Herbietown - Too Many TV’s at The Gym

Too Many TV’s at The Gym

I go to the gym to feel good. The goal is to get blood pumping through my body, to get my muscles moving, and to turn off my mind.

I would prefer to run outside, in the forest, surrounded by chipmunks and butterflies. But it’s pitch black at 5am, and the forest doesn’t have a steam room, so I go to the gym.

There are televisions everywhere. Every piece of cardio equipment at Darien Equinox faces a bank of televisions hanging from the ceiling. There’s no sound, but they show closed captioning so you can follow along. You can’t look away and you can’t close your eyes. The only alternative is to stare at the heart rate monitor on the treadmill.

Humans are not meant for this constant barrage of images. We spent the last 200,000 years running around the savannah and using our brains to find roots and berries. That’s what we are wired to do. We never evolved the capacity to process 5 television screens of information at the same time.

I had a particularly traumatizing experience last Friday.

The TV in front of me was showing MSNBC. They did a piece with Politico on the upcoming jobs report. Nerds talking about numbers. The charts looked like they were made on Excel in 1997. Even though I’m surrounded by this stuff all day at work, I felt like I should pay attention. I need to understand how the average Joe receives their economic news.

But I couldn’t focus on the screen, because SportsCenter was on the adjacent TV. Guys were jumping over other guys to dunk basketballs. You can’t not watch that. They were also showing those monstrous football hits when a receiver cuts across the middle of the field, leaps into the air to catch a pass, and then gets decimated by a defender coming from the other direction.

I love watching the top plays. But I don’t watch sports like a normal man. My mind wanders. I start to think about how sports are a vestige of our barbaric past, when we formed tribes and fought like savages for control of food, water, and women. I wonder if those beasts on television are somehow more fulfilled than me, because they are so in touch with that raw savage inside them. I’m well acquainted with my inner child. Maybe my problem is that I’m not in touch with my Inner Man?

From there I start to question my parenting. I don’t watch sports on TV, so my kids aren’t exposed to it. What will happen to them? My 4 year old came home from school the other day, right before the Super Bowl, and asked, “Mommy, can I get one of those shirts with the big numbers on it?” Poor little man doesn’t even know what a jersey is.

So my eyes are flitting back and forth between economic charts and barbaric savages, unable to focus. My brain is simultaneously trying to understand a) the political implications of the economy and b) whether my kids will ever grow up to be real men. I’m supposed to be clearing my mind, and instead I’m trying to solve these 2 very stressful problems.

The third screen was showing music videos. Mostly rap. A guy with gold teeth bouncing up and down, surrounded by women, cars, and gold jewelry. Just a little reminder that our culture is totally screwed up, but not terribly distracting.

That is, until Britney Spears came on.

I don’t really know any Britney Spears songs. She exists in my brain only vaguely as a a pre-teen airhead pop star. I also know she made out with Madonna and was photographed getting out of a limo. That’s basically what I know about her. Oh, and she was married to Justin Timberlake or something.

I also know I’m not supposed to think she’s hot, because she’s too young and because I’m married.

But there she was, all airbrushed and done up, dancing around on the screen in her underwear, staring at me, licking her lips, surrounded by other women, lying on a bed, arching her back and clearly enjoying herself.

I can’t say I hated it.

I tried to look back at MSNBC, but unemployment is only so interesting. Even SportsCenter couldn’t hold my attention. My peripheral vision would pick up an exposed midriff and I’d be right back to the dirty Lolita stuff.

I did pause, briefly, to consider the effect on society of showing porn on TV. I wondered, briefly, how I would feel if my daughter were watching it.

Then I read the words.

love me hate me
say what you want about me
but all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to
if you seek amy

If You Seek Amy. It’s the name of the song. Say that a few times fast and you’ll figure it out.

It’s no wonder I can’t relax. I go to the gym to clear my mind. Instead I just get hammered with confusing mental messages.

“Money! Charts! Savages! Sex!”

How am I supposed to clear my head with all that noise?


  • The Britney Spears video I was referencing. It was hard to find the official version, which makes me suspect that YouTube will take it down at some point.
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  • Fox News interviews a couple experts about whether “If You Seek Amy” should be allowed on the radio. Very entertaining.