The Bikram Chronicles: Santa in September

Two days ago I entered the Bikram studio just moments after witnessing one of the purest of pure New York moments it is possible to encounter: a man in a Santa costume expressing his road rage over a minor fender bender by beating a wooden baseball bat into the hood of another car. Only here can you pack that much crazy into a regular Wednesday evening in September, so I paused to join the little crowd of people who had gathered on the sidewalk. It just so happened that at that moment I was FaceTiming with my best friend who lives in Australia, and I flipped the screen around so she could check it out as well. You’re welcome, by the way, Sarah! Think of that as a gift from me to ease your homesickness! But the very best part was when the little boy next to me looked up at his dad and said, “Santa’s angry.” I actually had to bend over and catch my breath from laughing.

It turns out that when you stop to watch Santa lose his shit, you arrive at Bikram after all the good spots are taken, and so I put my mat down in the front of the crowded room and lay down in savasanah, trying really hard not to think, Why was he dressed like Santa? It’s September!

Being that I only arrived about a minute before class, I didn’t have a lot of time to clear my head before we were beginning the first asana of the session. But something funny happened when I stood on the mat and looked at myself in the mirror- my head cleared itself. It was the first time I was practicing right in front of the mirror; generally I avoid it and leave those spots for the advanced students who actually want them. But seeing myself doing the poses so clearly honed my focus. Not only was I able to do all the poses, but for the very first time I actually felt stronger. I was so focused, in fact, that I completely forgot about the Santa incident until the next night when a friend asked how the yoga was going. I decided to skip yesterday due to being pretty fried after work, so I had to think about the previous day’s session, and Santa’s road rage came flashing back to me.

It occurred to me that if I hadn’t been late, I wouldn’t have been so close to the mirror, and wouldn’t have had such clarity in my practice. If you think about it, Santa inadvertently gave me a gift of sorts; well, you come to this conclusion if you do some mental gymnastics around the facts that:
1. Santa isn’t real; he’s somebody’s embarrassing uncle in a costume
2. that particular Santa had probably just drank a bottle of Jäger when I encountered him
3. his road rage had nothing to do with my special snowflake Millennial existence
4.I actually hate the phrase “everything happens for a reason” because… no. Sometimes shit just happens.

Anyway if you ignore all that cynicism you get serendipity. So I’m going to go with the serendipitous view of the whole thing.

Namaste, Santa! I hope you get into AA and Anger Management and that everything works out for you!

Santa

The Bikram Chronicles: Fixed Firm Pose

“Don’t sit like that! You’ll hurt your knees.”

This was the refrain my brothers and I heard from my mother every Saturday after we had each grabbed a bowl of whatever off-brand cereal was in the house, wrapped ourselves in our comforters, and parked our little butts in front of the TV to watch cartoons. All three of us would sit with our knees splayed out, our feet pointing back as if we were drawing little M’s on the living room floor.

“But it’s comfortable,” we’d whine as she’d force us to sit in a different position. We’d wait until she was out of sight and resume sitting the way we were before.

In Bikram there is a posture called Fixed Firm Pose. You put your knees together, place your hips between your ankles, and stretch back to lie on the floor. If you can’t stretch back, you are advised to push your knees slightly apart. I cannot do this pose. Correction: I cannot do this pose yet. It KILLS my knees. They ache like crazy when I try to point them forward so I always end up pushing them out slightly to the side just as I did in front of Saturday cartoons. This always makes Bikram instructors frown at me since the rest of the class seems to have zero problem getting into the pose. If they do have an issue, it tends to be with the part where they lie on their backs.

Yesterday the class was smaller, and the instructor was able to show me the proper way to do the pose; it was still painful and difficult, but, amazingly, markedly less so. The entire time I could just see my mom shaking her head at me in a little thought bubble above my head. (I will not be telling her about this) Besides, my knees are kind of messed up from running and soccer too. Plus my hips are kind of big (and so is my butt for that matter). It must be the running and the big hips, right? RIGHT?

Moving on! I’ve begun compiling a list of Bikram tips for beginners that I will be doling out slowly.

Today’s Bikram tips:

1. Don’t wear a brand new hot pink sports bra. Your towel will also be hot pink by the end of class.

2. Listen to your mom.

The Bikram Chronicles: Seeing Stars

Bikram session number 3 completely kicked my ass. Like it picked my ass up, and booted it across the yoga studio while cackling maniacally. I was dizzy and nauseous and had to sit some of it out when I began seeing stars. This pissed me off. I am not a goddamn quitter! And then I remembered I was in a yoga studio and I was supposed to be zen and all that shit. So I returned to my breathing and resolved to be gentle with myself. Besides, when you start seeing stars in the middle of a pose, it’s better to take a break than to pass out on your mat, that is if you don’t pass out on the person next to you- and the person next to me didn’t look terribly friendly. If I’m going to faint, I’d rather it not be on someone who was scowling with her eyes closed during her pre-class savasana.

In the middle of this little psychological argument I was having with myself about mental and physical will power vs. the very real possibility that I could faint, the instructor gleefully regaled us with stories of how he’s a notoriously difficult teacher, and that people avoid his class because he pushes so hard. No shit, I was thinking. I was also thinking, I can’t wait until I’m better at this shit so I can take your class without feeling like a 300 lb sixth grader who just climbed a flight of stairs! 

But struggling yesterday was not necessarily a bad thing. As I was eating my dinner an hour or so later, all I could think about was getting back in there the next day. It was the first thing on my mind this morning too. Hopefully today’s session will be an improvement.

Let’s just say I totally get how some people become super obsessed with Bikram, though I’m still slightly unsure how to keep this going considering what a time commitment and a hassle it can be: from the round trip commute to the shower after class the whole thing takes about 3 hours. If this is going to be a regular thing for me I’m going to have to become that thing I hate: a morning person. Plus, I have to lug my mat back and forth since they don’t do storage. There’s also the laundry situation. Bikram clothes are completely soaked after class and need to be cared for properly or they will mildew. Most New Yorkers do not have a washer dryer. I am one of them. So this is a pain in the ass…

Bikram is just a pain in the ass. Literally and figuratively. But I’ve already drunk the Kool-aid (and paid for the Groupon), so forward march, or stretch, or whatever.

Bikram vs. Sleep: The Steel Cage Death Match

This morning something incredible happened: I woke up at 5:30am to go to Bikram yoga (you know, the kind where you’re in a room that’s 100+ degrees for 90 minutes).

Here is where it’s important to note that I am borderline homicidal in the mornings. If I do manage to stumble out of my bed prior to 8am, it is only because my cat is knocking things off my dresser and/or I have to pee. And if I have to pee, I will be making the journey to the bathroom pantsless. And just forget about engaging me in any type of conversation.

homicidal mornings

This kid knows what I’m talking about. And so do all my ex boyfriends. (Boyfriend: “Baby, do you want waffles?” Me: “DIE”) Luckily for the rest of humanity, I work in an industry where the start time is 10am.

The last time I got up early to go to yoga was… (scratches head)… over a year ago? And it was because my ex boyfriend bet me I would never get to 7am yoga (vinyasa). And if he lost this bet he would have to read fiction instead of medical textbooks and sports stats (specifically, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies). Needless to say, I don’t like losing bets so I got my ass out of bed and trooped it up Steinway towards Yoga Agora, and he wound up reading Lahiri (ahh I can still taste the sweet victory!).

This time, no one was betting me anything. So what could possibly have prompted me to get out of bed at such an ungodly, unnatural hour? An expiring Groupon. I had paid for 3 months of unlimited Bikram yoga in the middle of a NYC summer and if you’ve ever been to NYC in the summer, you know that walking to the subway is basically the same thing as going to Bikram.

So I waited until Fall and more moderate temperatures arrived, and ok, until the last day of the Groupon’s expiration date! Incentives, my friends, that’s what it takes to get me motivated it seems.

As for today’s Bikram, I have to say it was totally worth it. Bikram gives me a serious endorphin high, more than any other physical activity that I do, so if anything is going to conquer my murderous morning streak, it’s Bikram. The new studio in Astoria  is pretty great: the space is in an old warehouse so the ceilings are high, and thankfully the floors are rubber (maybe cork?) whereas the old one had carpeting in it. Do I need to elaborate on what carpeting smells like after thousands of people sweat on it all day long for years on end? I didn’t think so. As always, the staff is super friendly and attentive. This morning’s class was taught by Yuri, and I’d really love to keep going to her classes. It all depends on whether or not this was a total fluke, or if I’m now magically able to keep the morning rage monster at bay… We shall see.

Namaste!

A Little Break

Image

Last week, my wonderful, beautiful, brilliant, and totally badass grandmother, Marie Sullivan O’Brien, passed away at age 87. I’m working on writing a tribute to her, but haven’t got a finished product yet because, to put it simply, I am grieving. Check back in a few days when the Ugly Cat will return with some new posts. 

Her obituary, written by her eldest child, my aunt Erin, is a lovely read, and can be found here

 

Yes. You Are Being Creepy.

creepy man

The other day I stumbled upon two references to Creepy Guy Syndrome in the span of 10 minutes of social media surfing and both caused me to let out a sigh of exasperation. It seems the poor, persecuted fellows who are being called creepy for, in their opinion, no good reason, have taken to the internet to mope about it once more.

I am not the first person to discuss and dissect the use of the word creepy. It’s been done here and here pretty effectively, a creepy guy situation was bad-assedly handled by this dude on BART last summer, and this awesome video addresses Creepy Guy’s doppelgänger, Nice Guy. Unfortunately, Creepy Guy Syndrome persists in part because so many creepy guys think they’re not being creepy when they really totally are.

The first was this YouTube Video called “Girls Are Assholes: At a Bar”

While the video is clearly being extreme to elicit laughs, it misses the mark by creating an alternate version of the reality of this scenario. Cut to the part where the less attractive guy offers to buy the young woman a drink, then graciously accepts her refusal and leaves her alone. If this were actually what went down in scenarios like this, then the video would be hilarious. However, this version of the situation is from the perspective of the Creepy Guy, who has conveniently glossed over his creepy actions when replaying the situation in his mind.

Creepy actions can be, but are not limited to, the following: invading a woman’s personal space, being overly persistent with that drink offer, repeatedly refusing the accept “no thanks” as an answer, calling her names, making inappropriate comments about her body. A common defense creepy guys use is that they are socially awkward or that these actions are subjective, but that’s just another leap in their mental gymnastics so they don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable feeling that is involved in self-awareness.

This is a phenomenon I like to call Common Denominator Blindness.

Let’s look at a comparable example of Common Denominator Blindness. Chances are you have an acquaintance or two who always seem to have some Major Drama in their lives. These people always seem to be encountering other people who lie them, get them into a fight at a bar, leave them stranded without a ride home at 3am, made a move on a friend’s significant other, etc. And this person with Major Drama is always whining and complaining that they hate drama! They can’t believe they have a friend who has so much drama! Why does drama follow them around?!

The acquaintance is suffering from Common Denominator Blindness. The acquaintance IS The Drama, but instead of doing a little self-reflection and discovering the difficult truth that he/she is the common denominator in The Drama, this person externalizes the issue so as not to take any responsibility for their shitty actions.

A guy who does creepy things is a poster child for Common Denominator Blindness.

They see the accumulation of times they’ve been called creepy, and instead of asking themselves what they might have said or done to make another human being uncomfortable, they externalize and generalize that women at large are the problem. Then they see that same woman talking to someone else, and instead of just thinking, “Being rejected is uncomfortable. Ugh,” they instead think, “Wow. She’s so shallow that she doesn’t want to talk to me (the nice, less attractive guy), but she’ll talk to that other guy (the hot rapist).” As if that makes any logical sense whatsoever.

That’s why this video is so problematic.

It asserts that women don’t know what’s good for them, but the strange guy at the bar knows better. It also suggests that women are at fault if they are assaulted because they chose a hot guy over a nice guy. But nice guys don’t assume women are stupid. They don’t think their desire to have a conversation with a woman trumps her right to feel comfortable; they know if someone were making them uncomfortable that it would suck, so they’d rather not put another person through that. Basically, they know how to be decent fucking human beings, and they know they don’t deserve a cookie (or a conversation, or a fuck) just for acting right. Seriously, watch this video to learn what a nice guy is and is not.

Despite what “Girls Are Assholes: At a Bar” suggests, most women are quite good at identifying actions that make their internal alarm bells ring out a possibly unsafe person warning. Considering that Creepy Guy patronizingly believes that the stupidity of women is what causes them to get raped, you’d think he’d applaud her erring on the side of caution, even if that meant he didn’t get to talk to her. Unfortunately, that’s not the case since it doesn’t involve Creepy Guy benefiting in any way. This type of guy assumes he is owed her attention and time and that if he doesn’t get it, it’s because women are shallow and stupid, not because he did something inappropriate or she just plain wasn’t interested.

And yet this idea that men are rampantly being unfairly labeled as creepy persists. That’s where the second post that made me roll my eyes came in. #7 of this Thought Catalogue post about modern dating stopped me from devoting another second of my time to the rest of the post.

It’s definitely important to point out that most guys are decent and not creepy. And those guys are likely not getting called creepy, though I will concede that it happens on occasion. The laws of probability insist it must be true. The difference is that on the rare occasion a decent guy gets called creepy he doesn’t lose his shit, decide that all women are stupid, and take to the internet to defend himself. He knows that one of two things has happened: that woman was not interested for any number of reasons out of his control OR he made a faux pas that caused her to feel uncomfortable. Even if it was the latter, a regular, decent guy knows that everyone messes up and no one is perfect at respecting boundaries. Maybe he apologizes or maybe he just lets the situation alone and keeps it moving. The world does not stop turning. He does not lose anything. Being called creepy does not redefine his identify and automatically turn him into a creeper.

Some would argue that the current prevalence of the term creepy has risen because a few bad apples are spoiling the bunch, and to a certain extent I agree with this. Women are on guard for creepers because they are often masquerading as nice guys and it’s just better to be safe than sorry. But it’s also true that people with an axe to grind are often the ones squawking the loudest. The thing is, if you are getting called creepy enough to be pissed off about it and turning red in the face over it on social media, you are not being falsely accused of being creepy, you actually ARE being creepy and are suffering from Common Denominator Blindness.

Fortunately, there is a cure for Common Denominator Blindness, though it can be rather uncomfortable if you’re new to it: self-awareness.

It doesn’t cost anything, it makes you happier in the long run, and you’ll finally be functional member of society. Everybody wins! Godspeed.