MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - Patience becomes the gym exercise

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It's important to me that the Norwegian Artist stay in good shape.

That's why, when I head to the studio to exercise with a DVD in the upstairs TV room, I kick the man out.

So he can garden. Or chop wood. Or muck out the goat pen. Or bring the garbage can in from the curb.

I really don't care, as long as he is out of the building, unable to:

A) Hear me flailing about upstairs.

B) Comment about the sounds I make flailing about upstairs.

C) Hear the dialogue from the muscle-bound Australian encouraging me to flail about gracefully.

D) Imitate the Australian.

Option D is why he is barred from the premises in the first place. I think it started with Denise Austin, breathlessly murmuring, "Your spine is your lifeline. Keep it healthy. Keep it supple. Keep it strong."

The voice downstairs, six vertical feet away, was deeper, intrusive: "Healthy. Supple. Strong."

A Hawaiian Hula Aerobics DVD, filmed on location with three dangerously buff hip-rotating Island Chicks, drewechoesas the wind wailing through the treetopsattracted theNorwegian's attention alongwith amoaning spirit of the islands' past:

"Woo-oooooooh ah wah-ahhhhhh ... Lunge once, ooooooh, twice, ahhhhhh ... Stretch ... Reach ... woo-ah-oh-ooh-ah."

That's it. He's out.

"But I'm not making fun of you," the Norwegian Artist protested. "Just the DVD."

Out.

My latest flailing exercise features the buff Australian, although the cover shows a perky brunette sweetheartin a skimpy halter top and bouncy 'do. But the DVD itself features a male Adonis of gigantic proportions, barely contained in a ripped and rippled muscle shirt.

He is surrounded by a series of the most bored exercisers that I have ever seen -- sedentary office workers, tired moms ofnumerous progeny, a silver-haired female fox who DOES NOT SMILE, and a token chubby little male.

"This is fun!" the Australian squeaks.

HOW?

Does a man of those impressive dimensions squeak?

"Aren't we having fun guys?"

Nobody answers. Nobody smiles. I think the Australian went to the paper supply office next door and rounded up a temporary crew with promises of baked pita chips and green tea soda after the ordeal.

And I don't think all those girls like being called guys.

While the Australian's exercise environment is an airy, open gym, my own space is not a true second floor, as the roof line angles down toward the ground the closer one gets to the TV screen.

For me, this means that, when the Australian encourages me to, "Walk forward four steps and hop hop hop!" I whack my head, three times, against the ceiling.

Just so you know, I don't do this every time I use the DVD, having learned after the first two whacks. But it does mean that I adjust how I follow directions, forcing myself to fit around the ceiling thing. It's absolutely impossible to wave my hands over my head, much less jump as I do it, regardless of how much the Australian coaxes.

Behind me is a sofa, and beneath my feet are chip remnants and dried orange rinds flung indiscriminately about, and painful to bare feet. Interestingly, no human being threw this garbage down there, at least, none in the household who admits to doing so. Why does this continue to surprise me?

"Mom?"

It's the Son and Heir.

"WHAT DO YOU WANT?"

"There's no reason to get all huffy," the disembodied voice gripes.

"OUT!"

Slam.

You know, it's a lot of work getting exercise.

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