I’m not single or taken. I’m at the gym


Do you ever just take up exercise because you’re bored? Will training for a marathon and joining a gym cure my depression and give me a reason to live? Pain is just weakness leaving your body. Sorry that was a bit bleak wasn’t it. Gemini full moon baby. Running on a muddy track along the town belt I see a ponga tree slipping off the banks. I almost stand on a baby Tui. Honestly can nature get the hell out of my way I’m trying to cure my depression. Get fit don’t quit. My shoes squirt mud all over my legs but I keep running. Do it for you. I run past some children and one of them says, ‘Whoa that lady is so strong ae’ and the other yells, ‘Run harder, run faster’. I cry really hard while running and the salt from eyes stings against the sweat dripping from my face. I’m sorry I was mean to you Sam, but I’m a strong lady. Sweat is fat crying. I joined Les Mills and spent $300 on gym clothes, because I finished Masters and decided to replace art school with fitness. I’m not single or taken, I’m at the gym. I see hot hetero couples working out together doing some kind of crossfit style workout and suddenly really want a boyfriend and a pair of Nike hot pants that say ‘Just do it’ on the side. I suddenly want to fake tan, even though I’m Māori it just smells nice with sweat, even if you look orange, rather than my racially ambiguous light coffee winter shade. I’m so aware of my body at the gym. Believe in Yourself. Mostly I really wanted to be like one of those hot white Home and Away looking girls I saw in the Body Pump class wearing Gymshark™ clothing smiling with swishy ponytails.


At the barre class the instructor tells us to ‘live life to the fullest’ and ‘reach for the stars’ when we are deep in a plié squat and lifting our arms into different positions. At the beginning of the class I don’t tell him it’s my first time, even though it clearly is because I’m uncoordinated and have bad balance. He keeps saying ‘it’s about having fun’ and ‘don’t forget to smile’. His smile is so passive aggressive and I think about punching him in the face. I keep thinking throughout the class about how exercise is better than drugs because you go through the worst parts while you’re doing it for what half an hour to an hour and then feel high as shit afterwards, not suicidal for three days. Coming down from drugs is like a really bad period, but not a period, unless you get your period while also coming down and then it’s completely understandable if you feel suicidal. When the barre instructor says ‘let go of the day’ while I’m engaging the shit out of my calves with one leg in the air, I try really hard, but only feel resentful.


My yoga teacher is white and has a suspicious long bit of hair that makes me think he probably had dreads at some point and definitely has tried fire pois and might be one of those vegans like this one I lived with in 2009 who didn’t clean and was really racist and ate all my food, but had a trust fund. I think this during the class a lot and wonder if I’m being too hard on Jake, after all I’m here to ‘clear the mind and get into touch with the real me’. He’s still kind of hot in a patchouli smelling, sexy Virgo in Virgo season kind of way. He’s the kind of guy I imagine having tantric sex with in the middle of an acid trip that just suddenly turns into an orgy like in film Zoolander. He kind of looks like Owen Wilson but with a straight nose. He brings crystals into the class and has an American accent. Whenever I hear an American accent I’m automatically turned on even if it’s a patchouli guy at Les Mills who definitely did or does fire poi and goes to raves with names like ‘Illuminate’ or ‘Forest Spirit’ and loves Burning Man and India. American accents remind me of Bruce Springsteen in the videos for both ‘I’m on fire’ and ‘We are the World’ by USA for AFRICA. At the end of the class he always says ‘Namaste’ and I want to ask the guy I like if he thinks that’s really problematic and if I should say anything. I’m scared to ask him because he’s a Scorpio and might think I’m stupid for asking such a dumb question, because obviously Jake the American yogi is gentrifying yoga one Namaste at a time. I’m trying really hard to cultivate a smart gal image right now and decided that maybe I shouldn’t practice yoga anymore, unless it’s with Jodie who wears a Britney mic and just claps and gets really excited and says ‘you’re amazing’ at the end of the yoga class instead of ‘Namaste’.


Hana Pera Aoake

Hana Pera Aoake (Ngaati Hinerangi, Ngaati Raukawa, Ngaati Mahuta, Tainui/ Waikato, Tauranga Moana) is an artist, writer and curator based in Aotearoa. They coorganise Kei te pai press with Morgan Godfery (Te Pahipoto, Sāmoa). Hana has a book, A bathful of kawakawa and hot water (2020) and is the curator of the Kawerau Museum, but most importantly is Miriama Jean’s māmā.

More by Hana Pera Aoake ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays