JOINING THE JAMES

There are three things I noticed about Coast Village Road recently. One, the area is laid out according to a drawing by Picasso. Two, there are several restaurants I want to try. And three, all the women I saw were fashionable, fit, and too slim to have eaten at any of those restaurants.

“I wanna look like those women,” I whined to my husband later, hoping to hear the words every woman longs to hear: I love you just the way you are.

Because my hubby’s a guy who lives to solve problems, he said, “Honey, why don’t you join a gym and hire a trainer?”

“Why should I? I still have tons of room in here.” I grabbed my elastic waistband and stretched it out as far as my arm would reach.

He squinted at me the way he does when I’ve just said something idiotic. The good news was I’d only gained two pounds in the past year. The bad news was I’d done exactly that every year since high school. Maybe it was time to get serious about changing my image from Corn Fed Nebraskan to Coast Village Babe.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll check out the James.”

“The James?”

“Well, I certainly can’t call it ‘the gym’ until I get to know it a little better.”

The fitness center was surreal – row after row of people on human-sized gerbil machines, running, pedaling and climbing as if they were being chased by a mob of candied yams with legs. If the U.S. could harness half this energy, we could give up dependence on foreign oil.

The membership salesman (AKA the maniac) showed me a dozen plans. Picking the best one was as mysterious as a Sue “C is for Confusion” Grafton novel, but somehow I made my choice and forked over six months of grocery money, which I figured I wasn’t going to need anyway.

In exchange, I received a membership card and a tee shirt, size XXXS, a perfect fit for my 20-pound Jack Russell terrier. Perhaps this tiny tee was meant to be a visual aid for my weight-loss goal.

Then I was assigned a fitness coach. Apparently, there’s a California state law that all personal trainers must be young. Mine wasn’t quite young enough to be my grandson, but I was in the fifth grade the year his mother was born. It’s also mandatory that all trainers be attractive. What does mine look like? Imagine Michelangelo’s David in gym shorts. And only sixty bucks an hour.

I wore new workout clothes accessorized with a headband and the requisite gym towel to my first session. I was ready to sweat, but noooo…first we had to get measured. Lo and behold, my membership entitled me to have my upper thigh measured by this 24-year-old. It was a miracle one of us didn’t faint during that maneuver.

Then we had to talk diet. “I’m on the Minus-Ten plan,” I bragged.

He hadn’t heard of that one. I wasn’t surprised. I’d invented it myself. “The idea is to eat 10% less than normal. Only problem is, when I cut back, my body thinks famine has come, and it hangs tight to every ounce.”

“Then we’re just going to have to work your booty off.” He slapped his butt for emphasis.

“Booty? I thought booty was something pirates stole.”

I was about to learn that the trick to losing pounds was lifting them. He handed me a pair of hand weights, and I got into the rhythm of the exercise.

“Don’t move your pelvis, Elvis,” he barked.

Listen you whippersnapper, you weren’t even born the day Elvis died. I would’ve said it out loud, if I’d any breath left.

Mid-workout his nickname changed from Michelangelo’s David, to Michelangelo’s Devil, and aptly so, because then he took me downstairs to the underworld of the free-weight room where all the really ripped dudes hang out, lifting outrageously heavy dumbbells.

“How do you like it down here?” he asked.

“Well, it’s not exactly my peer group.”

Nevertheless, I kept coming back, day after day, to work my booty like the devil.

It’s a miracle! Recently my old elastic-waist trousers fell in an embarrassing puddle around my ankles, but that’s another story. Please excuse me now. I have an appointment with my trainer. Then my hubby and I are going to a holiday dinner. And then, crawling if I have to, back to the James.