching thing. Flex knees. Freeze hips. Twist at the waist as you punch; feel your abs.

Give her enough time and she may even soften her political stance. Said Aquinas, “the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor”. The passion to exceed physical limits argues a divinity of sorts, so in that spirit she was my neighbor.

Aquinas, by the way, was said to be “colossally fat” and have suffered from dropsy. I could have helped him out there. Not everyone is expected to be chiseled or gorgeous but we all have the right to be strong enough for our circumstances and avoid ill health. I would be intrigued to discover what philosophy or theology might arise from the marriage of relentless intellect with corpore sano.


7 thoughts on “Caritas

  1. People who expect a lot from themselves often tend to expect more from others. Hence it would not surprise me if that marriage inspired a fair amount of charitable libertarianism, i.e. Don’t ask me to help you directly but I will advise you in helping yourself.

    “… we all have the right to be strong enough for our circumstances …”

    I was never on the side of those people who thought P.E. should be an elective. Music is an elective I strongly encourage, but P.E. should be required of every student, right along with the math and English and history. (None of which I’m sure they still teach these days.)

    • Oh Goddess, don’t get me going on Phys Ed. Actually, it was required in my school system up through sophomore year, after which I was walking everywhere anyway just for shits and grins.

      On the down side, if you make it required people will learn to hate it — I certainly learned to hate gymnastics (balance beams? pleeease) and every “field” sport that involved chasing a fucking ball around. I would lift my classmates because girls weren’t offered weights or serious resistance training of any kind. Couldn’t run worth a damn and still can’t but my standing broad jump — the precursor of my 700-pound leg presses — freaked out the instructor. Still, to me gym class was about getting picked last for some dumb-ass team because no one likes the four-eyed egghead.

      On the other hand, neither gym nor health class taught anything practical about body mechanics, removing pain, increasing physical competence in everyday life. Don’t even think about practical nutrition.

      But if only we could make it about those things!!!

      • Yes. I should have added that P.E. should be properly done. It is not, or wasn’t, back when it became the one class the bullies and brickheads could dominate in. Proper P.E. would teach every young human the value of fitness and health and valuing your own body just as it is and respecting all others’ as well. But, oh well. I was a quiet skinny kid but I did excel at running. Particularly useful the day the junior high boys dean shut down the lunchtime football games and all those guys stood around watching us play soccer awhile and then rushed in en masse and cleared the field …

  2. PE was a torture for me, being the Fat Kid. So yeah, although I would have benefitted from some regular exercise, instead I was the butt of vicious teasing and bullying while stuffed into ill-fitting shorts not made properly for my size. Oh, and the annual “weighing in” at the beginning of the year – in front of the whole class! – caused deep humiliation.

    I still don’t like being in classes (yoga, pilates) because of the Wall of Mirrors, but am fine doing The Bike and weights at the gym because I’ve decided I’m invisible while I’m there. I bet my “routine” would make you cringe though. 🙂

    • Oh right, that was the other thing, the ridiculous clothes they made you wear. In my school system girls had to wear bloomer onesies that did not fit someone with a long body like me, so the size that supposedly was mine always gave me a terminal wedgie. And if you forgot and left yours at home you had to wear a spare that had FORGOT on it in big letters. They figured out ways to make it a ritual of humiliation for everyone.

      If you are doing bike and weights I think you’re way ahead of the people politely doing yoga and pilates. I mean, you can get a DVD and do yoga on your own bedroom rug.

  3. The marriage of relentless intellect with corpore sano, Well, that’s you, isn’t it?

    I particularly like the relentless part. The marriage of anything with something relentless is funny.

    Hi, Sled. Hi!

    • I am flattered, but I am not sure I have the all-day-wonk capability of an Aquinas. I am sort of relentless though, and when I was married, it was often very funny (when it wasn’t appalling).

      Hello dammit you stranger!

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