There are many reasons why pulling at the gym is a risky and ill-advised endeavor. Included among these reasons is the fact that it’s an environment in which everyone is presumably wearing athletic clothing, the construction standards for which are fairly uniform. Without the normal cues provided by personal style (e.g. dressing up vs. dressing like a skanky ho) and social context (e.g. being at a wine bar on a Thursday evening vs. being at the Dairy Queen on a Thursday evening), it’s very difficult to get an accurate read on a young to youngish person’s age.
I had never considered this to be a major problem until I started training regularly at a climbing gym just outside of DC.
But before I continue, let me first make one thing very clear.
I don’t go to the gym or undertake athletic activities for the sole purpose of meeting men. In fact, I would prefer that all romantical expectations to be removed from the equation entirely, especially whilst doing relatively serious things like attempting to cling to a deep overhang with only a rope, a belayer, and a dusting of chalk preventing me from decking 40 feet and breaking my back.
And I would like to think that my fellow climbers have similar mindsets.
However, I didn’t expect that so many youths under the age of 18 frequent my climbing gym.
I’d also forgotten that teenagers are nothing more than heaving bags of hormones.
And it never occurred to me that, when I’m dressed in lycra and leg warmers and when I’ve pulled my hair back into a ponytail, I could possibly look anywhere in between the ages of 15 and 35.
So, one day, much to my dismay, a (very) young-looking man who approached me with an absurdly exaggerated swagger, leered non-menacingly (as only a youth can do) down at me, and opened with:
“Soooooooo….. What grade are you in?”
I was appalled.
I was mortified.
I was speechless.
As I sat there and furiously blinked up at him, another (also quite) young-looking man barged in, ostensibly to my rescue.
“Listen, man, you’re too young for her. Back off.”
As the young boy (of sixteen-ish? maybe??) slunk away in defeat, I felt relief wash over me about the fact that I would no longer have to respond to the inevitable follow-up question about which local high school (or even middle school??) I attended.
This respite was short-lived, since my knight in shining armor then turned to me in order to say:
“Sooooooo…. Do you go to college around here too? I’m a sophomore. What about you? When do you graduate?”
At this point, I just got up and beat a hasty retreat to the ladies locker room.
I really need to lay off the anti-wrinkle cream.