Ever since we started dating, my wife and I have had an agreement which states that she can drag me to any of her myriad workout classes and I can her make her sit through any show I want. It’s courtesy of this little accord that she’s seen more than her fair share of experimental drone music, classical harp concertos and off-the-wall hardcore shows while I have been to more cardio barre, pilates and spinsoulvelocycle classes than I am comfortable admitting.
It’s a contract in our relationship that has always given us a view inside the core of our partner, to see what it is each of us cares most passionately about. For Emily, it’s fitness. For me, it has always been music.
The results vary. Sometimes she leaves a show with interest piqued to spend the next week and a half digging deep into an artist’s discography, binging on their recorded history and peppering me with questions about my relationship to their music. Sometimes I’ll walk out of a new-method yoga class anxious to sign up for the next week’s gathering.
Other times the results are downright ugly, with me childishly walking out of a class I deem ridiculous or Emily exhaling a very pointed and very exaggerated sigh of exhaustion every time a certain female folk singer is mentioned around our home.
Most often our reactions fall somewhere in the “that was pretty okay” section on the spectrum of opinion.
Of course, we both have our processes when dealing with this agreement. Whereas Emily likes to do some research, to listen to a band or artist before heading in to see them live, I prefer to head into a workout blind. I like to think there’s some sort of psychological method behind my approach but as my wife recently pointed out, I’m really just giving myself license to complain more.
Last week I accompanied her to one of those culty cycling classes that are lit only by candle and where people intermittently let out screams of exultant euphoria. I’d been to plenty of these before, so I knew what to expect.
From its group setting and the throbbing music that rendered our instructor completely inaudible, to the fact that it was one boring activity repeated for an hour, and that I had to wear cycling shoes which hundreds of other pairs of feet, equally disgusting as my own, had been jammed into since this place opened, it was everything I hated in a workout.
And like any other workout Emily signs us up for, my mind raced through some very specific phases over the course of the class.
It goes something like this:
- You’re here. You agreed to this. No one is forcing you to do this so no complaining. Shut up and buy in.
- Fuck that. What is this bullshit? Why am I the only guy in this class? And why is the instructor lighting candles?
- They’re just starting? Why isn’t anyone stretching before we start? CAN WE PLEASE STRETCH BEFORE WE START!? What is wrong with you people?!
- I’m in pretty good to better-than-average shape for a thirty-six-year-old freelance writer. This should not hurt this bad.
- The insides of my toes hurt. THE INSIDES OF MY TOES!
- I hate this. I hate you. I want a divorce.
- We’re paying good money to ride a bike that doesn’t take us anywhere in a dark room with a bunch of people we don’t know and we all stink. Wouldn’t this just be easier if we went for a bike ride together? You know… outside.
- Okay. We have to be halfway done. I can do this.
- Actually, this feels kinda awesome.
- I’m all in. I love this. I’m so lucky to be married to you. Let’s have seven more kids.
- Man, I should really check out some of this dance music when I get home. This is actually pretty good.
- Uphill, downhill, in the saddle, out of the saddle. It doesn’t matter. I’m a bionic destruction machine. I’m a motherfucking superhero.
- I’m gonna make that 5,000 calorie breakfast my bitch, just like I’m making this bike my bitch.
- I bet if I really worked at this, I could be one of the best stationary cyclists on Earth.
- Shit. We’re done already? I could’ve gone another hour fifteen.
After class ended, we toweled off and went for a sweaty breakfast together.
As we sat sipping our coffee, Emily waiting for her single egg and wheat toast, me for my Western omelette with a side of bacon and sausage, short stack of pancakes and double order of homefries, she began extolling the virtues of our class. The instructor was engaging and informative (apparently. I couldn’t understand a single word she shouted), the music was well designed for the pace of the class and the ride was neither too long nor too short.
Of course, I was only half engaged in the conversation as I scrolled through my phone, far too distracted by the need to find the most fucked up show I could possibly find with which to pay her back.