a strange encounter in the steam room

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I had spent the day being made to feel like the poo on someone’s unfortunate shoe at work and then battled my way onto the tube, where I had spent 20 mins being glared at before realising that I should give up my seat to a pregnant lady (I never know whether to offer, what if it’s just a pork pie pouch?!) By the time that I had moved, blushing profusely, the whole carriage was heavy with disparagement at my selfishness and I could feel disapproving eyes on me from all angles. “Oh just BUGGER OFF!” I felt like shouting, but, being English, I would sooner fork myself in the eye than make a fuss in public. So, instead, I pretended to be having a very animated text conversation – suddenly registering that I would in-fact have no signal underground for such a conversation to take place. Cool.

Working out after a long, sweaty commute was not exactly my heart’s desire, however, I was determined to get value for my money. So, like a snail to it’s death, I had crawled to the gym, to further my sweatiness. Past the overly-cheery receptionist, I had avoided eye contact (as is customary in London with all my fellow gym goers as I stripped off. I would swim a few lengths, avoiding the militant front crawlers in the ‘fast lane’, and the people who decided it was a fantastic idea to wear flippers and a snorkel in the shallow end (?!). Following that, I planned to sit in the steam room and cry quietly in the corner – top tip: no one can tell tears from beads of facial sweat (!)

NB: I should probably mention at this point that if you don’t enjoy descriptions of perspiration, it’d be wise to read another article.

So, there I sat, the weight of the world on my shoulders. I had not, I repeat, not been keeping on top of my waxing regimen, but I figured the steam would handily blur anything unsightly. Alone in the tiny, sweaty room, I crossed my legs in the lotus pose (check me out with my yoga terminology, I am officially level 10 basic bitch), and tried to let my horrible day drift away from my mind. Taking long breaths, I felt the stress seeping away slowly, my muscles relaxing (but not too much, not wise to let one rip in a confined space). I heard the door to the room open and close, but kept my eyes firmly shut, determined to maintain my moment of calm.

“You look like de Buddha”

My eyes snapped open. I could not believe what I was seeing – possibly the world’s most convincing Danny DeVito lookalike was sitting next to me.

“You look like de Buddha, sitting like dat”

He repeated himself, obviously interpreting my shocked silence as confusion. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I was confused – what on earth had possessed this sweaty little man to talk to me? Did I have a flashing sign over my head?: “VULNERABLE YOUNG WOMAN SEEKS PERSPIRING OAP – APPLY WITHIN!” Not knowing quite how to respond to this wholly uninvited conversation, I laughed awkwardly, and closed my eyes once again, hoping that this would signal the end of this undesirable chit-chat.

“You are very beaudiful”

REALLY?! Really old man? I have mascara smudged around my eyes, sweat droplets slowly but surely gathering in my ample moustache and am wearing a slightly baggy speedo swimsuit. Do I look like I’m angling to be chatted up right now?!

“Haha, thank you!”

Against my will, my overpowering instinct to be polite had taken the reigns. Damn, damn, damn my bloody English upbringing to hell. Why did I always have to be so polite? I think I’d actually be civil to someone attempting to rob my house, I can just see it now: “Oooh hello, yes sorry, I am actually popped home early – terribly sorry about that again, really rotten luck! Thanks for calling in!” Why couldn’t I just muster the courage to tell people to go away? As was usually the case, being polite did nothing to help my cause. In fact, if anything, DeVito appeared to be encouraged in his plight. Now shifting slightly closer toward me on the bench, he smiled greasily:

“Ju know, they should give you an award – an award for your beaudy”

Yep, the skin-crawlies had officially taken over. I had to get outta there:

“Haha, ok, I’ve got to go. Have a nice evening!”

HAVE A NICE EVENING? For crying out loud Bella, stop getting trampled all over like a cheap Ikea rug at a house party. 

“Oh and, for what it’s worth, I think that it’s you who looks like buddha”

I closed the door behind me, spitting with rage at mankind – mostly because I was pretty sure he had taken that as a compliment.

So my angels, best of luck when next visiting your local gym – keep an eye out for any DeVitos lurking around. Actually,  it might be best to take some laminated cards with you into the steam room/ sauna just in case, featuring polite such notices as “Please, no pestering”, “Warning: I have a highly infectious disease” or indeed “Kindly f**k the f**k off”.

B x

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