The name of the gain

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Welp, it finally happened. After 15 months, I finally had to put on pants.

Technically I did not HAVE to. No one made me drive to Albuquerque for the first really-real not-in-someone’s-kitchen pants-required tango milonga in these parts since about the time the “Woman Yelling at Cat” memes started dropping. And I very nearly did not go at all, because my pants very nearly did not fit.

Now I’d like to think this happened be­cause I spent the greater portion of the pandemic working on getting my quads into Marvel shape. Sadly, though, it hap­pened because I spent the pandemic get­ting older.

Granted, I am lucky that the lockdowns — both the first, shorter, government-imposed one, and the second, longer, let’s-be-honest-it-was-personally-prescribed one — aged me only a year and change. That cat-meme template got a lot older, a lot quicker. And I am lucky that I could still close my pants with some corsage-in­tensity tightening, and that they stretched throughout the evening to accommodate my legs. Most of all, we are all fortunate that the fasteners held, because I had to choose between tucking my shirt in and wearing underwear.

Inadvertently opening my dog house would have been the least of my social faux pas that night, however. Because my brain aged more than my body, I for­got everyone else’s names.

In my usual daily life, I don’t need to be good with names because I rely on a mnemonic de­vice called “Avoid Interactions With Other Humans At All Costs Except By Email.” Most people’s names are on their email addresses these days. This makes remembering names eas­ier, unless the people are those who share email addresses with their spouse and/or are still using Yahoo! Mail with a self-ap­plied nickname followed by their PIN.

Normally one need not remember names in the tango world. It’s much more important to remember who wears enough perfume to share with the class, or who has lifted your toenail with his shoe in the past. But the tango world usually gets to­gether more than once per calendar year. So everyone wanted to hug hello, and they wanted us to greet on a first-name basis, which admittedly took my worry away from the sense that I was camel-toeing it in my once-loose tango pants and invested it heavily in stoking my fear of calling some­one in three-inch heels by the wrong name. Even if they called me Josh first.

So! I have decided I will not see others in person again until these pants fit me as fluidly as ever before. I am not one for fad diets, so I won’t be doing some crash diet or lose-fat-gain-muscle-by-working-out snake-oil quick fix. I want more than a trimmer waist; I want trimmer thighs, too. Oh, and also a change in lifestyle so I am more resilient the next time I am left home alone with a tray of Oreos.

However long it takes to achieve these goals, I’m in. If you care to join me in my tried-and-true, just-invented regimen, here is the free and easy strategy so far:

STEP 1: TAKE IT EASY. There is no point in pulling a muscle or embarrass­ing myself by trying to do too much too quickly. “Rome fell one step at a time,” as the axiom goes, so let’s really linger on this first step. Congratulate yourself for even thinking about working out today. To­morrow. Every day, until you feel ready to graduate to:

STEP 2: IMAGINE EXERCISE — I MEAN REALLY IMAGINE IT. I read once about neuroplasticity, the science of how our brains can change and grow and distort anything we please. This study de­scribed how one group learned to play an actual piano, and the other group learned to play a fake piano in their minds just by pretending, and at the end they held a re­cital where both groups played “Hot Cross Buns” equally painfully. So you can imag­ine yourself leg-pressing a Kenworth and expect real results. Science!

STEP 3: BE MORE ACTIVE. Getting back in shape and back in our own pants is all relative. What does “more active” look like to you? What­ever that is, you do it. Do it with pas­sion. Do it with pride. Do it during commercial breaks, or when Netflix asks you if you’re really still watching and you hit “yes” and then the spinner spins for a moment while your show continues to load. “The road to heaven is paved one step at a time,” so just by making it this far, you are closer to godliness.

There! By the time we complete this reg­imen, which I intend to name after myself, we will have had time to remember every­one else’s names. Or at least my own.

Zach Hively is an award-winning writer in Abiquiu, N.M. He can be read and reached through and on Twitter @zachhively.

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From Zach Hively.