Reflecting on what the Matchbox might be like, maybe

I’ve never been inside the Matchbox, barring a single foray into its second floor last year to attend a storytelling event. This first and only venture involved me standing in the Matchbox’s entrance vestibule for an extended period of time because I was confused about how to get upstairs and too embarrassed to ask anyone.

So, I actually have been in the Matchbox, once, for the purposes of listening to social justice activists while knitting a scarf as I sat in the audience. But I’ve never been in the exercise-y parts. I’ve never been in the exercise-y parts of anywhere. For that matter, I’ve never actually thought the words, “I should go to the gym” at any time in my life. I don’t own a sports bra. Or sneakers. I’ve never done a burpee. I automatically left swipe anyone who mentions the gym in their Tinder bio. I laugh when people make fun of crossfit but I actually have no idea what it is. Once, I went to a Zumba class with my mom.

The world of Swarthmore gym-goers is, as a result, completely alien to me. While Swatties are, I gather, not the most muscular folks, I am unwilling to have my oh-so-familiar feelings of in-class inadequacy follow me to the martian landscape that is the Matchbox. I can handle nerds rolling their eyes when I mix up Baudrillard and Bourdieu, but I’m not sure I could deal with buff nerds rolling their eyes when I can’t figure out how to work an elliptical machine. People still use elliptical machines, right? Are there elliptical machines in the Matchbox? I don’t know.

When people ask me why I’ve never entered the Matchbox, I try to say something less embarrassing than “I am very confused and intimidated by exercise machines.” I usually go with a romantic half-truth about how I’d much prefer to be active outside the concrete and glass walls of a gym, say, by running through the Crum or biking around town. At this point, people usually point out that I don’t do those things either (“Sam…you don’t even own a bike.”), and that the stationary bikes at the Matchbox have a simulation mode that show videos of virtual outdoor scenery anyway. Whatever.

While my PE credit tap dance class and frequent procrastination-inspired walks around campus account for an adequate amount of physical activity in my life (I think), my Matchbox hesitations have denied me access to what I understand to be a prominent component of Swarthmore social life. Though I can’t help but imagine that the place is exclusively filled with all of the bulky dudes who sit at Sharples tables A1-3, or like, only the people who put two glasses of Powerade on their lunch trays, I realize a large, diverse population of Swatties work out at the Matchbox all the time. Regardless, my NARP tendencies run so deep that I am always doubtful that any of my non-athletic, non-truck shaped peers ever make their way to the Matchbox, despite the large quantity of evidence to the contrary.

With winter arriving quickly, and with it my desire to only eat ramen and hibernate, I’d love to make better use of the Matchbox’s expansive, state-of-the-art, 21,000 square feet. But I still haven’t swallowed my fears of 1) high-tech exercise machines or 2) sweating in front of my classmates. Luckily, with regards to Fear #1, I’ve learned, from doing some cursory research for this article, that I can make an appointment through the Matchbox’s website to learn how to use the gym equipment. How thoughtful! Leave it to the Matchbox to cater to Swatties’ bookish work out-phobia. There must be other fearful Swatties like me…right?

As for Fear #2, people love to tell me that no one cares what I look like at the gym. But I know that’s not entirely true because looking at other people at the Matchbox is partly why I want to go at all. Who’s lifting what these days? How much time did so-and-so put in on the stairmaster? What does that cute guy from my English class look like when he does sit-ups? I know it’s a two-way street though: I have to be willing to let other people look at me when I lift and stairstep and do sit-ups if I want to look at them while they do the same. Perhaps, though, I should welcome watchful Swattie eyes: maybe when I inevitably visibly (but adorably) struggle to make sense of rowing machines, some toned dreamboat will come to my rescue, fall madly in love with me, and attest to the Matchbox’s matchmaking namesake.

Only time will tell if I ever actually end up going to the gym. To be honest, people are so amused when I say I’ve never been to the Matchbox that I’m a little bit hesitant to let that conversation starter go, even when my physical health is potentially on the line. Plus, my mushy belly and indifference to my own bodily wellbeing is all part of my carefully curated cute-alt-girl-who-hangs-out-on-the-internet facade. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I realize I’ve spent the day watching Project Runway and eating cheetos in my bed.

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