I’m not a cat person. I prefer canine company and my character is not feline. I was not coy or playful as a young woman, and I’m now too “mature” to be kittenish. My age falls in the cougar range, but I’m happily married and not on the hunt or prowl. However, younger guys have been paying more attention.
It’s taken me about a year to notice, so it’s likely this has been going on since before Obama was in office. What have seemed like isolated, random incidents accumulated into what even someone as oblivious as me recognized as a pattern.
The latest occurred at my gym, during the afternoon off-hours when it’s usually me — the unemployed writer — some chit-chatting trainers, and a retiree or two. I was on the rowing machine, reliving my college crew days on the Connecticut River, convincing myself I’m still as strong as I was at 19.
A young man hovered by, waiting to use the rower, which not many people do.
Sorry buddy. Mamacita’s got ten minutes on this thing, I thought.
I drove my legs against the foot pads to make the machine whirr loudly and show I meant business.
Still, he hung around the general area of the rowing machine.
Let him wait in his college crew team T-shirt, I thought.
Just because I wasn’t in my 20s and needed to practice over the summer for fall racing season didn’t make my need for the machine less important. I could still pull off 2000 meters, with the flywheel at maximum resistance, thank you very much!
I did my last power ten to clock in under eight minutes. Victory was mine as I rowed slowly for a two-minute cool down. I wiped off the seat, but didn’t clear the display screen or adjust the resistance.
Ha! Beat that, junior, I thought as I stepped away from the machine.
Junior stepped toward the machine, hesitated, then continued toward me.
“Hi,” he said.
Huh? I thought, but replied, “Hello.”
“Hey, hi, do you come here, I mean, often? Like, at this time? What’s your name? Are you new here? I’m Kevin,” he stumbled.
I was completely confused. His accent and the school printed on his T-shirt were local, so his tripped-up intro wasn’t due to English being his second language. Was he in awe of my rowing superiority? I looked at him standing there expectantly and smiling, with his outstretched hand, and realized this kid might actually be hitting on me.
“My schedule’s always different, it depends,” I said, lying to answer only the first question evasively. I returned his handshake and wiped my face with my left hand, giving a flash of my wedding band.
“Oh, that’s cool,” he replied. “Maybe I’ll catch you some other time.”
“Have a good workout,” I said and turned to walk away, two indications there would be no other time.
I was surprised: that I’d misread the encounter; that someone thought me approachable, maybe attractive, when I was drenched and reeked; and that I felt threatened enough by my age that I felt I had to prove something. I had been powered on that rowing machine by insecurities that I associate with middle-aged, male chest-beating.
“Hey, that’s a great time, by the way,” Kevin called out as he sat on the rower and looked at the display.
“Thanks,” I said over my shoulder.
Damn straight, I thought. That’s an awesome time, kid. I still got it.
I may not be a cougar or a kitten, but I’ve always been a lion.