I used to work part-time for this family who challenged me in every possible way. Make no mistakes here, this is a lovely family. They love and accept without reservation or judgment and are, in my book, fabulous human beings; I am so grateful that they have become part of my story. Some of the ways that they challenged me were a healthy expansion of my comfort zone and some of them were certainly not. I’m pretty convinced that the people that come into my life, whether they stay for a while or are just travelers passing through, are there to teach me something. It’s very clear to me that the universe placed Melanie, mother of two and a half year old River and wife to Tom, in my path because I needed some serious work in setting healthy boundaries. Like, some serious work. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For those of you who have never interacted with a fitness fanatic (or a vegan, crossfitter, or anyone who studied abroad in college), I’ll get you up to speed: they love to tell you all about it for much longer than your attention span and falsely enthusiastic facial expression invites. I am fully authorized to make this claim because I am totally guilty of it. I studied abroad in college and it’s one of the only topics of conversation I’ll drop into any opportunity that seems remotely fitting; it’s one of the less socially aware habits I have. I do also, on the other hand, exercise, and I hate when people drone on about their fitness lifestyles, plans, advice, and comparisons. I think it’s distasteful unless you are specifically asked about your exercise routine and really, I just find it a bit boring.
My opinion on this particular topic makes the forthcoming story all that much more awkward. On my phone interview (yes, I was surprised to find that nannies have those also), Melanie asked me if I exercise. I took a deep breath before answering. I’ve been to this rodeo before. Yes, I told her, I do exercise recreationally. Wouldn’t you know it, Melanie herself ALSO HAPPENS TO EXERCISE… Wonderful news!! She then decided for the both of us, as I’m rolling my eyes in agony and peril over the other end of the phone, “We should workout together sometime!” (My other least favorite thing about A) exercising and B) being honest to a fault… it means you end up doing a lot of shit you hate, like exercising with other people). Melanie, as luck would have it, is a spin instructor at a very chic, hip fitness center in a very chic, hip city literally on the ocean in San Diego. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my living nightmare. People have used a lot of really nice words to describe me in the past, things I’ll always cherish, but I can pretty much guarantee that nowhere on that list will you find the words “chic” or “hip” – unless it has been added by one of my smartass best friends as a very big joke. But, I digress.
Melanie, my soon to be boss, asked me to come first thing Monday morning to the spin class that she teaches at this studio and planned for us to head straight to her home to begin the interview/introductory day immediately afterwards. I’d be going through the morning routine with her and her current nanny, who is leaving the family to travel the world as a touring aerialist. No, I’m not making this up; I can only dream of being that creative. The spin class was fine – the room was sweaty and crowded and I was able to find a bike in the back corner, my comfort zone.
After the class, Melanie informs me that she’ll be doing some sit-ups before heading to the locker room and asks if I’d maybe like to join her. Message received, Melanie, but I think I’m good for today.
I’ll cut right to the chase here – I’m a quirky soul, awkward in many, many social situations, most notably when nudity is involved. I panicked and made a horrible game-time decision: I took my entire gym bag, shoes, socks and all into the gym shower with me, paralyzed by the thought of having to change in front of this woman in a gym locker room that seems as fancy as the bathrooms in the rooms at Caesar’s Palace. I wrestled out of my sweaty gym clothes, a feat that requires almost as much energy as the workout itself, and showered. Every last stitch of clothing I had brought with me, socks and shoes included, soaked in the process.
I come out of the shower, clad in sopping shoes and socks, and too-wet-to-be-clean clothing, catch a few sideways glances from women in the locker room who did not, in fact, choose to wear their clean clothes into the shower and grab an extra towel. I start mindlessly dabbing my hair in a “Please, God, help me look busy so I don’t do anything else weird” attempt. I thought the locker room had cleared out gradually as I was patting my dripping self with towels, until I heard it. “Hey, you!”
Please, dear god, no.
I turned to find Melanie and I, alone in the locker room – me, in my now slightly damp attire with four towels in my hands and her, sweaty and glowing from her post-sit up routine. I’d like to recant my earlier statement – I have now found my new worst nightmare.
Melanie began chatting breezily and mindlessly, like she’d known me all her life, a skill I still have not quite yet mastered. She began chatting and in fact, continued chatting as she removed every stitch of clothing from her body. Every Stitch.
I did my best to handle this situation like your average calm, cool, and collected person, but you’ve probably gathered by now that I am no such person. I made far too much eye contact so that we could both be certain that I was totally comfortable and making eye contact is what normal people do when they’re comfortable. I read that once. I used my plethora of towels to further fluff my already matted and tangled rat’s nest hair. I untied and retied my shoes for safety. I sweat through my now mostly dry-ish, but supposedly clean clothes, until Melanie decided she was done naked chatting with me and strolled casually into a shower stall.
And then the interview began…