Every day on my way home from work, I see runners. They trot by on a crosswalk they invented, giving me the passively friendly wave — the Midwestern middle finger. I’m just thinking “Yep, go ahead. After you. I have nowhere to be. No pins to pin. No cats to pet. No denials to deny.” But now running has been on my mind. And for the last month, I’ve been doing an okay job about running around a few times a week. But does that make me a runner? I feel like I don’t fit in. I mean, I obviously can’t wear a visor because I lack the spiky hair necessary to wear said visor.
Wanting to look the part, I went home to the heartland last month and paid a trip to MOA — the favorite place of anyone who doesn’t live in Minnesota. I had debated for three previous stores whether or not I would go into Lululemon. OH WHAT I WOULD GIVE TO HAVE THAT UPSIDE DOWN MINIATURE “U” WITH WINGS ON THE SIDE OF MY ASS. I’ll tell you what I would give — $80. Flat. Minnesota, hollaatcha no clothing tax. I immediately sensed I was in a hostile environment. With 16-year-olds aplenty in their spandex and sweatbands (clearly at the MOA on a break from the best vball tourney eva), I couldn’t help but think: really? You’re going to pay a crisp bill for a pair of super stretched out yoga pants? I grinned, thinking I had the upper hand. Hah. I am an adult, with a paycheck and goals.
Lost in my daydream of scooping Subway’s tunafish mix onto adolescents’ flawless shiny hair, the Lululemon worker caught me off guard. “Hi! Do you need a dressing room?” Little did she know I lived in a sorority for two years and actually preferred to strip down in the hallways. With a hazy remembrance of social norms, I decided to take her up on her gracious offer.
“Uhm……yeah?” Confident. Nice.
“Okay!” She bounced around, her blonde curls bouncing behind her. “What’s your name?” She smiled at me, pen-poised and ready to write my name on the dressing room door.
Hope you studied your consonants, girl.
Past this spelling-of-my-name hurdle that I come across all too often, I thought I was safe to retreat into my 3×7 box. I thought wrong. “Okay, Merritt!” So energetic. “What’s your favorite way to work out?!” Emphasis on the favorite, as if I had multiple activities to choose from. Is this a trick question? I’m picturing wearing these with no shoes while I move from chair to couch in my apartment. I knew I couldn’t fake yoga. She’d probably make me say my favorite position. And while Happy Baby is one of the best stretches in the world, it wasn’t one I was about to pull out in front of all the Eden Prairie MILFs. Hmm could I go with an organized sport? Softball? I remember being good at that. #glorydays. Ugh no, then my new retail friend would want to set me up with a “really motivated girlfriend” of hers.
“I like to run.” Lie.
She wrote it on the board, underneath her best attempt at my name. I’ve tried running countless times. But you wanna know the problem with running? It’s not fun. Blah blah, “It feels so good when you’re done though!” Ever topped off a bottle of wine with your best friends? Talk about endorphins.
I tried on pairs of leggings in my personal box. You’d think that for 80 bucks they could’ve made my butt look way better. Discouraged, I peeled off the jet black layer of new skin and tossed them on the ground (and immediately picked them up. Hello they’re Lululemon.) But as I’m no longer a student, I couldn’t justify buying this pair of leggings. I’m not a runner, and I can’t wear them to work like I could’ve worn them to class.
So I left the store, bagless. When I decided that I wanted to pursue writing as more than just a hobby, I found solace in a book (for writers) by Monica Wood. She said it doesn’t matter if you’re published. It doesn’t matter if you write short stories, novels, feature stories or poems. If you write anything, anything at all, you are a writer. So don’t feel bad if you don’t “hit the pavement” every night; every night that you are out there and running is a night you are a runner. During my run tonight, I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that said, “To be your best, you have to forget the rest.” Normally, I’d throw up at that sort of cheesy phrase. But she smiled at me as we passed, and it made sense. Running isn’t for everyone else ever. If you’re doing it, it’s gotta be for you – just like anything that requires motivation. If going for a run makes you feel better, then you gotta do that. If doing 20 jumping jacks makes you feel better, then you gotta do that. If making an egg sandwich mixed with that sweet & sour sauce from Fong’s Pizza that’s been in our fridge for a week makes you feel good, you gotta eat that. As our Pawnee friends say, “Treat yo’self.” Whether that means to a run or to something else is up to you.