I’ll be honest. I don’t want to tell you about this flair moment, but it’s the real one for today.
At the gym, I do the minimum and hide as far back into the machines as I can with my iPod and earphones keeping me in a safe cocoon away from any trainers. But today I walk in, and two trainers greet me and insist that I try this new Body Combat class. One literally escorts me upstairs as I’m mumbling excuses and pulling away from her. All of a sudden, I’m in this classroom of incredibly beautiful and muscular people. She closes the door, and I find a corner, terrified.
The trainer in front has a headset and looks like a drill sergeant. He’s ripped and already sweating. His sidekick is a petite blond woman who is absolutely gorgeous. Every muscle is sleek and defined, she’s smiling, and she looks like a Cover Girl model. They adjust their headsets, pump up loud techno music, and start teaching everybody these complicated combinations of squats, kicks, and punches.
I try to work the room and introduce myself to everybody. My defense mechanism of encouraging all the others kicks in. Maybe I could set up a table up front and talk to people as they exercise. Maybe I could write a narrative or lay on the ground and pray for all those people.
I’m dying. I can’t even figure out the moves. The class lasts an hour, and every millisecond is absolute pain and humiliation. I cling to my water bottle like a security blanket.
And then, it’s almost over. But before we stretch, the instructors come over and give each of us a high-five.
Oh, come on! A high-five? A high-five like I’m a child? And I totally failed in that class. I couldn’t even do the push up thing where you put one hand in the air.
But when the woman comes over and looks me in the eye and gives me that high-five, I burst into tears. The drill sergeant gives me not one, but two high-fives. I cry harder.
What was wrong with me? I’ve been humiliated before, but something about physical fitness strikes a nerve. There’s no defense mechanism, no personality gift that aids me in my own body’s response to exercise. It’s just me, my own muscles, and my own heart and blood out there.
I feel lost at sea every time. It’s the real me stripped of all the flair.
That’s why I cried. I was there, with nothing to offer, and those trainers still gave the high-five. I felt like saying, “Are you kidding? Do you know what a loser I am?” But they did know–they saw every uncoordinated move. And what makes the whole thing even better is that they bowed to us at the end to show how honored they were to have exercised with us.
I learned that living with flair means deliberately embracing situations that strip me of all my coping mechanisms. It’s good to feel lost at sea so I can receive love and instruction from somebody else. I don’t have to always be the teacher, the encourager, or the one with the flair.
I’m a loser at the gym, crying in my minivan afterward because of a silly high-five. But it felt like the best flair possible for someone like me.