Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."
I go to the gym every morning to get in my runs on a treadmill. Most mornings there is a woman there who also uses a treadmill just to barely walk at the lowest speed level while reading a really thick book. She is always dropping and fumbling her book and sometimes staring at other people on treadmills in a weird way. I usually don't care about what other people are doing, but this woman bothers me because she always comes to "work out" during peak hours when all the treadmills are in use and people are waiting to use the next available machine. I know she has a right to be there as a paying gym member, but it seems inconsiderate to me and other gym members who are a lot more serious about their exercise for this woman to be using the gym doing peak time just to barely exercise and read a book. I only have time to run in the mornings and there is still way too much snow and ice on the ground to take my run outdoors. I'd like to ask the gym manager to ask her to consider coming to the gym during non-peak hours. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
Is your gym an Olympic Training Center? Are you a professional runner who is unable to train because some retired swimmer from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics is hogging the only treadmill? Because that is the only scenario in which it would be appropriate for one gym member to complain to management about another gym member making use of the equipment they have paid to use.
If this scenario does not describe your life, there's nothing you can do here. Maybe drop running for yoga, because you sound high-strung. Find peace in the knowledge that the woman on walking on the treadmill cannot render you less healthy by osmosis.
So that at least our imaginations can get some exercise, let's take a moment to ponder how exactly that conversation with the gym manager might go.
"Hi there. I've got a request for you. That woman on the treadmill is too slow. Can you tell her not to come in when I'm here?"
What would you complain about next? People phoning it in with the free weights? ("Only doing 220? Clear out and let the pros handle it.") Treating the locker room shower like it's amateur hour? ("You call that a lather? Rinse and repeat, chump.")
If you want to have dominion over a treadmill, you should buy a treadmill. They're big and expensive, but you can keep it in the gym that you and a couple other rag-tag gym rat dreamers band together to open after you are banned from your current one for harassing people. This will be a new model of gymnasium, where customers pay according to how hard they work out. (1 cup of sweat during a session: $200 a month. 4 cups of sweat: The gym pays YOU.) Books, music, and other workout distractions will be banned. The gym will be called "Focus on Fitness."
It's not clear why you assume The Treadmill Treader has tons of free time to come to the gym if you only ever encounter her during the peak hours. Do you think because she's slow on a treadmill she is unemployable? The fact that she shows up at the gym "most mornings," in fact demonstrates a great deal of commitment. She sounds like an exemplary employee. You know who else is always at the gym during peak hours? You. Why don't you come at another time?
I would not advise throwing caution to the wind and running outside if the paths are icy. What if, God forbid, you took a bad fall and had to undergo surgery? Eventually (hopefully) you'd regain enough mobility to handle your physical therapy on your own, provided you kept it light like, say, walking on a treadmill. But what if, one day, some stranger came up to you at the gym and told you to beat it because she's been eyeballin' you for a long time and feels that you SUCK at the treadmill. You'd probably be really angry and embarrassed. I don't wish that for you.
(Of course, we have no way of knowing whether this woman walks on the treadmill by choice or necessity. Fortunately, it's none of our business since she's a paying customer. We don't have to worry about it.)
If your gym has posted time limits for equipment use during crowded times, feel free to ask that they be enforced. Otherwise, you can either change your attitude, your work-out routine, or your gym.
Incidentally, treadmills were used as a form of penal punishment in Victorian England until the Prisons Act of 1898. So if this woman really bugs you and you'd like for her to suffer, the easiest way to accomplish that is to let her use the damn treadmill.
My youngest son is getting married in about 10 weeks. I'm very happy for him and adore the lovely woman he's been dating for several years. I started considering her family a long time ago. However, I just received an invitation to her bachelorette party with a personal note saying how much the inviter knows how much my future DIL loves to spend time with me. I'm not sure that I feel comfortable attending a night where the future wife to my son indulges in, well, last night of freedom activities. I'd like to say no to this particular invite. Is that okay?
It's a shame you won't be at your daughter-in-law's bachelorette party, because you sound like a cool, sensible lady with a healthy set of boundaries. You should be at every party. I hope you're reading this right now, from a party, but I know that you're not because that would be rude and you have impeccable manners. But, no, you should not go to this one.
The notion of inviting a mother-in-law to a bachelorette party is so foreign to me that I almost wonder if the party-throwing friend is engaged in some high-concept, Machiavelli-level mean girling. A mother-in-law is the perfect un-uninvitable guest. You can uninvite a friend ("Guess what, Natasha?! You're being a bitch and you're uninvited."). You can uninvite a mother ("Mommmm, stop, you can't come!"). But a mother-in-law is tricky. You want to make a good impression on your mother-in-law. You want to seem warm and welcoming to your mother-in-law. You want to maintain a good relationship with your mother-in-law. Like the evils of Pandora's Box, once a mother-in-law's invitation has been introduced into the universe, it's out there for good.
Because it's a stretch, I don't think that's what happened here. I think this is a simple case of over-politeness. Maybe the friend (or your daughter-in-law) was worried that your feelings would be hurt if you were passed over for an invitation, even though a mother-in-law has about as much business being at a bachelorette party as a foreskin does at a bris.
Presumably there are lots of people the bride likes who were not invited to the bachelorette party. Her husband, for instance. Her dentist. But this is fine, because not everyone has to be invited to every party, all the time.
I'd keep your response short so you don't get locked into an endless ballet of don't-be-silly-we'd-love-to-have-you manners:
"Oh, that's so sweet of you to think of me! But you girls go on and have fun without me."
If you're feeling feisty, you can include a line about how you've eaten enough penis-shaped candy to last you a lifetime.
Then, when bachelorette night rolls around, crack open a bottle of Pinot Grigio and pop on Netflix.