Monday, June 1, 2009
So I started going to the gym last January and I got pretty serious about it, going pretty much every day. I didn't want to lose the habit so one of our first quests here in San Cristobal was to find a gym. Our first visit to the closest gym to our house ended in a yelling match. Then we walked around the city aimlessly looking for one, asking people who looked like they might patronize a gym where they go. Then we ended up at PSAS, a close bike ride on the other side of the river south of downtown. It's pretty nice, and we got a good deal. We'd have to pay a lot more money to use the cardio machines you plug in (the elliptical and treadmill) so, thrifty me, I've gotten into using the bikes, with G. Generally most of PSAS's customers stick to the weight areas, grunting and groaning away. The cardio room is on the top floor, with big windows looking out over the neighborhood, showing some lovely churches and mountains in the distance. I block out the overhead music with my ipod and go, go, go. It's an idyllic moment, but inevitably I look up at the walls around me, where there are sun-worn pin-ups of extremely muscular men and barely clad women using gym machines. It's weird and kitschy and funny and also a little demeaning. The pictures are all over the gym and apparently all over most gyms in Latin America. The pictures of the women and for the men's enjoyment and for the women to feel insecure, and the pictures of the men are somehow for the men as well, for them to idolize and perhaps feel insecure too. Today in the women's locker room I spotted a poster that breaks out of that mold. "A hard man is good to find," it says, under a black and white picture of a man with a sculpted, bare, hairless chest, his jeans suggestively unbuttoned at the bottom of the frame. No one that picture is for but the ladies.