Believe in baths

If God is water, then Sundays
are reserved for soaking in the tub.

The bath salts fizzle and crack,
I hear the snap of the candle —
this one’s called cashmere plum.

I pump my legs like riding a bike
against a lukewarm tidal wave,
hoping the words will come.

I guess I’m thinking too hard,
so I focus on the follicles,
proud and stubborn,
protruding from my sweating flesh,

and the candle wax drips.

I swipe my razor,
but the soap is misleading.
it’s not enough
it’s never enough

paving the way to a perfect shave.
(I still feel the sharp parts.)

And then it occurs to me
that every bath is baptism.

There’s so much left on
this earth, in this tub
for me to accept.

No one is ever loved enough.

After the great plunge,
I sit up, drenched
and heart-quenched.

I latch onto my elbows,
hug my knees,
these knobs
are not smooth or soft;
but they’re something to hold onto.

I bend my spine crane-like
follow my folds,
trace the watered down lines.

Total body stretch

Alexa and I stretched today.
She laid out a blanket on the floor
in her room.

Her room is blue.

It’s covered in photographic memories,
discolored thrift finds
worn by use and age
and someone else’s hands
that handled these finds
from time to time,
in coming and going.

We grew up a little in this room

and stretched alongside a woman
on a screen.
She wore tube socks
that covered her entire calves
and grazed her thighs.

When she pulled her limbs,
we pulled ours.
When she rolled her head,
we rolled ours.

Before sleep

Where’s the depth, baby
oh, there it is
we fucked a hole in
the bedspread.

I’m not even mad.

face to face
on pillows.
on separate islands.
I asked what you dreamed
as a kid

you don’t remember.

can we play hooky
can we go camping
can we screw some holes
in the time it takes to grow old?

can we wear each other’s faces?

It’s been a long time
since you shaved
your beard
but today you did
because you accidentally
trimmed too far.

I can’t stop touching
your childhood.
you made plumbing
out of sticks
to assist the ants.
oh, and one time
in Boy Scouts
you saw innards
of a deer draped
like red scarves over a tree.

I asked if the bits scared you
and shook your bank for more.

I feel like a memory grubber.

Before sleep, you let me
play with unexplored
parts of you.
your earlobes
are trampolines,
your nose
is a sturdy bridge.

Maybe I’m asking
wrong questions

like if I teach you
how to dream,
will you teach me how
to sleep soundly?

TGIF

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Fridays are holy days for Alexa and me. I’ve never written about our Fridays. My guess is that I can’t paint them just right. I’ll smudge em up too much. Or maybe there’s something untouchable about them, something that’s reserved for us only. But lately we’re all about being brave and sharing what is most important to us — and that includes each other.

This Friday we went rollerblading through Busse Woods. Though it was a fairly mild winter, we still couldn’t help but seize the first spring-ish day. Alexa didn’t have work, and I was released into the wild early. We hopped into my little red Mazada, which desperately needs a car wash. We parked and feverishly laced up our blades. Alexa wobbled on her feet, asking, “I’m stable, are you stable?”

The pathway was mostly ours. Our muscles remembered the zigzag movement, the loud breeze blasting in our ears. Busse Lake was calm and stretching out in the sun. The trees protruded their nakedness. As soon as we began sweat clung to the middles of our backs.

Alexa and I talked about our plans. She told me how she wanted to be more spontaneous with her workouts, instead of stuffing them into a strict regimen. I told her I wanted to pick up running again, since this time of year is my favorite time to run. We talked about writing. She told me about her blog’s new look and setup, that she wants to work on a new challenge. Her last challenge was not to eat out in order to save money, and she rocked it. I told her about a recent blog I wrote about Trump that wasn’t very good, just something I needed to get off my chest, and also about this book of poems I’ve been putting together that I’d like her help in organizing.

We trucked through the eight-mile trail. We barreled up hills, rounded sharp corners, forgoing the treacherous sticks and patches of tar on the pavement. There was a point where Alexa was trying “too hard to be cool” and almost fell backwards. My heart skipped a beat as she flapped her arms like a crazed bird. We laughed at the close call, and she reminded me of the time last summer we went rollerblading, and I almost ate shit. I had instinctively reached for her arm. “So you want to take me down with you, huh?” she had asked.

We spotted a few of the famous elk lazing around in the grass. It’s amazing how the enchantment of seeing them in a town we’ve lived in most of our lives hasn’t worn off yet.

At the end of the trail, we both sighed our contentment. Even though the blades were off, it felt like they were on. It’s weird how certain movements imprint themselves into your limbs, how they stay with your body for a while afterward.

Before going to Alexa’s, we stopped at the Tensuke Market and picked up some plum wine and seaweed wraps for the sushi we were to make for dinner. I was distracted by all the adorable dishware to eat sushi from. I made a mental note to explore this store on my own, as I never had before. The young man who checked us out bowed each time he received and returned our money, which took us both aback.

Alexa showed me how to assemble sushi. You lay out the wrap, slap some sticky rice on the paper, line up the vegetables, wet the end of the wrap, and roll it nice and tight. The end product awkwardly enough feels like an erect penis. How adult of us to notice this. Anyway, then you slice the log into individual rolls. I think Alexa might have cut more rolls than me because I was talking a lot. I can’t exactly remember everything I said, but I do remember talking and talking. Poor Alexa. That shit has to get exhausting. I get really close to her face when I talk, a pesky habit of mine, which I think used to make her kind of wary. Hopefully by now she’s gotten over my bubble-popping invasiveness.

Her dog Bubba was licking his beautiful, big chops, waiting for us to drop food on the floor in the kitchen. Alexa caved into his demands, giving him a meatball for rolling over. Gale was in the living room, focusing on this new sketch she’s working on of a German Shepherd. She was precise, using a ruler to measure out the face’s dimensions. She showed me the sketch of a friend’s backyard that she had been working on. It’s as inviting as the real thing. The koi fish, the grass, the knick-knacks, Stanley the cat’s tail flickering around the shed. Gale has a way of capturing real life and then some. In my room is a framed sketch that she drew of me. It’s so beautiful I was intimidated to put it up when I first received it. It was like she tapped into something that I sometimes have difficulty seeing and believing myself.

Alexa and I went into her room. We wolfed down our sushi rolls and sipped the plum wine. We scrolled through social media, and read about the Bernie rally that some of our friends had attended. And then it suddenly occurred to us: why didn’t we go?

It dawned on both of us that it would have been really something to be a part of the history we were watching before our very eyes. There was Sanders in his element and glowing, waving his conductor hands, hitting on all the big ones — healthcare, college loans, Wall Street, women’s rights, the lead-poisoned residents in Flint, and the U.S.’s dwindling infrastructure, etc. People of all colors, ages, genders, and ethnicities cheered behind and around him, armed with their “A Future to Believe in” signs. Muse’s Uprising began to play. “They will not control us… We will be victorious…”

Here is a man who has dedicated his whole life to people’s rights, who flies down escalators, who talks with his hands. At 74, he’s awakening a tired and angry America looking for more long-term change. Sanders represents all of them. And he represents Alexa and me. We could have been there, standing shoulder to shoulder with all the others.

In any case, I was happy that I was watching the rally with Alexa. When she got up to go to the kitchen for some more sushi, I gave her hug. I told her, “Man I can’t believe we’re alive right now.”

This was also the same night that Chicago protestors shut down the Trump rally. UIC, one of the most diverse campuses in a melting pot city. This had to have been planned? A publicity stunt. But in any case, the protestors had the place surrounded. They shut. it. down. I’m proud of their efforts, but I’m anxious to learn about the next city to replicate the maneuver — next time with people getting seriously hurt. The truth is I’m scared about the chaos, just like a lot of people I know. The Nazi incitements, the violent Trump rallies, the amount of blatant hatred being tossed about the streets in large hoards of people, which is nothing new, exactly.

I mean everyone seems to be calling this a revolution, and the thing about revolutions if I can remember right from the textbooks and people who are alive to talk about living through one, is that it goes beyond the breaches of electing a president. This is something that needs to be system-wide, population-wide. And I feel we still have miles to go if we want this to happen.

Here’s what I know about organized chaos, since I’ve been somewhat versed in it on a micro level — right now is a chance for great opportunity for those who want to help. During this very alarming time in our country my gut tells me that now is the time to start showing extra strength and kindness. Now is the time for the ones who care to start thinking outside the box to finally get outside the box. I don’t know what that means for me just yet, but I’m willing to be open about it and find out.

I petted the extra soft parts on Bubba’s paws, between the pads. I tried to move him so I could have more room on Alexa’s bed, but failed. He’s such a large animal. His humans keep him safe and happy. And he spends the majority of his day just loving people.

***Alexa and I challenged each other to write about this Friday together. Check out hers here! http://alexawynne.com/2016/03/14/the-politics-of-rollerblading/

 

My quest for porn that doesn’t make me feel like shit

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I’m pretty selective when it comes to watching porn. First of all, the timing has to be just right. I usually wait until I can’t take it anymore, and I just want to get it over with — watch it and relieve myself, that is. The feeling usually swims inside me when I’m alone, and my femininity is pounding at the floodgates.

I guess I wait because masturbation is not at the top of my priorities. It was at one point, but then I started coming up with excuses not to enjoy my body, and instead wear it down with despair and worry. Plus, I have a boyfriend. (“Isn’t that, like, his job?” I’ll internally complain.)

Anyway, it’s always a light bulb reaction. Like watching porn is the smartest idea I’ve ever come up with. And I skip around my room, brimming with excitement. I check to see if the coast is clear, then open up the laptop and type “porn” into Google quickly and secretly, like it’s my social security number. I click on the first link that pops up, which I’m sure a good majority of people know is Pornhub. I scan the first page or two, check the percentages of enjoyment and hover my mouse over anything that especially catches my attention, which is usually nothing.

I go to my default category — gangbang or orgy — because I like a lot of people and parts in my porn. Or at least that’s what I thought I like.

I browse for a good 15 minutes. My eyes catch the featured video clip in the sidebar, some light speed fuck fest or something else. (Today, it was a giggly blonde woman wriggling out of a frilly thong.) I scroll through no more than two pages, trying to stay clear of things that say, “Dirty whore takes two cocks…” and instead looking for titles like “Two friends share…” as if the more gentle of wording makes a difference.

I can get nitpicky. I check to see if a woman is wearing any sort of oversized jewelry or distracting platform shoes. If she is sweating her eyeliner. If there’s a questionable looking mole or formation on a dude’s ball sack. If the faces are scrunched up too tightly, I’m gone. If the moaning is distracting, NEXT. If it looks like the woman is in any amount of physical pain, forget it. If the guy bellows dumb shit like “aw, yeah take it, you bitch,” consider me a ghost.

When I finally land on something, I skip to the penetration. I usually mow right through the oral sex. The choking sounds and gagging make me uncomfortable. I watch for a couple of minutes just to make sure that there’s a good amount of fucking going on. Because the worst thing of all is climaxing while they’re adjusting or swapping out ponies in the show.

Once I come, I don’t want anything to do with what I’m watching. I can’t stomach to think about watching any of this stuff without being remotely turned on. I slam the computer shut and pretend that it never happened.

If you can tell by now, I don’t like to really like the porn I watch, or the tacky, poorly scripted, not-true-to life fucking the Internet calls real sex. I just read David Foster Wallace’s “Big Red Son” for the first time, which is a true account of the adult film industry, and it’s pretty spot-on how put-on everything is. The essay pokes fun at the grubbiness of it all, the money it generates, and its denigration of real life sex. It is one of the funniest and most heavily researched essays I’ve ever read. If you haven’t gotten the chance to read it, please do.

I bring up Wallace’s essay because it confirms the shiver I get every time I watch porn on the Internet, or on rare occasions, splurge and purchase one on Comcast. And it points  to the need for real time sex and love and hunger and humanity and all that inside the relationship and beyond. Because let’s face it, humans like to watch each other have sex. And I’m not above that.

I guess I’m just complaining that there’s no real artistic version of porn. Or at least I haven’t been brave enough to go looking for it. Until today.

So let’s talk about today. I go through the motions. Shut the blinds. Hit up Pornhub. Scroll and scroll. And then I stop. I backtrack. I type into Google: “porn for women.”

The first thing that pops up is a Refinery29 article, “Porn that’s Good for Women,” and I roll my eyes because I’m not interested in reading. Where da porn at, I think. But I read through the article. It gives a shout out to progressive adult filmmaker Erika Lust and her take on adult entertainment for women.

I read on. Lust has made 10 films so far. Her ultimate goal is to create porn that illustrates “all the intimacy, beauty, and joy of sex,” featuring people who “truly enjoy themselves.” Lust goes on in the article to say that the enjoyment will not be “at the expense of women.”

Lust captures some of the same thoughts and modes of shame I’ve had about porn since I started watching it when I was 13. “Part of me was like, ‘Yeah, it’s somewhat of a turn-on,’ but another side of me thought, ‘What the hell is this sexist bullshit?’” says Lust in the Refinery29 article.

Needless to say, I’m more than a little intrigued looking into Lust’s films. The one I choose to watch is “Female Fantasy,” which looks and feels like an Indie flick.

It’s about a woman masturbating to her own fantasy. The first thing I think about doing is skipping to the part with all the dicks. But I don’t because no part like that exists in the film.

The film starts out with a man at a bus stop. He’s sitting alone and smoking a cigarette. He has an angular jaw and a pair of icicle blues. He musses his shaggy hair. A woman walks by. She sits down next to the man. She smiles, but not directly at him. Their legs touch for a couple of seconds. Before she gets on the bus, she squeezes his bare leg.

On the bus, the woman begins touching herself over her clothes. She puts her leg up on her seat to conceal what she’s doing. She looks around.

This woman arrives home and slinks into her bed. Her hair is tangled, and she’s braless. She rolls off her socks and peels off her skirt, throwing them to the floor. She begins pleasuring herself. She’s wearing gray underwear, and her pubic hair leaks from the sides. She has a small bruise on her left thigh and a gap between her teeth. The filming is different from anything I’ve ever seen. Instead of focusing on solely the vagina and breasts, it captures other things. Like the woman’s throat. You can visibly see the rotations, the pulsating knots of pleasure moving around in her throat. And you can hear her. She’s breathing in uneven breaths.

It switches to her fantasy. The woman is straddling the man on the bus stop bench. She grabs his hips and lifts his shorts. They kiss each other deeply.

And this is how it continues, toggling between the fantasizer and the fantasy. And the fantasy escalates. The man licks the woman over her underwear, which forms a dark spot from his saliva. He doesn’t go underneath with his tongue. He’s gentle and focused. She runs her hands through his hair. The couple begins to fuck at the bus stop in broad daylight — faded passersby in the background. The sounds are amazing. There’s no talking. You can hear the slapping of skin, the wetness. Faint, airy strings play. The sound of a heartbeat fades in and out. And then they come. No screams. No contrived moans. Only quick breathing, anticipant and then resolved.

I’ve never watched any porn the whole way through before this. At the end, the girl is alone at the bus stop. She is panting, and she has this look on her face like she can’t fucking believe what just happened. She smiles. Then she looks directly into the camera with a smoldering stare. Pure contentment.

I shut my computer. I lift up my shirt and pull off my pants. I grab for my vibrator, my purple best friend. Outside my window, the wind sputters and the sun pours into my room, warming my face. I smile at the sunshine, and feel myself loosen. I begin to create this scene in my head about being alone and naked underneath the willows outside my house.

 

 

 

 

Sitting in my car

I do this thing where I sit in my car in the winter. Sometimes I read the last bit of something. Sometimes I let the lastest song on repeat fill me. Sometimes I do nothing except let the day’s unresolved extraness leak from my skin and settle into my seat.

I wait until all the heat leaves my car, until my toes are numb from the cold. When I can’t take it anymore I go inside to my warm home that I am lucky to have, even if its ceilings are stained in the blood of dead flies, and it’s on the third floor.

I don’t really know when I started doing this. But I killed my battery doing it the other day. I left my lights on. Sean helped me jumpstart my car.

I’m sitting in my car right now. I can see Sean in the window. It took me a while to figure out what he was doing. My eyes aren’t the best in the dark, but I think I figured it out. He’s holding two ends of a Christmas tree in his hands.

He probably wants to surprise me. I’m surprised alright. Why does he continue to choose me? That’s a legitimate question. Not for him, but for me. It’s my song on repeat.

I snap pictures of him with my eyes. I add more to his living eulogy I’ve been writing inside my head for over a third of my life and go inside.

Inside, Sean smiles and strings lights.

Spike, the badass flower

Titan Arum

He has name. His name is Spike. I saw him with my own two eyes, and he is a massive, glorious beast. Spike is the name of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s goliath “corpse flower,” or the Titan Arum. It took 12 years for this flower, which is actually a collection of flowers, to reach the height 68’’. Let me just say, it’s simply humbling when you realize that one of those dainty flower things can be taller, wider, heavier — not to mention smarter — than a human being.

One Friday, my sister, friend, and I stumbled upon the idea of going to the Chicago Botanic Garden. We weren’t even aware of the hype, or Godzilla-like specimen that awaited us. Once we arrived, it was clear though, the people had come for Spike. His ribbed, purple face was plastered all over the gift shop. He was on shirts and bags. On cooking aprons and postcards. He was the star of the show. Little kids were tugging on sleeves and whining, “Mom, I want to smell the stink.”

What stink? We wanted to smell the stink, too.

Then, there he was. In the center of the Semitropical Greenhouse, reaching toward the glassed in heavens. People were crowding around him, snapping selfies with the monster.

My sister, friend, and I stood with our mouths agape, taking in the near six foot “corpse flower.” The Titan Arum, native to Indonesia, has a rotting flesh smell that attracts pollinators. And not cute little bees, butterflies, or hummingbirds. No, this flower with its nightmare bloom has its heart set on dung beetles and flies. The tall center part of the bloom, the spadix, heats up to help disperse the odor far distances. The spadix heats up to 98F, the same temperature as the human body. Since the flower’s natural habitat is the rainforest, the greenhouse had to be kept to humid temperatures of 75 to 90 percent saturation at all times.

The time of our visit was important. The flower was set to bloom any night (it blooms at night), possibly the evening of our visit. Once we got our fill, we wandered over to the other botanic displays, all lovely and presentable in their own right. But our thoughts lingered on Spike. We stayed until closing. Though the rest of the grounds were hard for us to scope out, the lights were still on Spike when we returned. We took one last whiff and crept to my car in the darkness.

Over the next week, my sister alerted me that there was a Kardashian-like cam on Spike at all times. “Still hasn’t bloomed,” my sister informed me at the end of each day. Then on August 24, Spike stopped working overtime.

When the botanists were asked why the flower did not bloom, they responded, “We’re not entirely sure. In nature, plants have the choice of reproducing or surviving. Spike ‘chose’ to survive, having run out of energy to complete reproduction.”

The botanists talk about plants as if they have actual “choices” to make, and this by far sticks with me beyond anything. Maybe there’s something inside me that is still cheering Spike on; that is grateful Spike ‘chose’ to save his energy for himself rather than relinquish his true power in front of the cameras and hungry people eager to see him perform — to emit a smell so foul that eyes would water, grandmothers would dry heave. “Summon the flies!” we all cheered.

“Nah,” said Spike, and then he fucking quit.

When botanists learned that Spike would not bloom, they opened him up. They tried their best to harvest the pollen, or perform in front of viewers “the delicate procedure of removing the spathe by cutting around the base of the flower just above where it attaches to the stalk of the plant.” (This sounds to me like performing an autopsy on the still living, but what do I know? Apparently, there is a slight risk to the procedure, but it’s not entirely harmful to the plant.)

Gardens typically divvy up pollen so that other plants may thrive. It turns out Spike had very little pollen to offer. And his female flowers weren’t ready to receive pollen. And guess what: there was no rotting meat smell. Instead, a “slight smell” only if you held it up very close to your nose.

The Botanic Garden was simply floored that people, 75,000 to be exact, would come from miles around just to see Spike bloom in person and from their computers and phones. My sister and I were among the many texting each other updates on the flower’s progress. Spike is a natural born conversation starter.

Spike would have been the first Titan Arum to bloom in Chicagoland, but he didn’t. And it’s a crying shame because he raked in a lot of attention. Can you see where this is going?

The garden has seven other flowers just like Spike. “Spike, who?” read the Chicago Tribune headline on September 29. Now, in comes Alice, who debuts today at 7 p.m. The extremely rare sibling of Spike is now powdering up and getting ready for her big show.

These flowers are entirely unpredictable. In nature they only flower once in 1000 days, and the bloom only lasts for three days. Very few people have ever seen them flower. There is fairly little research on them though they were officially discovered in 1878 by the Italian natural scientist Odoardo Beccari. I think one was featured in a Simpson’s episode.

Spike in the meantime, lies dormant in a freezer, ready to bloom another day (or not). To which I say, that’s okay Spike, you do what you gotta do.

Sources:

chicagobotanic.org/titan/spike_titan_arum

bioscigreenhouse.osu.edu/titan-arum-faqs

nbcchicago.com/news/local/Why-Chicago-Botanic-Gardens-Corpse-Flower-Didnt-Bloom-323375051.html

chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/home/ct-titan-arum-corpse-flower-blooming-botanic-garden-20150929-story.html

bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Titan_arum#p004gx80

I need tampons: A true list of things

Ready, set, being productive on my lunch break. Yeah!

•My eyebrows were officially touching in the middle, so I decided to throw in the towel and get them waxed so my boss doesn’t stare at them when she addresses me anymore.

•Coffee. Dunkin Donuts. Duh. Sarah lives on Dunkin. Not Starbucks. Starbucks can be quiet now.

•Call Sean. Complain about how fun it is to ask people direct questions and not receive answers. Oh who knows? People in business don’t want to admit when they don’t know things or they don’t care to know things. It’s unprofessional, so let’s keep everyone guessing and questioning themselves.

It’s like that game… where the fuck is Waldo? Waldo’s not here. Waldo is on vacation (again). Can I transfer you to Waldo’s voicemail?

Sean’s wiring a water purification trailer that will be shipped off to an oil field in Nebraska, or wherever this one is going. His job is monotonous and draining, but he’s doing okay today. Most days, he has this gift of mental separation when he works. I’m envious. I need like 10 Ted Talks to even get me moving in the morning. Okay, 10 is a little obscene. TED Talks are good, but they can feel a little like organized religion if you consume too many at once.

I tell Sean there’s this delicious melon that I cut up and put into the fridge. I can’t remember the name of the melon. But if cantaloupe and honeydew had sex, this melon would be its baby. Sean’s excited to taste. I’m excited he’s excited to taste.

Whoever gets home first is making the Tilapia tonight. I hope it’s Sean. He’s a better cook, and I can’t follow basic instructions. I stick metal forks into toasters. Not always, but sometimes.

•Box of tampons from Jewel. And why yes, as a matter of a fact, I will take two. What a delightful little sale. Even though how expensive tampons are makes me die a little inside whenever I’m forced to purchase them. If it was up to me I would bleed all over the place. Women’s rights? Too soon?

Get up to the counter and the two boxes go flying in opposite directions. The guy wearing dark sunglasses in front of me hands me a box. The cashier snorts into her shoulder. I basically threw the other one at her. I apologize and tell her that I go all Hulk on my period sometimes. She says she does too. I chortle. The sunglasses guy laughs nervously to amuse us, and then he stops. He looks out the window like he has somewhere to be. I feel like giving him a nudge in the ribs. Some guys are afraid to get in on period humor.

Last night I told Sean that he better cuddle with me or I would slit his throat. See? Hilarious. Or at least I remember him laughing.

Friday night

Friday = a half glass of some cheap red blend that I keep losing.

I read somewhere on one of those annoying listicles that one of the unspoken rules is not to be on social media while intoxicated.

Pssssh. Well, I’m not.

I will say some listicles are better than others. Just like how some horoscopes seem to fit.

I can hear Sean playing Mortal Kombat through the walls. FINISH HIM. Some bloody maneuver. A severed head, a spine cracked in two.

I’m writing. I’ve got about a half page. It’s shitty shit, but I suppose I’ll keep going just in case it’s not tomorrow.

Carrying my own weight in TRX

Every Saturday morning around 8:15 I roll out of bed like a greasy, hot sausage. My body don’t give no damn if it’s hung over. It don’t give no damn if it’s ragged from a long work week either.

My vision is still foggy while I snap on a sports bra, a pair of spandex, and a long time broken in t-shirt with pit stains or a neon orange razor back that’s eternal brightness covers up the would-be pit stains. I tend to rotate the same workout clothes, because let’s face it, they’re expensive. I lace up the sneakers that were made for me, the ones I researched for a week to find – light and designed for quick shifts and lateral movement. I brush my teeth and wipe off yesterday’s makeup so I don’t walk out of the house looking like The Grudge. Maybe I shove a handful of nuts in a bag so I can wolf down some protein on my ride to the fitness center not even 10 miles away from my home. Oh yeah, water. Can’t forget water. I do this all on tip-toe; I’m careful not to disturb my boyfriend who sleeps with his mouth wide open. When his snore cracks in his throat, this is an indication that he has been disturbed.

Saturday morning is a sacred time reserved for TRX, a weekly ritual I’ve been performing for close to two years. TRX, or Suspension Training, is a fitness tool that uses gravity and a person’s body weight to exercise. Think of a swing set with two long, dangling straps that can be adjusted according to specific exercises.

Before you continue reading, let me clarify: this is not a marketing piece on behalf of TRX. I don’t care if you purchase a TRX pass from your gym or not. In the end, it’s not the specific exercise that counts. It is whatever you like that does.

I’m writing about my exercise routine because it makes ME happy. It satisfies the parts of me that want to be pushed to their limits and explored. It’s the part of my day where I ask, hey there body, what can you do today?

This is also not a before and after picture depicting a triumphant, life-altering tale of weight loss. Actually, the last I checked I’m still carting around the holiday ham.

Let me clarify that I struggle with cultural body norms just as much as the next person. For one, I don’t have a perfect body. I’m pretty average sized, and my body does normal body things without clothes. My boobs frown when they’re out of a bra. I have ripples on the back of my thighs – the same thighs that rub each other raw in the summer after walking for 30 minutes. Stretch marks that look like bear claw tracks up and down my hips. Pretty standard things. I wish I was above noticing them.

Yes, I pay attention to numbers, and I wish I was above that, too. I’m 5’3, and I totter anywhere between 125 and 132 all year round. Some days I like what I look like, many days I scoff at my kangaroo pouch stomach in the mirror. I like food, and large portions of it. Let’s be honest, I come from an Italian, bread-eating family. And yes, like many women think, I think I could always be a little smaller. But I try to remind myself on a daily basis that I do actually enjoy exercise (because I do), and taking up the smallest amount of physical space possible as a living, breathing human being is kind of a weird goal to have in my opinion.

I’m no titanium woman by even the most modest means, but the second I hold my body up by a mere two straps, I feel so deliciously strong and in control. The beauty of TRX is that it’s entirely customizable; you choose the pressure you put on your body. Apparently, it was designed for Navy Seals, which is pretty cool to be able to say.

I know I said this isn’t a before and after photo of a fitness story, but let me provide you with some relevant background. I’ve been going to the same gym in the town I graduated high school for seven years. I got a work out pass on my 18th birthday. On that very day I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. 180 pounds at 5’3, which was 10 pounds more than my 6’1 boyfriend. It irked me, even though I was in love with someone who saw past my fleshy layers and loved me back.

Here was the problem: up until this point, I was the girl who walked. ONLY WALKED. And since P.E. wasn’t weighted into my precious grade point average, I pretty much cackled at my gym teachers whenever they told me to hustle. Finally, since I have never been on any sports teams in my entire life, the concepts of teamwork, dedication, commitment, etc were sometimes beyond my stubby reach and concern.

So, when I scored my new work out pass, I made a deal with myself. The elliptical. Just go on the elliptical four days a week, 1 hour at time. Listen to the tunes. Hell, bring a book. Yeah, a book. Now that was an idea. Since I had never read the Harry Potter series (I know what the fuck was wrong with me?), I decided to read them. And I did. Book by book, I pumped my stretch marked arms along to the tune of the boy who lived. Yes, folks, I lost 40 pounds reading Harry Potter.

It took at least two years for me to put down the books and gather the courage to pop my head into a group classroom.

Zumba was one of the first classes I tried on for size. It’s basically cardio that combines various Latino dances, hip-hop, etc. It involves a lot of hips and shoulders, which can feel uncomfortable at first. But bodies remember dance. They’re made for it. This is where I first truly learned how to harness the secrets of my body. I was like a heavy-footed Eve biting into the goddamn juicy apple of knowledge on that dance floor. I’ve been going to the same Zumba class twice a week for five years.

This is also where I met Cheryl and Kevin, the power couple who even coordinate matching clothing. Cheryl and Kevin are married big kids who have worked together alongside sweaty people for a great chunk of their lives. Needless to say, Cheryl and Kevin have become an emblem of positivity in my life. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, all I have to do is watch Cheryl’s magic feet light up in the mirrors. Cheryl has charisma, and she laughs at her own jokes a lot. I like this about her. Kevin wears t-shirts that say things along the lines of “my wife is hot and strong.” I like this about him. He also doesn’t have any cartilage in his knees, which I hear makes exercise painful sometimes, but giving up coaching people, his passion, is not an option for him. I really like this about him.

Last summer, I did the Tough Mudder with Kevin and Cheryl. It was one of the most invigorating experiences of my life. I’m thankful for them. I don’t forget what these two continue do to help me discover about my body and its abilities that I never knew I had.

Since joining Zumba I’ve attended some of Cheryl’s and Kevin’s others classes. Weight training. R.I.P.P.E.D. Kevin usually barks orders at me. “Sarah, what are you doing? I know you can handle another ten pounds.” “Sarah, make that squat deeper.”

Kevin is the one who convinced me to join TRX. His classes usually include four rounds of various movements – combination exercises and cardio bursts. He usually includes dumbbells, risers, BOSU balls, ropes – all and any devices of torture he can squeeze into an hour long class. Each exercise is generally 30 seconds to 45 seconds long. We rotate station by station, and you have to keep up. Sometimes I space out, and have to ask what’s next. Each exercise entails a combination of movement. Lunge, dumb bell press. Throw ball down, then complete burpee. Jumping jacks while lifting heavy battle ropes overhead. The bursts of cardio include the rowing machine, the skiing machine, shuffling across the floor while throwing a weighted ball against a wall, etc. Basically it’s like an obstacle course, which I’m realizing is my kind of workout.

Usually, there are four rounds in total. If you’re busting your ass, you tend to be out of breath and dripping by round two.

Something came over me one class. Maybe it was the adrenaline, I’m not sure. All I know is belched out that I was deciding to blog about TRX and asked if I could take pictures. There was no turning back. Most of the photos I took turned out blurry. This is my fault for trying complete the exercises while taking photos. Silly Sarah. Here are two better ones.

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I guess I woke up that morning and realized that this Saturday morning class is one of the highlights of my week because I’m a part of a cohesive team. I know people on a first name basis, and I don’t feel weird leaving sweaty handprints on the floor right next to their faces. This is good news.

It’s a good mix of people. Brandon and Semra, the TRX king and queen, compete with each other, and it’s quite entertaining. They trash talk each other, and everyone seems to enjoy it. Brandon really admires his own biceps, a tendency I used to scoff at, but realize, that many bros are self-aware of their own self-worship and know how to poke fun at themselves. Ashlee and Brigitte are mother and daughter duo, both runners, who look small, but move at rabbit speed. Speaking of rabbits, I learned that like myself, 3 other women who attend the same TRX class own rabbits. Maybe it was meant to be. Nancy, is also a writer like myself… another interesting similarity. Bryan, who is the oldest of our group, is definitely the youngest in spirit. He knows how to throw around a good workout pun.

There are others of course. Overall, everyone who comes back for another ass kicking, tends take on the mentality, that in TRX, we carry our own weight, and we acknowledge each other for that accomplishment.