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28 September 2009

What was this girl trying to tell me? Was she mocking me, or flirting with me, or what?[More:]

You see the guy in the white shirt all the way over to the right in this photo? I was that using same machine around 8pm on Friday night when this girl comes right up to the window and starts running in place along with me...for like 5 minutes. When I sped up, she'd speed up. When I'd take a bit of a break by crouching and resting on handlebars, she would crouch too and hold her arms up. All the while, she's looking directly at me but not meeting my eyes or changing the neutral expression on her face. What the heck? I didn't really know what to do, so I just kept doing my thing.

To provide a bit of context, "my thing" is pretty intense intervals on the elliptical. I tend to crank up the punk rawk on my mp3 player and zone out, while cranking out my calories as fast as possible, trying not to care what I look like. I use several different body positions to work my legs, arms and core in a variety of ways, mostly in time with my music so it might appear kinda dancey. I usually use the upstairs machines which are not nearly as public as these downstairs machines by the window that get quite a bit passerby foot traffic. The gym is right in the middle of Rockville Town Square, a new development with restaurants and shops and a library. It's a pretty popular hangout spot for local teens and, again, this was Friday night.

So, yeah, it wasn't that unusual when I first started my workout and caught a woman my age turning her head towards me as she went by. Or, a few minutes later, when one of dudes in a group of passing teens obnoxiously gave me a thumbs-up as I looked up after one of my interval-sprints/rock-n-roll-reveries. But then this girl shows up (high school age but I couldn't say whether she was closer to a freshman or a senior, normal-looking, not drunk or anything), gets right in my face and joins in. She was probably less than three feet in front of me, though of course there's a big piece of plate glass between us. Like I said, she never looked me in the eyes, or smiled or laughed at me. I kept doing whatever I would normally do, but I did try look directly at her face occasionally and made a big grin myself after about 2-3 minutes, but no reaction from her. I never turned around to see if anyone in the gym was watching all this, though other people passing by certainly noticed and thought it amusing.

After about five minutes of her copying me, I look up from another interval and find two other girls have joined her and a group of male & female kids were coming up behind them. The new girls were much animated, laughing and just kinda playing along. Their dudes were standing there beside/behind them trying to look cool or whatever. The five minute girl left pretty quickly after these kids show up, looking kinda of sheepish/embarrassed. The new kids didn't keep it up very long, about a minute, and then they stepped back away from the window and just hung out for a few minutes. I didn't notice them looking into the gym while they were hanging out.

When I got home, my wife asked how my workout was and I said "pretty weird" and told her the story. Her reaction was "that's annoying" but not much more. I know kids just do silly stuff sometimes, but I'm really at a loss at how to interpret this. Five minutes* seems like an awfully long time to mock somebody minding their own business (especially given her reaction when the other kids showed up (though, yay, finally some emotion from her!)), but if she was flirting she would have smiled at me or something, eh? I kinda want some feedback from you guys about what possibly could have been going through her mind, because if she was mocking me to that extent I guess I shouldn't use those machines anymore.

This is an estimate of seemed like forever...but I think it's a pretty accurate one based on knowing how long I do certain portions of the elliptical program.
I do have a guess. Acting excercise. Strictly mirroring or following a stranger or animal is assigned sometimes, then they go back and recreate it or talk about it. It was a heck of a rude way to do it, though, unless she thought the glass was one way? Hmm, also, if she really was doing that, she should have done your face, too. But she did leave and look embarrassed.

Don't worry about it and keep doing your thang, is my opinion. If she comes back, well then I guess you'll have to ask her what her deal is.
posted by rainbaby 28 September | 13:43
Flocking behavior, weird tic, or mirroring. I've been known to copy people at the gym when I have No Idea What I'm Doing. I don't think she was mocking you, if anything it could be an extremely clunky attempt at flirting (the mirroring thing almost sounds like what dudes do when their cruising, so there is that). I wouldn't think too much about it unless it happens again, and then just ask her.
posted by The Whelk 28 September | 13:46
she was mocking you. People are jerks.
posted by pinky.p 28 September | 14:02
I don't expect it to happen again, but if it did it would be difficult to ask. The door to the gym is fairly far from where this happened (and I'd probably be too embarrassed to do so).

I would have never thought of the one way glass idea, I guess because I've been on both sides. That actually fits well with what happened. And I've never heard of that acting exercise...interesting thought.
posted by danostuporstar 28 September | 14:05
I'm putting this down as "kids being kids." It seems to be the most likely explanation.

Hey there is a guy working out, I can see him through the window. I'm going to mime his every movement because it pleases me to do so.

Mocking? Maybe, maybe not. I could see myself doing the same thing at that age with no ill intent, just for kicks, and maybe in the hopes that the person I'm copying would react in some way (hopefully vaguely amused).
posted by CitrusFreak12 28 September | 14:13
Truth or dare at the gym.
posted by Halloween Jack 28 September | 14:30
Oh shit, I somehow missed that she *wasn't in the gym*. Okay, yah, she was probably thinking she was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and that this was lighthearted Aren't I Wacky joshing ..or she didn't think you could see her and would be mortified if she found out.
posted by The Whelk 28 September | 14:37
I think "vaguely amused" is what she got back, CitrusFreak. The bean plating didn't set in until later.

Being a dare is strong possibility. Which raises the question: is it worse to look like a dork and not have anybody say anything or to to be such a dork that kids are daring each other to be so dorky?

Anyway, thanks you all. New, good stuff to chew on before putting this event away in my head. It's way too ambiguous, I guess, to either deflate or inflate my ego. Just that weird thing that happened that time.
posted by danostuporstar 28 September | 14:53
And you didn't think to pull your shirt up while this was happening?
posted by Wolfdog 28 September | 14:58
Dammit! Now I gotta use that machine until it happens again.
posted by danostuporstar 28 September | 15:02
Was she mocking me, or flirting with me

The two are not mutually exclusive.
posted by jason's_planet 28 September | 15:27
Put me down for "mocking." It sounds like the kind of behavior my camp kids (about that age) would sometimes do.

The presence of the encouraging audience, and the deadpan expression on her face, also argue for mocking. She left because when the other kids got into it, it ceased to seem cool and daring.

Given her age, and the difference between your ages, it's unlikely that it was intended as flirting. More likely, she's just that crazy fearless funny chick that will do anything, and her friends think it's a riot.
posted by Miko 28 September | 16:05
Not flirting. Probably mocking. Like Wolfdog says, next time, take it up a notch. You could do ridiculous things on the machine, take off your shirt, pretend like you're incredibly happy to see her. The possibilities are endless.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 28 September | 16:38
Okay, yah, she was probably thinking she was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and that this was lighthearted Aren't I Wacky joshing...

Yeah, my theory is that danostuporstar is really Steve Martin and the girl is Zooey Deschanel and this odd incident will somehow spark a long and quirky friendship/mentorship/quasi-courtship in which dano will rediscover the youthful zest for life that he'd long ago abandoned in the relentless pursuit of a successful career in marketing, while the girl will experience some sort of personal tragedy that will emotionally ground her for a time, effectively smothering all sense of whimsy or fun, and it will be up to dano to use the things she has taught him to rescue her from despondency and bitter withdrawal into a life of tedium and joyless consumerism. And in the end, together on a tandem bicycle, they'll ride off into the sunset to the fragile, but hopeful strains of a Shins song.
posted by Atom Eyes 28 September | 17:14
Since you mention other kids joining in - I'm gonna go with a dare. If she were really mocking you (in a not-so-nice way) I think her facial expressions would have changed as you changed yours.
posted by deborah 28 September | 18:41
Dare was also my first thought. So not exactly mocking you, but more performing for someone else.
posted by occhiblu 28 September | 18:50
That was beautiful, Atom Eyes.
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