Vanity in Extremist





By John Simonds


“Vanity thy name is woman,” proclaimed the Bard. But he had never been to the East Bank Club on Kingsbury St. where the male peacocks of Chicago go to strut their stuff.

There was a time when working out meant slipping on a pair of drab looking grey sweet pants with a draw string and a matching top. A few of the sweaty mucho types might show off their bulging biceps by cutting off the sleeves. Everyone I knew wore a pair of Top-Siders, but that was about it. Oh my, how times have changed.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I rejoined the East Bank Club for all the right reasons, fashion not being one of them. A few weeks ago The New York Times reported on important research being done at Columbia University by one Ursula Staudinger, Ph.D. that attracted my attention, to wit: working out on a treadmill three days a week for 45 minutes improves the brain function. At 81, I pay a lot of attention to such matters. That was just enough of an impetus for me to commit to whipping this aging body into shape.

The cavernous East Bank Club, with every conceivable device for sculpturing bodies, gladly welcomed me into its waiting maw. It was Saturday morning and filled to the gills with people wearing their finest: there were the men wearing brightly patterned tights covered with knee length polyester shorts. Many wore what I believe are called body-shirts that fit tightly around the torso and chest to highlight every rippling muscle. I can not image what Shakespeare would think of this spectacle of male pride on public display?

My favorite peacock, however, was the guy wearing the royal blue rain jacket with the hood over his shorts—he was actually wearing the hood and moving his head like he was Marlon Brando preparing for the next fight. I am sure somewhere he was proclaiming that, “I could’ve been a contender.”

I always think I am so virtuous, that I am above all this vanity. That is until I look closer at my own motives and behavior. The fact that I pride myself on being a reticent New Englander does not preclude my looking in one of myriad of mirrors that line walls at the East Bank Club, as I do curls with seven pound free weights or having my baggy Adidas sweat pants tailored a bit.

I am not too old to appreciate the mating game on full display every hour of every day at the East Bank Club. Supple young female bodies in tight fitting outfits sashaying around on treadmills and bicycles, with just a hint of perfume; aging women adjusting their lipstick every 20 minutes, and the folks at the roof-top pool in lounge chairs to maximize exposure to the sun for hours at a time. It is all a bit much I would say.

I think I will go buy some stock in Nike.