"Did you see that guy last night?" the guy on the elliptical trainer next to me said. "Boy did he get screwed. People only voted for the other guy because he's so bad and they...." My mind lost track of what he was saying so I did the typical nod your head and smile.
He was referring to an episode of American Idol, a show I'm not overly familiar with. He and the other morning workout people were expressing their dismay at the fate of one of the singers. The guy next to me decided to try and include me in their discussion, probably out of politeness. I couldn't really join in the conversation as I'm ignorant to the reality show and I'm not a good enough actor to portray an actual sense of caring about the culture of it.
He kept going on and on and finally I noticed how passionate these people were about this particular contestant. Now I've seen clips of the show where these kids sing in front of some judges. Some get publicly ridiculed while the 'talented' people go off somewhere and people get to vote on who is the best singer. It seems to be a show drenched in pop music and cruelty, which I guess is it's main appeal. Some people's entertainment is my personal hell.
As I'm doing my polite but tiresome head nod I started observing each and everyone of the cardio based workout people. I started to people watch and unfold a script for their lives.
There was the soccer mom, one of many who work out there, who goes there everyday trying to keep in shape after popping out 2.5 children. She wears what must be terribly expensive spandex outfits, shoes that she only wears to the gym, and an iPod that is hardly in use, but is always in peril of smashing to the ground. She drives an oversized SUV yet has never traversed a dirt road nor hauled anything beyond groceries. Her family has at least $10 thousand in credit card debt.
There's the middle age, divorced at least once guy who is still trying to impress the ladies despite donning a really bad mustache. He has excellent grooming techniques. Whenever anyone questions his lack of touch with his feminine side he sites that he cried during 'Legends of the Fall' and has read 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus'. The man likes to talk about semi expensive wines and foreign cars. He often plagarizes the New York Times editorials in socio-political conversations.
There's the old couple. The wife is in good shape and the man is fat and bald. The wife wears a lot of perfume and dresses in matching outfits. The man has an old tshirt and too short shorts. They both complain about their diets the doctors have put them on. They both can recite scripts from Mattlock.
There's the 20 something hot girl. She has been working out frantically trying to get the body she had when she was 16. She constantly wonders about how she'll look after she has kids even though she's not married yet. The hot girl can't wait to land a husband so she can cut her hair short.
There's the 20 something hot guy. He has mighty biceps and toothpick legs. He often rubs his belly while working out and strategizing on how to get a washboard stomach. After every set he stands up and walks around with chest out for really no apparent reason. He watches a lot of porn and secretly loves pro wrestling. He believes the Dave Matthews Band to be just as important to American culture as Bob Dylan.
I looked around the gym and saw everybody fits into one of these nice little stereotypes I created. I feel like such an ass doing that. Here I am cynically judging all of these folks based upon their appearances when my own looks are often a ridiculous cloak of who I really am. However silly their looks and sometimes actions are they may be nice people. They could be peace corps veterans, social activists, donators of various internal organs to diseased children, etc. Maybe they're not the wayward souls lost in the mass marketed ideal of the American dream. These people could be living the lives we all wished we had the courage to pursue.
"Now if you were him, which girl would you choose?" the hot girl on the other side of me asked. She seemed genuinely shocked that I've never watched the Bachelor.
"The show's about about cruelty. That's it's success." - Simon Cowell, judge on American Idol.