Last week, while I was visiting my husband during his work travel, I was working out in the little hotel gym when an older couple (in their 80's) came in. The husband ignored me (my ideal stranger-in-a-gym scenario, you do your thing and I'll do mine), got right on a treadmill, and started walking. The wife stood about 10 feet away from me and started talking. At the time, I was actively doing v-ups and had AirPods in. [I've heard AirPods wonderfully referred to as the condoms of society and am immediately dismayed when they don't work for that purpose. AirPods in = please don't talk to me, I'm listening to something other than you.]
She kept talking and looking at me. I looked up at her, smiled, and continued my v-ups. She kept talking to me. So I stopped, grabbed my phone to pause Spotify, took out my AirPods, and said, "yes?".
She responded, "Oh you couldn't hear me!" (Yep. Exactly. That's one of the primary purposes of headphones.), I was saying you must work for ___" [insert government agency for which my husband works and you must pass a fitness test to join].
Her: "well you're so fit. It's because you're so young."
Me: "I'm thirty and have always been fit but it takes a good deal of work, it's not a function of my age."
Her: "Oh no it definitely is. Did you know that the [government agency] is here? They are fit like you."
Me: "Yes my husband works for them and he is quite fit."
Her: "Oh so why are you here? Do you not have a job?"
Me: "I have a job. My office is closed this week so I'm visiting for a few days while he's away for work for a month." (inside I'm screaming - why would you ever think that any of this is your business?! Please just let me go back to my v-ups. This woman single-handedly made me feel love for NYC again for the sheer anonymity and lack of nosiness because truly no one cares about you at all.)
Her: "I live next door to Joe Biden."
Me, smiling again (I had a mask on but my eyes crinkle when I smile and it likely makes me look less threatening to men and judgmental women): "Ok. That's wonderful. Have a great workout."
There are a few reasons this interaction was infuriating. How many fine lines do I have to accumulate before people older than I am stop telling me that my decisions / life circumstances are because I'm young? I've been told since I was at least 15 that I'll change my mind about having children when I'm older. I've been told that I run fast or look fit because I'm so young. That's 15+ years of consistent belittling of my life choices. I know that people in their 80's will not likely change their ways but those of us who are young enough to have the capacity for self-reflection MUST stop this cycle of diminishing women for their choices and hard work. Just as I would never tell a pregnant friend that she might change her mind about having children (CAN YOU IMAGINE?!), no one should say that to me. Just as I would never tell an overweight 60-year-old that they have gained fat and lost muscle mass solely due to their age, no one should tell me that I am fit because I am 30.
I say women specifically because I don't think this often happens to men? Please let me know if I'm wrong. Of course, it's also typically women diminishing the hard work of other women by making these off-hand comments that "it must be so easy for you" or "well of course you look like that - you don't love bagels as much as the rest of us" (Yes I do. We all do. It's a measured choice to eat the egg-white omelet instead of the bagel. I have the omelet 6 out of 7 days and enjoy the f*ck out of that bagel on day 7). This silly rant is my request that we all stop commenting on each other's bodies, age, life choices, and other personal details unless we are asked for our opinion.
I'm fit because I prioritize my fitness. This was true when I was 15, it's true at 30, it will be true at 50+. I know this is snarky and it's meant to be a little snarky and a little funny. At the same time, I was truly irked by this uninvited interaction. So I said what I said. Now I'll go back to walking around in my AirPods, wishing that strangers won't talk to me.