So after frequent conversations and suggestions from my partner (read: nagging), I finally broke down last week and went with him to sign up at the local YMCA. Yesterday we had an appointment to meet with a representative to get a tour and orientation of the facility.
Unfortunately we got there late (I will begrudgingly give props to my partner who not only correctly knew that it was to the south, not north, but also happily collected twenty bucks from our friendly wager on the matter!) . We rushed downstairs to the locker rooms to get our assigned baskets since they were out of the overnight lockers (for which we paid extra). Then we discovered that only one of us was given a basket and I had to leave the locker room and hunt down where said basket was stored. Then I forgot the door passcode to re-enter the lockerroom. Doh! By this point I was getting upset things were not going as planned. After that we realized we had misunderstood and that there were day lockers available to store our clothes in while we were there and the basket was for the rest of the time!
We finally got changed into our proper gym attire, found the face towels and tried to find the meeting room. After asking directions (See? Men do do this!) , we found the room but it was thirty minutes after our appointment by this point and we were sent back to the front desk to reschedule. Attempting to salvage what thus far had been a total waste of time and frustration, we decided to get on the crosstraining machines and get sweaty. We tried a couple of stairmasters but got kicked off because we didn't know we were supposed to sign up for them. We found these wave machines free but that got annoying fast and I got off after 5 minutes. Finally we snagged two stairmasters, signed the board and got into the groove of things. I love the data displays that tell me exactly how many strides I've done, how many per minute and how many calories I've burned.
After that we hit the showers and realized all the product we brought with us wasn't necessary as YMCA provides that. We tried out the wet sauna but saved the whirlpool and dry sauna for another day. After leaving and having a great meal at a nearby Korean BBQ, I was out of my dismal black mood and tentively happy we had taken this step towards physical fitness.
Now this probably won't come as a surprise to those of you who know me but physical education was my least favourite class in school. My P.E. experience from the get-go was sort of this vicious cycle of not succeeding because of lack of practice and exposure, followed by a deliberate avoidance of further activity because of the failure, which only led to further humiliation in class. As time continued, I extended my negativity to all forms of physical fitness and activity and viewed them in the same way I viewed asparagus; something to endure if one absolutely has to do.
Gym has been dubbed the gay man's "church" and yet ironically I feel extremely uncomfortable in such a space. This made me think about how others (gay people for example) might view going to church the same way I feel about going to the gym. (Sidebar- Church Street here in is the epi-center of the Toronto gaybourhood so queers joke about "going to Church" all the time. You have to specify if you are talking about the religious institution.)
For many, church experiences have been limited and what exposure they have had, was unfortunately negative. Sometimes is an unspoken dress code as well as activities and rituals one is not familiar with. It can be unclear what time services begin and then it's embarrassing if one is either early or late. Looking around the room, this person can not see anyone friendly, that looks like them or that they could relate to. All these factors add up to an overwhelming feeling of frustration (much like the one I had at the gym last night). I've met people who have transferred these feelings of unworthiness and unbelonging to religion and spirituality in general. They will begrudingly darken the door of a church only when a mother, wedding or death requires it.
So, in retrospect, I get it now. I didn't before but now I do. It's my hope that, as time goes on, and I keep attending "gay church," that I'll be not only more comfortable but also a healthier person. And I want to encourage others who may be in similar situations and are trying new directions, despite previous negative experiences.