Amazingly enough, given my many sleepless nights, I’ve joined a gym. It’s a 5-minute walk from the now ironically named Peace Palace and it’s all things one would want in a fitness facility—bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, a weight machine to work every muscle known to woman, a sauna, lockers with digicode locks, a giant salle de spinning (my head spins enough all on its own, thank you), the whole enchilada.

I had an introductory session with the lovely and gigantic Henri, Swiss trainer extraordinaire. Now I also went to a gym in France where I had to shake hands with every burly Burgundian male who ever had dreams of being the next Terminator. Here it’s different, more like the North American gym experience. People smile and all that, but it’s not a private association, so the social rounds are kept at a minimum in order to keep the sweating at a maximum.

And, perhaps the most crucial improvement over the France situation: women members and more important, a separate women’s change room. Although this was lost on Henri who was a bit overzealous in giving me the full tour. He’s a fan of the knock as you walk in approach allowing us both to be treated to a screaming woman in a hot pink lacy bra and matching thong diving for cover. But I can verify that there was indeed at least one other woman in the mix.

Anyway, I went back sans Henri the next day to tackle my cottage cheese to muscle ratio issue and what do you know, not a molecule of estrogen to be found. I entered the salle de musculation where it appears every boy band in Europe comes to train. Honestly, how many spike-haired, spray-tanned, six-packy, bicepy, mouthful of Chiclets, two earring boy toys can there be in this area? Obviously, quite a few. I was expecting a live medley of Backstreet Boys tunes with a surprise appearance by Justin Timberlake.

Instead there was grunting and peacocking, each eyeing the other closely to measure their relative hotness. But I have to say they worked out hard and, as you can imagine, left me to my own devices. See, this is when being middle-aged is awesome. To them I’m some old bag beating back death via 10 reps on the butt blaster machine, meaning all the hassle of working out with men disappears. No harassment, no stares, no risk of being hit on, although…

After my workout, as I was stretching out these old legs of mine, I could feel the heat of a man’s gaze. I looked up from my quivering quads and sure enough, a man was trying to catch my eye and once he did, well, there it was—the charming nod/smile gesture—which was returned, naturally.

There’s no denying it, he couldn’t take his eyes off me. Okay, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t annoyed or distracted by his attention. In fact, I was quite flattered. And I’ll tell you this, if Neil wasn’t in the picture and if I’d been just a little closer to him in age, I would’ve been all over him like a bad rash. Who wouldn’t risk it all to run off with an 80 year-old man riding an exercise bike in a dress shirt, nylon running shorts and black knee socks?

 

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