Thursday 10 March 2022

The Exercise Goddess

 by Suzanne Ste. Therese

acai berry electrolyte infused filtered water

OOOH! WOW! PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER! SHOUT OUT! GIVE US SOME EN-ER-GEEE! Romping like a pony to the BOOM, BOOM, BOOM of brisk syncopated rap, bare feet on a spongey floor, every woman boisterously bouncing, clapping, shaking their heads like horses shake their manes, this was the quintessential exercise class to put on a sweat. The instructor’s firm butt reflected in the wall mirror at the front, she smiles showing perfect snow-white veneers while slapping bone-thin tanned arms, body encased in skin-tight sleeveless pink, toes and fingers painted to match. Her suede hairband clasps curly golden blonde extensions above long extra thick lashes and just a touch of lip gloss to alter her natural bluish-red lips to a light pink hue.

LET’S GET READY! TWENTY SETS! LUNGE LEFT! 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-LUNGE RIGHT 10-9-8- and so on until back to the pony, the class begins to break that infamous sweat.  This exercise studio was famous for Priscilla Glore (pronounced G’lore), taking lackluster size 14 bodies to svelte size 6’s in a matter of months. If you followed her eating plan TO THE LETTER, she had a written guarantee for reduced weight loss and body inches. (No one spoke of the requirements but slavishly followed them to the point of desperate hunger.)  She was a talk-show hit and regularly You-Tubed her way to the top of social media. The women performing a typical aerobics routine adored her and believed participating in her classes was a privilege and nothing short of magic. 

Until Susan came along.  Weighing in at 301.2 pounds with a double-sized exercise mat for the floor portion of the regimen, she was very, very mad. She carried a hatred for her mom’s neglect and criticism of her and turned to food for comfort. Not friends, she didn’t have any, not a job, she didn’t have one. Living on social security disability and a hidden medium-sized inheritance, her career goal was to eat, eat and eat watching reality television on a futon with her cat. Her body betrayed her in a town where thin was in (yes, she lived in West LA, where body image is a major preoccupation.)

She enrolled in and stuck with the Glore floor program with her quart-sized water bottle resting next to her mat at her ear. At first, she could barely lift a single leg, much less two at a time to work her abdominals, but she kept going, sometimes fist-bumping the mat in frustration. But gradually, her body melted so that the double mat became one and the legs lifted as though there was no gravity and she lifted her upper body to a sit position, then was able to cross her legs while pointing her hands and arms to the ceiling. Months later, talking to no one but consistently re-enrolling in the classes, she reached the lackluster size 14 that Priscilla Glore believed she could whittle down to a size 6. 

The other women in the class gasped as they were leaving when Priscilla called out, “Susan! Please stay a moment after class.”  Susan took her time rolling up and bagging her mat, eyeing the instructor warily. She had done her time, had worked hard. What did this lady want to talk to her about now? 

“Susan, I’ve been watching your progress. You’re not one of my typical students. However, I think you’re ready for the Standing Class and a little more challenge in your routine.”

“Challenge? Challenge?”  Susan’s wary gaze turned to rage. It didn’t take much to get her angry. She was still eating sizeable portions of chocolate just to feel better every frickin’ day. So what was this prissy woman talking about?

“Challenge? You don’t think I’m working hard enough?”

“No, no, no. That’s not what I meant at all. This is a compliment – you’ve graduated from this class, that’s all.”

“You mean I can’t come back?”

“No, I mean you could probably benefit more now from the Standing Class.”

“What are you trying to do? Kill me? Am I going to be the poster child for your diet next?”

Priscilla begins to realize her approaching Susan is wrong, all wrong, and maybe even a bit dangerous. Susan has her full mat bag resting on her right shoulder. Priscilla doesn’t see it coming. 

Thwack! Across her perfect mouth and thwack again against her headband. 

“All you people! You think you know what’s best for me?”  Priscilla is weaving toward the floor, landing flat, spread-eagled, then curled in a ball, trying to defend herself. 

The next day, the tabloids show a fuzzy image of the exercise goddess on the floor with a blurred Susan in her black exercise gear mid-swing. Headline? “The Queen is Dead! (exercise guru currently in Cedars Sinai recovering from fatty attack.)” 

The cops are called, but Susan is long gone walking deliberately through the terrorized classmates at the juice bar and out the door. She’s later apprehended at her rent-stabilized apartment in Santa Monica, tearfully removed while wailing about her cat. She kicks and bites and screams until the beefiest cop takes control. Susan is jailed in a single cell under watch. 

The trial against Susan, charges pressed by the unfortunately mouth-deformed Ms. Glore, changes tenor swiftly when other large-sized students come forward and claim pressure was placed on them as well for the more expensive classes. In addition, Susan’s psychiatrist goes to the mat for her revealing, with Susan’s reluctant permission, her child abuse history, and severe self-esteem problems. He felt the exercise program was “of great benefit” until Ms. Glore queried Susan with “graduating,” a major trigger for her. (Susan never got to go to any of her graduation ceremonies as a child due to her mother’s deep embarrassment of Susan’s size. Her mother didn’t want to see any photographs.) 

Ms. Glore goes into hiding to protect herself from the curvy bodies that deigned to live in a place like West LA, where such physiques were viewed with disdain. They were angry. Very angry that one of their own working so hard could be shamed yet again for being herself. 

Susan’s sentence was light but appropriate according to her psychiatrist, who enjoyed the limelight a little more than he should given standard confidentiality issues:  anger management classes for six months and teaching exercise in a women’s minimum-security facility for two years. The judge reprimanded Ms. Glore for pressuring one group over another to gain fortune. She slowly faded away, closed her studio, let her hair go natural brunette, and moved to Colorado. A Ms. Mimi opens the studio in her place, complete with chest-baring male models for security, and becomes the new exercise sensation.

Susan writes a book, “My Struggle With Weighty Issues: How I met my match with the exercise goddess and brought her to her knees,” which becomes a best seller for about five minutes. She then opens her own co-op aerobics studio for curvy women on Santa Monica Boulevard in an old guitar store, covering the front plate glass window with curtains and a huge sign, “Curves are in session!”  It still exists today.  

About the author 

Suzanne Ste. Therese holds a BA in English literature from Loyola Marymount University and a BS in urban landscape architecture from City University of New York. A landscape designer and architect for twenty years, Suzanne is currently a student at Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute.


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