Where for Art Thou, Towel?

By Amy Vincent –  Providence

It’s hard to believe that a towel has made a serious impact on my life.  One small, white, tightly rolled, wet towel has seductively cupped my hand while lighting my cigarette and…WAIT a minute! This is FIT magazine…that’s right…I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore.  Fact is: the new and improved, non-smoking Amy has joined a gym.

Where do I begin?  Let’s start with the fact that I DESPISE GYMS.  Ever since college, I have asserted that gyms are the enemy because they wiped out dance studios.  I remember standing in my ballet shoes watching the evening Jazzercise classes through the glass to the studio. I yearned to be old enough to participate alongside real, live babes from the seventies.  Here, shapely chicks wearing purple leotards and lip gloss glistened with sweat.   I could not wait to take my hair out of a bun and wear jewelry while I exercised as these women did.  They looked as though they were having fun and seemed happy with themselves; their bodies looked great in different shapes and sizes.  They did not seem to judge each other or themselves. Everyone was dancing and it was exercising; I could not wait to be old enough to join.  No such luck.  By the time I had one million years of foundational dance and was ready to learn the moves for the disco in my bedroom, dance studios were being replaced by the gym in numbers that made even the dinosaurs say “sheesh.” Women were trading in dance apparel for “gym shorts” and fixed on becoming Sarah Connor overnight, earning the biceps and triceps to prove it.  No one wore a head band of any sort and the French-cut leotard blew through this country like a Dakota tumbleweed at 6:00pm.

I thought to myself, this is the end of civilization as we know it.

With a heavy sigh, somewhere around junior year in college I signed up for an aerobics class.  Within two years, I had my own studio that eventually shut down for two reasons.  The first is a shocker: a gym opened around the corner.  I didn’t see the second reason coming.  Would you believe all fourteen members kept asking why I expected them to wear top hats and learn how to use a cane during the warm-up? When I discover that someone has absolutely no use for “glitter” and has no idea of what a “character shoe” is, I quickly loose interest. For years, I have been forced to live among a plague of ignorant, non-dancing people as I wander from exercise to exercise in search of home.  Basically, I viewed aerobics as a lot of militant marching in place that I was supposed to get excited about doing with violent arm movements. Thankfully, this trend in nonsense faded once people realized how stupid they looked jumping over and dancing around a ‘step.’

But seriously, I get it.  When humans exercise, Earth is a better place.  It’s up to me to be happy again and stop trying to pass for age eighteen, which is the average age of an adult dancer in most local studios.  I’ve stood at many a dance studio desks hearing that they don’t offer adult classes because, well, no one comes.  I hear ya’…the last class I went to had two participants: myself and another wandering soul.  The other participant annoyed the crap out of me the entire class because she insisted on being a full space behind me instead of remaining on the same line.  It was not clean choreography, but instead a version of tennis doubles gone wild set to music.

Recently, a dear high school friend of mine who is a personal trainer told me to stop by a new gym in Providence.  She convinced me with a month pass and promised we could start by walking on the treadmill.  Despite my telling her how much I despised gyms because they shut down the dance studios, she convinced me to visit her.  I told her to expect complaining and said I would meet her the first day of my vacation.

On July 1, two spotlights on both sides of the entrance doors curiously caught my attention as I thought to myself, impressive. Second thought: the place is spotless. Third realization as I see Lisa waving to me from an elliptical machine: I guess we’re going to work out. Twenty-four minutes later, I am completely soaked.  She has me on this thing completing interval rounds, increasing and decreasing speed, and then it’s over.  She asked me how I felt and I said pretty darn good, although I was kind of upset that I did not really have substantial time to whine and complain.  She said “Exactly,” and concluded we were finished exercising for the day.  She walked me to the back of the gym where before my eyes, built right into the wall, was a refrigerated glass case with scented eucalyptus towels.

As I wrapped the towel around my neck, I realized I found a glitter-worthy substitute.  The towel congratulated me on being really sweaty and did not make me feel inferior in my decision of ending my work out after twenty-four minutes.  I joined this gym and have been attending regularly for the past month, using either the treadmill or elliptical for under thirty minutes doing the interval thing.  Like most, I’m exhausted from work and hysterically depressed by most reports in Kardashian Nation.  Anything aggressive right now that takes up a lot of my thinking time and that makes me feel worse instead of better ain’t happening. I like the feeling I get when I’m there; it’s a top-notch place that has paid attention to details that automatically make me feel like I’m doing something better for myself in an environment that agrees that sweat smells bad and good lighting is miraculous.  Towel-Love is waiting for me every time. I’m there fairly early before any of the scheduled classes so I stretch out for another fifteen minutes in the room on the second floor located next to the Spin room.  I see lots of others happily lifting weights, using the Four Seasons locker room to get ready for work and ordering a variety of shakes and smoothies from a full-service, healthy snack bar.  It’s changed how I feel about gyms.

One more note: Did I tell you there is a ballet bar in front of a row of windows with a stellar urban view? These people truly get what exercise is all about.


Amy Vincent has two teenagers who are not in therapy, lives with two dogs that are writing a tell-all book, believes the best education is free and is known to quote a line from the Godfather once a day. She enjoys looking at art and talking about it if no one else is around and spends a lot of time thinking about how to make the world a better place because most people deserve it.


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