It wasn't that they were heavy. They weren't. Only 5lbs for the two of them. Enough to begin with. I don't want to be overly muscular but felt I needed to do something to counter the flab and weakness in my arms. It was the acrobat who suggested weight-training, seconded by the chef, who has added weight-training to her schedule of exercise. I tried the chef's weights which were pleasantly heavy but compact – they seemed to be the sort of thing I wanted: neat and in a neutral shade.
I should have asked where to buy them but was embarrassed by the whole idea. I wandered into sports shops … and quickly wandered out again. The eager young people who knew their way around were fine but I didn't want to be targeted by enthusiastic shop assistant who were bound to ask what I wanted. It was too embarrassing. I didn't seem a suitable candidate for weight-training and felt sure they would snigger in private if they didn't burst out laughing hysterically at my request.
In the end I started leafing through the Argos catalogue. The range was puzzling to the point of exasperation. I had a choice: I could either leave the shop and give up or I could make an attempt to purchase the cheapest weights in the shop. Then came a further problem: the colour.
On the whole I'm not too fussy about colours. The weights weren't meant to be ornamental and, if anyone had asked me, I'd have said I didn't mind what colour they were, so long as they worked. But these were far larger than the chef's neat weights. They were shaped like dumb-bells. And they were Barbie pink.
I detest Barbie pink. It reminds me of voyages to Toys'r'us where the boys' aisle was full of camouflage gear and fake weapons while the girls' aisle glowed in a violent excess of parodic femininity. There were dolls on tiptoe whose clothes and figures made Dolly Parton look like a dowdy frump. There were sinister plastic smilers who had no existence below the neck and whose sole function was to display hairstyles of absurd elaboration. The Barbie pinkness of the aisle was so bright and commanding that I wanted to flee from the shop – but my daughter insisted on admiring femininity in its most sinister manifestations.
I tried to persuade myself that there was nothing wrong with Barbie-pink dumb-bells but twice I left the shop. But the weak flabbiness of my arms persisted. In the end, I succumbed. I wrote the catalogue number on the slip provided and handed it to the assistant.
“Dumb-bells?” she said curiously (and loudly).
I began to make excuses at once. “I think it's good,” she said. “I should get some.”
She was about twenty and seemed very trim. She must have been trying to cheer me up. I collected my dumb-bells, put them in the bicycle basket and cycled home. Then I looked on youtube for helpful, easy exercises.
I manage to exercise a little most days. I'm not sure it's making much difference but at least I'm trying. Sometimes I try to fence well too – but I don't win.
Fortunately the dumb-bells fit neatly in their box, which isn't pink.