When we are confronted unjustly, don’t back down

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


How often do you “exercise” the right to stand up for yourself?

   I recently found myself in a “What Would You Do?” situation. You know the Primetime television show with John Quinones, right? I seriously didn’t know “what I would do” if what I observed was happening to me.

I was smack-dab in the middle of a fight at the gym.

Most gym members know there’s a lay of the land. You wipe your machine down before and after use. Be mindful of your time spent on popular equipment and if you see personal belongings on a vacant machine, it usually means that machine is taken. Which leads me right into the aforementioned confrontation.

Gym-girl A was on the rolling staircase to my left when Gym-girl B approached from the locker-room. I was feeling rather sluggish that Saturday morning because I couldn’t use my iPod. I’d forgotten my earbuds and found myself singing inaudibly to the video playing on the flat screen overhead until I heard, Gym-girl A and Gym-girl B… going at it!

“That’s MY machine. I just cleaned it. You need to move,” demanded Gym-girl B.

“You don’t own it. You weren’t here. I’ve already started my workout -- use that one,” directed Gym-girl A. She was on the machine to my left. I was climbing away on the middle machine. The machine to my right was unoccupied and that’s exactly where Gym-girl A felt Gym-girl B needed to go. She stretched her hands, extending to Gym-girl B the belongings that had once occupied the machine; a towel, water bottle, iPod and earbuds.

Gym-girl B appeared completely incensed by the audacity of Gym-girl A and snatched the items saying, “I cleaned this machine and left to use the bathroom. I was gone all of two seconds and you’re going to take it? Really? OK! Well guess what? You’re going to clean it now!” The next thing I saw was Gym-girl B glazing Gym-girl A with her water like a Thanksgiving turkey.

I have to admit, I could appreciate Gym-girl B’s position at first. I too have placed my belongings on a machine and walked away for a brief period but she lost my support completely with the water assault. “Did she really just take it there?” I thought. I looked around and caught eye contact with one of the personal trainers from clear across the gym floor. I mouthed, “Get over here quick!” Then I did a wide-eyed, clenched teeth facial expression. I was thinking, “If a riot breaks out, where’s the nearest exit?”

By this point Gym-girl A had informed a few of her friends from nearby machines. They threw out a few verbal assaults but Gym-girl B wasn’t intimidated and didn’t back down from her fighting stance. Luckily, my panic appeal to the personal trainer caused cooler heads to prevail. I don’t think these women wanted to cross her, she’s built like mixed martial artist Rhonda Rousey. This trainer was professional but pretty much told them to knock-it-off. Tempers were still flaring so the duo involved a mediator, the gym’s general manager.

Both women made passionate appeals for their position. Their arguments were so equally persuasive the GM didn’t know who to believe. Of course, neither party was being totally honest. Gym-girl A said the machine had been unattended for over 10 minutes and she assumed the belongings had been forgotten. Gym-girl B vehemently denied pouring water on Gym-girl A citing, “The water spilled when she was handing it to me.”

I continued to climb away, not saying a word. As far as I was concerned it was none of my business. I wasn’t investing anymore of my work-out on the shenanigans. But the one thing I could appreciate about both women was they stood up for themselves.    

I once lacked a sense of self-worth to the point where I allowed myself to be mistreated. We don’t have time to get into that now, I literally wrote a book, “Becoming a Mother While Losing My Own,” that gives a detailed account of my journey. But not everyone has time to read a memoir.

So I’ll leave you with this: we can’t allow anyone to undermine who we are. If you find yourself being treated unfairly, disrespected, violated or abused, it’s NOT OK. I don’t recommend being belligerent or getting physical with anyone, that wouldn’t be appropriate. However, as long as you have a voice, it’s OK for you to exercise your right to stand up for yourself. If you don’t, who else will? Recognize your worth. You have value and you matter!

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.