When I was a child there were certain manners that we expected of me. I had to treat adults with respect. Everyone was to be addressed as Mr. and Mrs. or Aunt and Uncle (if they were family or close family friends). We did not talk back to our parents without severe repercussions, and we didn’t get to negotiate with them much either. Our parents weren’t our friends, they were the law.
Outside of the home, we were taught that being late was a sign of disrespect. Being courteous and kind to strangers was a given, and we were to treat each other as we would want to be treated (the old golden rule).
Now I am well aware that a lot changed to our society’s views on etiquette and manners as a result of the sexual revolution, women’s revolution, and the collision of drug exploration with esoteric philosophy experiments like EST. It left new parents in the late 70’s and 80’s making choices to be less strict with their children, allow for more creative thinking and a more “natural” (i.e., less structured) form of child rearing. Some went as far as to be on a first name basis with their children, and allow them to refer to other adults by their first names. In public, manners too seemed to disappear as we focused inward on ME.
Though I feel that many of these rule-loosenings weren’t a bad thing (especially where women’s rights are concerned), sadly the loss of treating and addressing each other respectfully is not one the changes that has benefitted us. I constantly remind several of my young niece and nephews that I am not their peer “Ariana,” I am their “Aunt” Ariana. Though my husband and I vowed we would not say “because I said so” to my daughter (feeling that teaching her with explanations and reason was a better choice), I now find myself using that phrase when her negotiations go too far.
But how does this all relate to Fitness you may be asking? Well it lands smack dab in the middle of gym politeness and etiquette – or lack there of — something I grind my teeth over every day. Dumbbells and barbels left lying haphazardly around the floor as if the last user had been simply too exhausted to put them back. Men using leg press machines racked with dozens of 45 pound plates on each side, leave them for us lovely ladies to unload before we can use the machine. Sweat, spit, and even gum left on benches, floor mats, and water fountains.
Then there are the young men who when asked (politely of course) if I can work in (share the weights or machine) stare blankly at me as if I’m a piece of meat – albeit a piece of meat they do not covet. The same request made by an overly endowed blond female may be met with a tad more courtesy, but only so that they can ogle her as she exercises.
If you’re wondering why I’m really on this soap box today, it’s because yesterday at the gym I approached the cross cables machine where a muscle-bound man was performing single-arm triceps pull-downs using only the right side of the cables. I set my stuff down on the left and started to change out the straight bar for the triceps rope. He rudely jumped in front of me and told me that he was using both sides. I questioned this and was told with contempt that he was here first and was working compound moves and I could not work in. I asked why he couldn’t just switch the handle for the bar and allow someone else to use this side. I received no answer, he plugged back in his headphones and proceeded to stand and exercise right in front of me.
Other people around cast me sympathetic looks and shrugs but minded their own business. I laughed and mumbled something about his manhood being small, then walked away. As I drove home ruminating (more like fuming) I got the urge to write a tirade over the loss of manners in society, and so, today I write…
Hopefully the next time you have an opportunity to exercise good gym etiquette (pun intended), be more polite, compassionate, or on time for a dinner date, you will think of this blog and act accordingly.