Sandra Tsing Loh has some trouble skiing.
Like many of my slightly-over-the-hill peers, I have been spoiled by my yuppie gym. While according to MapQuest, Equinox is just one-point-five miles away, I will typically drive there. I will then drop my things into the eucalyptus-scented locker room and choose from a variety of machines in front of a bank of televisions, half of which are tuned to the Food Channel. I can set these machines on any low level I want, then laconically lift a few hand weights. Now comes the centerpiece of my routine: a long steam and very thorough shower. The most vigorous part of my workout is probably squeeze-pumping all those bottles of Kiehl’s hair and skin products, because at $130 a month I want to get full value.
Because I do visit the gym, I have been under the mistaken assumption that I am in shape and have at least some athletic skill. This idea has been sorely tested recently through experiences with skiing. I mean, ACTUAL skiing, not just the WII version. I mean, actual skiing on actual surprisingly slippery snow.
The first incident came over Christmas break, when extended family invited me to join them on a fun ski day in Vermont. Did I KNOW how to ski—had I skied before? I had last skied when I was eight, which felt recent although in fact—and that is the continual amazement of midlife—that was actually like a hundred years ago. This became clear when I was handed a pair of modern ski boots. A typical ski boot used to have laces—This thing was like a pressurized canister that used gravity to swallow my foot whole, causing hydraulic bolts to snap shut around my chubby calf, making it feel like it was being skil-sawed in two! Upon being handed skis and poles and a helmet, I realized I couldn’t walk. Forty minutes into my ski adventure, like a beached whale, I couldn’t get out of the lodge, let alone get on the slopes.
It was then that I first put on what I call my “ski face.” All around me were pod people behaving as though skiing was a perfectly normal—even fun—activity. I alone knew it was not. The most sensible course of action was to lie down on the carpet next to the hot chocolate machine crying, so a team of Army Engineers could chopper in and unspring me from my painful gear, which felt akin to what Sigourney Weaver did battle with in Aliens 2. But then, I thought maybe the skiers would turn on me if they smelled fear. So, I decided to feign calm and enjoyment, even though I had no idea which way the slopes were, or what on earth I would do when I found them.
Next week: Fear and Loathing on the bunny slope.