Once every decade or two, something I am into becomes popular. The situation is rare enough that I am still recovering from my chagrin when the local TV news used The Pogues’ “Fairy Tale of New York” as background music to an account of a dinner for the homeless a decade ago and from everyone knowing the plot of The Lord of the Rings when the movies were released. But by far my most frequent moments of unintentional trendiness and the resulting breakup of my routine revolve around exercise.
Since I’m built like a cement mixer, you might not realize by looking at me, but I have been a regular exerciser all my teen and adult years. Any day in which I don’t burn a minimum of seven hundred calories running, swimming, or cycling, I count as a slack day. I’m the sort you see doggedly jogging in a snow storm, or being unfashionably sweaty at one end of the gym. I consider exercise a necessary balance to all my hours at the keyboard, and a form of meditation besides. Unlike many people, I like exercise, and the heavier the better.
The trouble is, people are always discovering exercise. That means that the shoes I need periodically sprout velcro buckles and thick tread more suitable for a tank, or blossom in outlandish colors – anything so that their prices can double. Functional sweat tops disappear, replaced by tailored suits made of synthetic fibers that cause me to break out in a rash, and the gyms are always crowded in the first few weeks of January until the newcomers find the courage to break their New Year’s resolutions (much to everybody’s relief).
All this is superfluously annoying when all I want is ankle and arch support in my shoes, natural fabric, logo-free gear and a quiet place to sweat. But, this time, the fashionistas have gone too far. Noticing the popularity of basketball among males under twenty five, the sports stores have decided that all they need to carry for any sort of exercise is basketball shorts – baggy shorts that fall to the knees, and that generally amount to free advertising for an American team.
The least of my problems with the stores only selling basketball shorts is that I look ridiculous in them. Most of my height is in my torso, and I’m considerably below two meters tall. Wearing basketball shorts, I only look like a kid who’s growing too quickly for the length of his trousers. That’s how I feel, too.
But what I really object to is that basketball shorts are completely unsuited to strenuous exercise (and, for all I know, that includes basketball). They might be barely tolerable for the genteel weight-lifting that most of the men at the gym do, in which ten reps are followed by twenty minutes of conversation. But on the pavement or on the saddle of a bike, nothing is more unsuitable.
When I’m working up a sweat, I want my legs as unencumbered as possible. I don’t want them tangling in folds of loose fabric that bind them and prevent them moving freely. That is almost as bad as wearing sweat pants while doing strenuous exercise.
Yet because of the whims of fashion, a day is fast approaching when I won’t have the simple clothes I need to continue doing what I’ve done for decades. Within a few months, unless I abandon exercising altogether, I’ll be forced to choose between three unsatisfactory alternatives: wearing what’s easily available and feeling confined and uncomfortable; shortening a pair of shorts with one of my unsatisfactory hemming jobs (assuming that the synthetic fabric allows me to do that), or else ordering pairs of rugby shorts online and enduring the chafing of the thick material.
Probably, I’ll end up ordering the rugby shorts. But I resent having to make the extra effort simply because trendiness has touched down like a tornado in an area that I happen to frequent. My best hope is that it will move on before my present crop of shorts falls apart, and I can go back to being unfashionable for another ten years.