It was worse than I could have imagined. Yoga. He's invited me to do yoga with him. Yoga is naptime for adults. It is a formal, complex, expensive way of saying “Sit the fuck down” like they used to do in kindergarten. Namaste, bitch. Hold still.
When he started chatting with me we were in line at the Trader Joe's. There was a Whole Foods on every corner in Denver. Whole Foods offends my southern red meat sensibilities. Trader Joe's seemed like a decent compromise. I thought I’d be safe there.
I had moved from a small town outside Mobile, one year out of college, to live with my cousin Hilary in Denver. It was my first week in Colorado. How different could it be? All cities are the same, I told myself.
He was cute and had blond hair. And I couldn't find the aisle that just had milk. Not soy milk, or oat milk, or goat milk. Just milk. The rad capped kind.
“Not a fan of artificial proteins, I see,” he said.
What the hell did that mean? “Most of my milk comes from cows,” I said. He had on a Carhart jacket, the kind with the big zipper.
I wasn't dressed cute. I had put on sweatpants and a hat to cover two day old unwashed hair. No makeup and the shoes with holes in them. No deoderant.
He pointed to whichever aisle it was and laughed and I thought, damn if I’ll never see him again. But we ended up in the same checkout aisle. I didn't realize you needed a quarter to pay for bags. Also not a thing that happens in Alabama.
“I'll loan you a quarter if you go on a date with me,” he said. “Deal's a deal.”
My instinct, honed from watching hundreds of Netflix true-crime documentaries, should have been to instantly assume he was a stalker. But then he told me to wear sweatpants. I've never actually had a man tell me to wear sweatpants on a date. And he was cute, blond curls, had a beard, a muscular build. He kind of had that beard that the guys I like have, sort of long and frizzy but trimmed a little?
I'd never heard of a serial killer asking you to go somewhere in sweatpants. I had a lot of sweatpants, in fact sweatpants were the main kind of pants that I had.
Where I come from men are blue collar by default. There's just no other kind. You move away from Mobile if you're not red state. No one's malicious about it, but you're not going to be happy there if you don't enjoy beef, Budweiser and have deep nostalgia for the Reagan years. You have to own at least three guns, preferably many more. You need to have killed several animals with bullets, not deer necessarily but something big that runs that you can shoot. The ambitious guys I went to high school with were big time if they got a job in the mines or in the foundry. The top ones went on to be cops. Every girl in my high school wanted the guys who went to the police academy.
I gave him my number, half expecting to be chopped into tiny bits and my body hidden under the floorboard, but also pretty excited that the first guy I met in Denver both looked like a lumberjack and gave me the time of day. That definitely hadn't happened in Alabama, ever.
“5:30,” he said, “tomorrow night, 8th & 25th.” He had big teeth as white as that whole milk he helped me find.
I should have known better from the very beginning.
I got off the bus at the address. I brought sweatpants and a backpack with a extra pair too. Why I did that I couldn't tell you.
It was a little shopfront and there seemed to be other people back behind the door. The part of downtown where I got off was cute, lots of little coffee shops, that kind of thing that makes idiots like me come to cities like Denver.
I told Hilary I was shopping for shoes. I had a cell phone and the GPS tracker was turned on if he started driving away with me in a car or tied me up with a rope.
But when I went in past the little door I saw where I was. A special kind of hell. The whole room was covered in that dim light that only lets you see half-steps ahead of where you're going, like at haunted houses. And they were playing that music, those little soft spa noises mixed with little sprinkles of piano and synthesizers and ocean waves. That kind of music makes me have to pee so bad. I had an ex boyfriend whose real name was Carl but everyone called him Eagle back in Mobile who used to smoke pot and listen to music like that. I hate music like that.
I instantly tried to leave but there are men filing in behind me, every one of them is a man, men men men, and I realize I'm in a men's yoga class. It's only for men. There actually is such a thing. And I am crowded inbetween throngs of them. Up in the front, far away, is my blond lumberjack man. He's the class leader. He's responsible for this.
There are man thongs and tiny shorts and the deep smell of man soap everywhere. There are men in Lululemon. This should not happen. No one is talking, everyone is quiet, a lot of these big men have their eyes closed for some reason. It’s like church but worse. No one is noticing me which is entirely worse than if everyone noticed me. I want to die, crawl between the artificially soft safe foam floor surface, and melt back into the street. But man sweat and man muscle is completely preventing that from happening. I could easily be gang-raped here, but I'm not even going to earn that. These are Modern Men. I'm going to be smashed into a culturally sensitive, ethnically diverse, testosterone-inhibited room full of bending, pliable, deeply sensitive, deeply Woke men and I cannot stand it. Where is Eagle when you need him ?
And it gets worse. The temperature starts to climb as the door, that far away escape back to my world, closes forever. Hot yoga. I have heard of hot yoga. Now I know what it means. It means hell. It means man sweat, dripping man soap, dripping man deodorant. It means I start to melt into the awkward sweatpants that don’t fit correctly with the holes. At first I make the vaguest attempt to follow the moves, the poses, the bending and the turning and the breathing. It’s not long before I am a wet mess of tears. I am sweating, I am melting, my underwear is crawling up my ass. I fart. No one notices. Please notice me, I pray. Please notice the fat cow in your midst. Have sympathy on me. Open the god damned door and let me go.
We finally get to the part where you lay on the floor like a dead person. It isn’t hard for me to fake. I am ill. I feel like I’m going to vomit. I see stars and small man-panties and elbows when I close my eyes. I should never have come here. I am so, so sorry to the Universe and all my Chakras and whatever else and I beg for foregivness. Namaste. I beg for death.
The minute that door opens I’m out, headed for the street. I have to duck around yoga mats and conversations. I’ve peed on myself a little. Several of the men stop me. No no no I think. They make comments about how hard their first time was. They say sensitive, appropriate, kind things. They encourage me to come back. I want them to swear at me. I want them to tell me I am a fat whale and to tell me to never return.
I crawl into Hilary’s arms that night, tearful.
“Oh my god, sweetie,” she says, ready to hear stories of a bad date, maybe a man who didn’t pay for dinner, maybe a guy who got handsy.
“Yoga,” I say. “So much worse.”
She just holds me. At least she understands. This is the sensitivity I need.
Nothing good will come of moving to Colorado.