The Ritz of Shvitz: Part I

I never thought I’d want to be a member of a high-end fitness club. I felt perfectly comfortable exercising at the local recreation center. But Richard decided he wanted to start working out and, due to his desire for all things boiled and sanitized, would only join what I had judged by its cover to be The Ritz of all health clubs.

We went to meet with the club’s Concierge a few weeks ago. We were given the grand tour of the amenities which ended with a waft through the dimly-lit health spa. The smell of eucalyptus, mint, and lavender married with a hint of Madagascar cinnamon made me feel like a cartoon character whose feet drag along the ground while she’s lured by a visible wisp of smoke in the shape of a finger, beckoning her to follow it. I was impressed. I didn’t want to be.

Due to various variables, we received a sizable discount and, because my membership to the recreation center had recently expired, I decided to humor Richard and The Concierge by agreeing to join. I was happy Richard had found a club he felt was clean enough for him to sweat in, but I was sure I was going to hate it.

Richard set up a fitness evaluation for the very next day at 6:00 AM, as well as several sessions with a trainer, which was included with our membership. I was (and still am) recovering from a tennis-induced hammy injury and told The Concierge I would set up my evaluation when I was cleared to do so by my physical therapist. I really didn’t want to like this place, but I didn’t feel intimidated or overly unfit after the tour.

Until The Concierge guided us to The Shop where a slightly plump, perspiring, middle-aged woman wearing a sports bra and yoga pants gave us complimentary t-shirts. She then told us that we were entitled to 20% off everything in the store except Kiehl’s body potions, and lululemon clothing. I didn’t hear the last part so I asked her to repeat what she said. “I said the 20% off doesn’t apply to our selection of lululemon clothing, but you won’t be able to wear it anyway.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, thinking she might perhaps take that moment to explain what she really meant by her comment. Instead, she made it worse.

“You won’t fit in it. It won’t look good on you.”

Richard began to escort me out of The Shop by my wenus (It’s a real word. See? He could see that the eucalyptus, mint, lavender married with a hint of Madagascar cinnamon induced coma was wearing off and and wanted to spare me –- no, he wanted to spare himself — the inevitable tears (mine) that usually follow a nosedive of a situation such as this one — but my chin didn’t even quiver once.

Before any of us could say another word, he thanked her and yanked me out the door.

I got into the car and began grumbling about the “moist, ugly whale who said I was fat”. “She never said you were fat”, Richard sighed, “besides, you just lost 20 pounds!”

“She doesn’t know that,” I snapped.

“I knew you were going to take it wrong,” he said.

“Wrong? What did she say that was right?”

“She was referring to ‘the girls’ because you had just told her that you wanted the large complimentary t-shirt instead of the medium one she first gave you because you said ‘the girls’ wouldn’t fit in a t-shirt that small. She was saying your boobs won’t fit into lululemon clothing.”

I knew that. I did. But, I wanted to hear the lavishly nice things people who work at health clubs always say to new recruits even when they don’t mean them; not the equivalent of “you’re fat”.

I could tell that I was raining on Richard’s enthusiasm parade about joining The Ritz, so I decided to shut my big, fat mouth.

When we got home I went outside and sat in the backyard with the dogs. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I knew Richard was probably right. That smelly woman was most likely referring to ”the girls”. I tried to move past it but couldn’t. So I called her.

“Hi, this is Leslie. I just left The Shop and was wondering what you meant when you said I wouldn’t fit into lululemon clothing.”

“Well”, she began, “first of all, I only carry up to a size 8.”

Oh. No. She. Didn’t!

My chin began to quiver uncontrollably, as if holding back tears earlier only made the dam that much more ready to burst. I managed a quick “good-bye” and hung up the phone.

And even though I really and truly wanted to, I still couldn’t let it go. So I e mailed The Concierge and told her about the exchanges I’d had with Shamu at The Shop.

The Concierge e mailed me back immediately saying that the person in The Shop is very outgoing and says lots of stuff that she doesn’t realize is hurtful, and she was so sorry, and I’m a beautiful woman with a beautiful body, and she felt self-conscious when she first joined the gym a year ago before she became The Concierge and how intimidating it was…

The Concierge was a size zero, if even. She had beautiful, honey-toned skin, long, luxurious brunette hair and was dressed in clothes that, even though they looked like they had been painted on, looked pretty darn good on her. The pumps she was wearing sealed her impersonation of “Health Spa Barbie”, if there is one. I doubt she’s ever had a moment of self-consciousness. Perhaps I should give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she has worked so hard that in the past year she has successfully come down from a size two.

17 thoughts on “The Ritz of Shvitz: Part I

  1. You are a brave girl to 1) go to a high end fitness club, 2) to call them on the “smelly lady”, 3) to tell us about it. And so funny!

    • Why, thank you, Karen! I just followed your beautiful blog. I love the photo of your daughter, and the photos of the deer in your garden. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to reading more about women of middle age since I am one, too!

  2. That exact thing happened to me in uptown HP at a little designer boutique. While shopping with a friend (yes, Leslie, I have friends), I held a very pretty sweater up and asked my friend if this would fit me. The store clerk literally snatched it from my hands and held it up to a petite shopper standing next to me and said…..’NO, BUT IT WILL FIT HER!”

  3. People can be such idiots, and I’ve had my moments on the giving and receiving end of stupid, hurtful comments. I think the last one I made was quite awhile ago, but if I make one now I hope I’m called on it. That’s how (some) people learn. I love that you picked up the phone and then sat down at your computer to respond.

  4. she only wishes she looked like you…..great funny story. hope you are saving all your material …. someday a book, maybe?

  5. I just read this aloud to Sharon and Nina. We all laughed out loud. We were all stunned and horrified… and amused. Nina wants to know what club. I just think your writing rocks. Bravo. Keep ’em coming

  6. You are an amazing writer, Leslie! Thank you so much for your kind words re my blog intentions, both encouraging and intimidating because you are such a talented writer! Love, Elizabeth

    • Elizabeth, you and Mark have always been so supportive of me and have helped give me the confidence to do what I love. Thank you! You’re one of the best, so show us what you got!

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