Missionary Position [ 2004-01-13, 9:30 p.m. ]

I am extremely susceptible to the whims of others. If someone I know has discovered the latest and greatest exercise, diet, restaurant, online travel site, skin care regimen, job, neighborhood or travel destination, chances are I have at least toyed with joining the bandwagon. My extreme “joiner/follower” tendencies have led to me briefly dabbling in the following:

Yoga

Bikram yoga

Boxing

Pilates

Crème de la Mer

Food Co-ops

Grad school

Business school

Screenwriting

Masters swimming

Cooking classes

(Training for a) triathalon

Urban rebounding

Atkins

Cabbage soup diet

Getting my eyebrows done by Paulo (at $55 a session)

Flat-ironing my hair

Buying an apartment

Getting up early

Of that list, I can confidently say that none of the items mentioned are part of my regular routine in any way, shape or form. But at some point, a persuasive friend or family member had me convinced that their New Thing would change my life. I call these people the Missionaries. You may be familiar with the type – they call from cell phones, urgent to let you know that they have just committed to some life-altering fad/food/exercise/product. The Missionaries know your weaknesses and are able to rationalize every penny spent on their latest passion, as well as convince you that $130 for a 10-class card is smart when trying Bikram yoga for the first time. Of course, the Missionaries rely on people like me – the Enablers – who willingly go along with every fad, scheme, and plan they devise. If you tell me you just spent $300 on face cream and that it already makes a difference, I will not only validate your choice, but probably follow you to the cosmetics counter, AmEx in hand.

Which leads me to my latest “discovery”: rock climbing.

The Missionary in this case was my mother, historically wielding the greatest influence over me of anyone. She began climbing at an indoor climbing gym recently – my youngest brother, N, works at a hyper-cool climbing gym (as does his adorable vegan pixie girlfriend), and is a climbing nut. My mom joined the gym – which also offers cardio and yoga, and has climbed a few times with N belaying for her. She’s been touting the benefits of it ever since. This past weekend I was home in California for my brother J’s college graduation, and I figured I’d try rock climbing myself.

For the most part, my only exercise is just the walking required to get around New York – and it can be extensive. But I’ve climbed nothing larger than the sweaters bin at a Barneys Warehouse Sale, and I generally stay away from all activities involving a harness and rented shoes.

But my mother insists, so on Saturday morning, my parents, my brother M, his girlfriend and I all headed over to the climbing gym. It’s enormous. With really high ceilings. And it was full of daunting-looking walls of fake-rock, covered in holds and divots. So I strapped in and started off with a fairly easy route to the 40-foot top. And I was hooked (pun intended). So we climbed for an hour or so, and I gradually made it to some tougher routes, and started to get a little less chicken-shit. It was fun and challenging, and I didn’t suck at it – my top three criteria in a hobby.

After the weekend (which was awesome – I’m dealing with debilitating pangs of homesickness as we speak, and the sub-10-degree weather predicted for the upcoming days is not cheering me up), I came home determined that rock climbing could potentially save Kent and my relationship – not that it’s dying, just that it could always be better. We’ve decided that we need a shared hobby, and something athletic is preferred. Rock climbing is something neither of us is experienced at, so that insecure/competitive danger is limited, plus it can be done indoors (good for the city) and out (great for the soul). Monday morning I promptly started searching online for climbing facilities in the city, and now we have a short list of semi-affordable gyms to check out. The gyms appear to all offer a climbing card – allowing us to spend a few hundred dollars initially with the benefit of saving about $10 in the long run. Providing there is a long run.

I’m hesitant because my wallet is full of such cards – from multiple yoga studios, a Bikram yoga studio, a facialist…not to mention my frequent sandwich, salad, bread and coffee cards. But none has more than three or four stamps on it.

So we’ll see.

But for now, I am happily climbing on the bandwagon of rock-climbing gyms. Consider me converted. Mom can’t be wrong…right?

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