Some days are particularly revealing.
I went to my workout class. You know, the one where you shake and nearly puke but leave feeling cleansed of all physical wrongs? At least until you eat that entire package of ramen for lunch? With a fried egg on top? Yeah. That one. Anyways, I’m there and it’s this advanced barre ballbusters class. (Well, not really because there weren’t any balls to bust in this particular class. But maybe we’re all there to get strong enough to bust balls? Anyways. It’s a hard class.)
When I walk in, there are heavy black straps hanging from the barre along the wall. It looks like a scene from some kind of 50 Shades of Gray knock-off. Which I know only from my imagination, not from seeing 50 Shades of Gray or any knock-offs of any shade. Not that I spend a lot of time imagining either of those things. I swear. We’re getting off track here.
The straps worry me a little but the women in the class worry me a lot. Everyone is stretching really, really strenuously. In my usual just-short-of-hell class, the minutes before it starts are spent gently smiling at one another while casually kind of bending. But this class, this speeding-through-the-gates-of-hell class? The waiting women are reaching and writhing and stretching and tightening and clamping and bending. One woman has her head on her ass and her legs in the air. I go sit on the opposite side of the room.
I know what you’re thinking. Comparison is the thief of joy. Sure! Agreed! But Teddy wasn’t comparing himself to Downward Dog Donna when he wrote that, I’ll tell you that much right now. You know what’s the thief of joy? Grunting as you try to touch your toes while the girl next to you folds herself into the human equivalent of a towel swan.
The class starts. We’re doing floor work first and I’m more or less keeping up. I definitely snort while planking but I decide not to be embarrassed. Snorting is stretching for the nose. By the time I take my spot at the barre I’m feeling damn near competent. Everything that I’m doing looks like it takes work and is kind of the drunk version of what the instructor is demonstrating. So what? It DOES take work and the drunk version is STILL A VERSION. I’m about ready to pat myself of the back (a stretch I can do) when it hits me.
A heady mix of body odor and maple syrup with a little hot zinc thrown in. It’s not coming from the woman to the right of me, she was next to me on the floor and I didn’t smell a dingdong thing. That leaves the lady on the left. Hello, lady on the left. She’s dressed in an outfit that perfectly coordinates with her multi-colored Nikes. She kind of looks like a bustier Natalie Portman. Which must be really difficult for her. Is it her? It’s got to be her, right? What the hell has she been doing to develop this pungency? Oh my gosh, it’s like an onion patch and the Original House of Pancakes are making babies in my nostrils. It is an aggressive and oddly thick odor. Like, so thick it’s nearly embodied. It deserves a name. It demands a name. I name it Frank.
A quick sniff to make sure it’s not me. I notice the woman to my right noticing me smell myself and I try to turn it into some kind of neck stretch. She’s not convinced. But I am, at least of what matters. I am not the source of the stench. Of course, she doesn’t know that. Man, she just wrinkled her nose. She must be able to smell it, too. This is just great. I bet she thinks it’s me. Can I move? I’d like to move. How can I move? I scan the length of the barre. There’s a spot, at the very end next to the window. I could pretend I need the fresh air. Not in an “it smells like Canadian Hades has a stomachache” kind of way. More like a “I’m weak and could use a cool breeze” kind of way. I could even say something like, “Oh, the heat is making me so dizzy.” That would be convincing. I’m pretty much convinced.
I look at Natalie Portman with boobs again. She doesn’t look like she’d smell. And yet, here we are. Her, the Frank and me. I mean, don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a woman by her Lululemon tights. She doesn’t HAVE to smell like Goop products. She CAN smell like Frank, dammit. That’s her right. As I’m attempting a slide split (but achieving something closer to a crouched wobble), I realize that any one of us can be beset by a Frank. And you know, not all Franks smell. Some look like insecurity or sound like a broken heart or feel like that one time I promised to drop dinner by your house at 5:30 pm but then forgot about it until 1am...three weeks later. And I hope, hope, hope that when I walk into a room accompanied by a Frank, women greet me first and kindly acknowledge Frank second. That they wrap their arms around me and my Frank. That they accept my Frank. Take my Frank upon their shoulders and into their hearts.
With one last heroic, giving glance at my smelly sister, I throw myself into the work out. I will not move down the barre. I’ve got you, girl. And let’s be, well frank, if one of us looks like we'd smell like hot death stopped for brunch, it’s me, not you. Let them wrinkle their noses, I’ll never tell. Je Suis Girl with the Frank.
The rest of the work out went pretty well. I only got tangled in the straps once. Buxom Natalie Portman was one of the first people out the room. I was still feeling pretty impressed with my sisterly solidarity when the woman who’d been to my right - the nose wrinkler - came up to me.
“Oh my gosh, I hate when I get that spot at the barre. The carpet over there always smells so bad. I don’t know what happened there, but it’s always like musty and sweet smelling.”
Ah. The carpet.
“What? A smell? Really? I didn’t notice. My nose is all messed up. Must be my allergies.”
Je suis stinky carpet.
(what the HELL happened to that carpet?)