The Other Debbie

Jan 17, 2014

Many Virginians will resolve this new year to exercise more -- but Charlottesville author Deborah Prum has discovered limits to what working out can achieve.


Have you ever wanted to be someone you’re not?

So, one day I was at the gym exercising on the calf-stretching machine.  As you might imagine, calf-stretching is boring, so I looked to my left to see my friend, Debbie who sat inside this claw-like apparatus, pushing up and out against what looked like a heavy weight.

Debbie is blonde, gorgeous and sported classy gym duds. She also holds an advanced degree in Chemical Engineering.She is the Debbie I wish I was. 

Anyway, Debbie finished up on her machine.  As she passed by, I nodded and smiled, trying with all my might to appear competent and athletic.  Then, an image came to my mind—my own personal infomercial.  I envisioned myself in the Giant Claw Machine, diligently exercising, until one day, I emerge from the Claw, a new person:  blonde, chic and very smart.

The thought tantalized me. Why not start today?  So, still feigning confidence, I walked over to the apparatus, briefly glanced at the instructions, sat down, adjusted one weight then pulled the claw-like metal gizmo over my head.  No problem.

Too bad I hadn’t actually bothered to read the instructions.  Apparently, I should have adjusted a second set of weights, the overhead set which was now slowly crunching me into a permanent fetal position in the jaws of The Giant Claw.

Fortunately, Debbie had not been fooled by my pseudo-confidence and had kept an eye on me from across the room.  (I told you she is smart.) So, Debbie rushed over, fiddled with the settings and released me from certain doom….or at least the possibility of a real bad backache.

A great fear of mine is to die a humorous death—like drowning in a vat of pickles or getting hit by lightning while sitting on the porcelain throne in the bathroom.  Even though my demise was probably not imminent, I’m prone to melodrama, so I thanked Debbie profusely. At the very least, she rescued me from Gym Infamy.

Another day, at the same gym, I observed a frail-looking, white-haired, elderly woman, working out on an overhead weight machine.  I smiled at her as she finished up. Then, I took a seat on the machine. When I went to adjust the weight, I discovered the “frail” woman had been lifting at twenty pounds higher than I can handle.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” He’s probably right. So, now when I head to the gym, I try to keep the famous words of Popeye the Sailor Man in mind: “I yam what I yam and that’s what I yam.”

And that’s probably okay.

Deborah Prum of Charlottesville just released an audio collection of humorous essays called First Kiss and Other Cautionary Tales.