Group Fitness

By  |  July 6, 2016
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The adjustment had been uncomfortable. All her life Marcy had lived in the Midwest with people who ate red meat and starchy foods, who allowed their bodies to spread without shame. And then her husband was transferred to Naples. Marcy’s mother said, “Naples, like in Italy?” and Marcy said, “No, Florida,” and her mother said, “Oh dear.” 

The women in Naples all looked the same—lean and darkly tan, their faces narrow with hungered discipline, whittled by the same surgeons. They stared at Marcy’s relatively ample physique with disgust or envy or something between the two. At night Marcy worried about her ass and thighs. Her husband always said, “Baby, you are perfect,” and she flushed angrily. His assurances were so reflexive as to be insulting.

In Omaha, they lived in a neighborhood. In Naples, they moved into a gated community where each estate was blandly unique and sprawling, the streets cobbled with tiny square bricks. The first time they drove up to the gatehouse, an imposing affair manned by a white-haired gentleman in polyester pants, Marcy leaned forward and said, “This is a bit much.” Her husband said, “Baby, people love the illusion of safety and the spectacle of enclosure.” They were given barcoded stickers for their cars. Each time Marcy pulled up to the sensor, waiting for the gate to lift, she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry.

Their community had a country club. They joined because the transfer came with a promotion and a raise. Marcy’s husband said it was important to live up to their new station. He mostly wanted to play golf with men whose bellies were fatter than his. In Palmetto Landing, the men’s bodies existed in inverse proportion to those of their wives.

Each morning there was a group fitness class at the clubhouse—spinning, Zumba, kickboxing, always something different. The instructor was a young, offensively fit woman, Caridad. The other wives loved to say her name, trilling their “r”s to show Caridad se habla español. Marcy stood in the back of the studio in sweatpants and her husband’s old t-shirts while the women around her perspired in their perfectly coordinated outfits fancier than most of Marcy’s wardrobe.

Marcy enjoyed the pleasant soreness as she drove the five blocks home after each class. She liked how for an hour, there was a precise set of instructions she was meant to follow, a clear sense of direction.

The other wives were quietly fascinated by Marcy in that she was a rare species in the wealthy enclave—a first wife. Ellen Katz, who lived three doors down, often squeezed Marcy’s shoulder with her cool, bony hand. She’d say, “We’re rooting for you,” and offered words of encouragement as Marcy’s figure slimmed. Marcy never knew what to say during these moments but she smiled politely because she understood that these people only existed in relation to those around them.


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Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, McSweeney's, Tin House, and many others. Gay is also the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and Hunger.