The Irritations of Modern Life 18: Unisex Gyms

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The Independent Culture
NEW LABOUR has decided to overhaul the Sex Discrimination Act. Marvellous, we cry, this is a Good Thing. But just look at the small print. Nestling among the plans on equal pay is something most subversive. The Government is planning to oust any "special treatment" of the opposite sex in a unisex institution.

This means that all those boring old farts at the golf club will have to witter on in the same room as you; that girls will have to play rugby with boys on the school pitch; and that unisex gyms would have to forgo women-only sessions.

If this goes ahead, I predict by the year 2000 that men and women will be engaged in a full-scale, apocalyptic sex war. If God wanted men and women to exercise together, he wouldn't have invented Olympic weightlifting. Or fluffy pink leg-warmers.

Unisex gyms sans women-only sessions do not work. Us girls join them with an unparalleled sense of optimism, only to leave in our droves six weeks later. They are up there with doctors waiting rooms, exams and commuting as all-time loathsome experiences. Don't get me wrong. I like looking at men just as much as the next girl but there is definitely a time and a place for it and it's not when I'm queuing to have a go on the the sit- up machine.

Men and women react to exercise in different ways. If they can't lift that weight above their heads, or do that extra press-up, men get to thinking that their testicles will drop off and they will never have children. For women, if that last buttock squeeze just won't come, then it's happily off to the showers for a nice spot of exfoliating.

The last time I moved house, the one thing I missed was my local women's gym. God, it was marvellous. There were all these wonderful contraptions for slimming down muscle rather than building it up, and lots of manageable, hand-held weights in lovely shades of pink and blue. Even the decor was boudoir blush. It was heaven.

Now I'm stuck with Unisex chrome. There are rows of torturous machinery, purely dedicated to building up those biceps, fore-ceps and back-ceps, or whatever those muscles are called. I like the kind of gyms where the clientele think a "cep" is a posh mushroom. Even the weights on these manly contraptions jump from 5 to 30 kilos (completely useless for wimpy girls). It really is an extremely sorry state of affairs.

However, there are a few nods to the legion of women who pay pounds 40 a month for the privilege of being testosteroned to death. There is a namby-pamby thought of the day, such as "flowers grow in moments of darkness", scribbled on a blackboard, and a huge changing room done out in some posh wood, and with nice showers. But that is simply not enough.

I have decided that sweaty vests belong on cute builders, that masculine grunts belong in the bedroom and not on the bench-press, and I have since relinquished my membership to the Unisex nightmare. I am now treading the streets looking for a women's gym in NW10. It's the most exercise that I've had in months.

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