Exercising my rights

Hands up if you love the gym! Yeah, gym!  Other people’s sweat on handlebars!  Bum wobbles! Mysterious pubes on the floor! Orcs bearing dumb bells!  Euro house!  Yeah!  The gym!


In fairness, I don’t really mind the place.  But that’s because I live in an apartment block with its own gym so I am duty bound to drag my ass up there as often as possible.  And it genuinely helps me switch off my mind, with its snarky affectations and deep unfathomable pools of bitterness.  Running on a circular belt with my mouth open really shows my shitty synapses who’s boss.  In truth, I am now on nodding terms with a few people, which is as close to neighbourly love as it gets in my building.  And I can block out most sounds thanks to a well placed podcast on a well inserted earphone (I lodged the bud in so hard yesterday that it was only when I took it out that I found the earring back which was attached to it.  I tried to pretend in my head that it was a metallic depth charger, sent in to to locate tiny spies in my ear canal, but I think I’ve been watching too many terrible films recently.)


So I can block it out and that’s good, but here’s the thing.  Very often I’m the only woman up there.  Now I believe that the gym is as much the natural home of a man as the tupperware party is for a woman, (i.e they are not), but more times than not I am distinctly outnumbered.  And it doesn’t worry me.  Either there are an inordinate number of gay musclemen in my block or I am even less attractive than I think i am, but I don’t get hit on, or feel remotely perved at.  Which is great, right?  So I shouldn’t complain, no?  It’s just … no it’s petty of me to say anything …it’s just, well it’s the music.  It offends me.  It doesn’t aesthetically displease me.  It’s just wrong.


There’s a sound system in the corner, tuned to either banal local radio or one a little portfolio of CDs.  Mostly rave type stuff which is okay to run to.  But today it was just me and some guy and gym etiquette dictates that whoever is first in is the DJ.  Which in this case meant him.  He puts a disc on.  At first it’s just a nice beat and I’m like, okay, fine and then there’s some rapping.  It’s that heavy low stuff where it sounds like they’re on anti depressants, so I put my ipod on and get on the treadmill.  I can see in the mirror the guy (who hasn’t exactly done much gym-ing to warrant being DJ in my opinion), nod his head, sidle over to the CD player and turn up the volume.  This is roughly what I hear:

‘split the bitch in half’.  I wince.

‘fuck the ho in the ass like she do it for cash’.  I roll my eyes at my gym ‘buddy’ in an astounding act of British passive aggression.

There was more, but I really don’t want to write it down.  Eventually the troglodyte went to examine his button mushroom in the gents, so I yanked the wires out of the back of the stereo (not sure why) and left the gym.  That sort of music really does inspire violence; what I really wanted to do was jam a 4kg handweight up his urethra, but hey, that’s not how I roll, dawg.


Obviously this was an extreme situation, because Notorious P. I. G had chosen to turn the music up, showing a blatant disregard for the sensory welfare of his neighbours, but even so, who the hell writes that stuff?  I don’t wish to be all Tipper Gore about this, but how is it okay to write lyrics like that?  Not just okay, but lauded in some circles?  If I wrote a song about anally penetrating a man causing him physical pain and ultimately bisecting him, I would expect approbation.  I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be such a mainstream choice as to be played out loud and with gusto in a unisex gym.


This isn’t a new issue,  I know.  What next, will I be complaining about those pesky Beastie Boys and the theft of VW badges?  That I once saw, with horror,  Ellen Terry’s ankle on stage? But sometimes, when you least expect it,  things like today happen and the inequality gap seems as wide and accepted as ever.  Now, where’s that 4kg weight?

Reflections on a toilet


Following on from my bid for positivity (see previous post), I am celebrating the smaller,  more overlooked things in life.  You may wish to think of me as an urban Thoreau after you’ve read this because I am reflecting like a really reflective thing, like something that you would get out of a cereal box and fit to your bike spokes …yessss….that reflective.

Today I have been mostly reflecting on ladies toilets.  Loos.  Public bathrooms.  La-va-tory.  I have a particular disdain for the latter; phonetically too close to ‘laboratory’, although in some ways I guess they are both twin chambers of pain and hygiene.

Ho hum.  So here are my cumulative reflections on public restrooms (notice how transcontinental I am with my terminolgy?).  This list is more or less in praise of the loo as an area which recognises no cultural or class divide.  Ideally, I would like to see if women in other countries have similar or different experiences to me.  Don’t worry, there is no scat in the following list.

Observation 1:  A woman will have always been walked in on during the act at least once in their life.  Those doors are not consistently up to scratch.

Observation 2:  A woman will have always tried to hold the door closed with her foot or hand while trying to reach the bowl with her behind to pee.  I think this usually stems from being traumatised by first hand experience of observation 1.

Observation 3:  Wiping someone else’s pee off the bowl.  I’m sorry.  I had to ‘go there’.  Besides, we’ve all had to do it.  With pursed lips.  And a little bit of tissue.

Observation 4:  Deliberating over asking your cubicle neighbour for toilet roll.  The disembodied hand under the gap, proffering bog paper like a white flag.  It’s a bit like the trenches, except you’re the surrender monkey who should have checked the necessaries before you sat down, sucker!

Observation 5:  Speculating on the provenance of the damp patch on the toilet roll.  You may have gathered that I don’t frequent the Ritz very often.

Observation 6:  Being distracted by the little lady on the sanitary disposal bag.  Why her?  Why anyone?

She's sooo purty .....she looks after my tampons

Observation 7:  Having to pretend to wash your hands for longer than necessary because some woman is taking forever on the hand dryer.  Or awkwardly sharing hand dryer with them, eyes glazed, breath held.  It’s too intimate.

Observation 8:  Ruminating on the creative process behind hand towel and hand soap colours.  Did they market research what colour hands respond to?  And did aforementioned research point conclusively to the colour ‘light teal’?

Observation 9:  The quiet charm of encountering a good hand dryer.  And indulging in it.  A Dyson Blade is like a work of art.

Observation 10:  Fear of the exit door handle. In fact, any handle in that room (especially flush).  Do you cover your hand with your sleeve?  Or just avert your eyes?  Seriously I need to know.  This is important work.

And gents, I apologise if this has ruined the mystique of what goes on behind the gilded ‘Ladies’ sign.  I’m sure you imagined it to be like a Disney cartoon back there, with little bluebirds flying around, delivering scented towlettes and flushing the chain for us.  I’m sorry.  But if you would like to share anything that you would class as a globally resonant toilet-based observation, I am very keen to learn.

Your thoughts are welcome.