I'm being stalked. But my tormenter is not clad in a sci-fi merchandise T-shirt, sporting a greasy comb over; nor is he at my window clocking intimate moments, such as me defrosting the mince for dinner or hooking rogue mandarin pips from the mouth of my crawler. No. He is stalking me by phone. From his gym.
I've been a member of four gyms in my life. The first time I signed up then literally never set foot in there again. That "free" assessment ended up costing me more than $1000 and a fair nudge to my self-esteem. The other times I just lost interest because treadmills were boring. But that was then.
This time, I'm enjoying it. I'm forking out for a personal trainer - which should be a tax deduction because, Lord knows, the people who really need the help can't afford it. Me included. But it's the only way for me. I'm treating it like piano tuition: I'll stick with the trainer until I have the vaguest idea of what the hell I'm supposed to be doing, then I'll be confident enough to continue on my own.
I've committed to a half-hour session, three times a week, and while I'm still waiting to get that endorphin rush everyone tells me will make me addicted, I love that I'm doing something for my body and making it strong and capable. It's quite fun.
But finding the time is an issue at the moment. I've just started filming for a weekly show, which takes a day out of my week. Poof. Gone. I have a normal job, too, and, these two elements, along with a feverish pull to get home to roll around with my kids as soon as possible every day, means I need a gym that will be a bit understanding.
While I'm still waiting to get that endorphin rush, I love that I'm doing something for my body and making it strong and capable
People who work at gyms must have heard every excuse for non-attendance in the book. Most of them, I admit, have been uttered by yours truly at one time or another. In the '90s I told one place I was sick, then never contacted them again, hoping they would think I was dead. Didn't work.
'90s gym girl: "Hi, Chrissie! It's been 17 days since we've heard from you! Are you dead? Ha ha."
'90s me: "Yes. Makes crunches difficult."
What is it about breaking a gym membership that turns us all into liars? If it were anything else, we'd just say we can't do it any more. So why do we act all crazy?
I think it's because we know we're going to be judged. And no one wants to be called lazy or, even worse, have it be true. So we lie. And act strange. I feel for the gym staff, having to communicate with us when we're acting as if we're a mere three signatures away from being committed.
Yes, I've tried every tactic. But guess what, new gym guy? I'm not foxing this time! I want to be in your establishment. I like your cross trainer. I appreciate that lifting stuff until my face quivers is good for me and I'm enjoying it. But I'm busy. It's the truth this time. Is that so hard to believe? Apparently so.
I received a text message from my gym guy yesterday. He hadn't heard from me in five days and he was getting worried. (I'd been flattened by gastro.) It was a picture message. Well-meaning harassment just got creative!
It seemed he'd seen a billboard with my face on it, spruiking the fact that I'm on breakfast radio. This thing is massive. He'd artfully positioned his camera to make sure his head was next to mine. The resulting photo was my giant, beaming face next to his faux-angry one. Accompanying the pic were the words, "It's time for Chrissie & Gym Guy time. Monday!"
I laughed. Then I realised that no matter what I said, he would hear, "Blah, blah, lie."
I started to compose a text message, which was, of course, lies, despite the fact the reasons for my temporary disappearance were legitimate. I immediately went into the kind of panicky avoidance you indulge in when you're in the supermarket looking like hell and buying tampons and you spy the mean girl from school. Avoid! Act dodgy!
Then I called him. And I told him the truth. I told him I love his gym. I love the half an hour I put aside to make my body stronger. I told him I'd been stymied by illness and a change to my workload. I said I'd be back next week.
He was quiet for a minute. The truth? He almost didn't know how to handle it. And I almost didn't know how to tell it. I felt so empowered. And I promised him I would not be calling him in six months to tell him I'd contracted something, moved interstate or had, in fact, passed away. How grown up.
Chrissie Swan is the co-host of Mix 101.1's breakfast show in Melbourne and 3pm Pick-Up nationally. She's also on Twitter.
Thie article first appeared in Sunday Life.