|illustration by PJ Loughran|
When I first realized that I exercised at the same small Uptown gym as Laura Miller, she pretended not to see me. I was on the elliptical trainer, about three minutes into an inefficient 25-minute low-impact cardio routine, when the former mayor of Dallas walked by me. She kept her eyes focused straight ahead. I pretended to watch ESPN highlights and not care.
Truth be known, I was hurt. That she would not acknowledge my presence was absurd. First of all, we’re two high-profile Dallasites. Does Kelly Clarkson ignore Ross Perot? Does Jan Strimple ignore Brendan Higgins? I think not.
More important, we have a history. I was a low-level editor for this magazine when she was its star muckraker, and I was madly infatuated with her. We’re talking operatic, one-for-the-ages, Samantha-Baker-hearts-Jake-Ryan-style crush. She was everything I wanted to be: a stylish, fearless reporter who uncovered stories no one else had the guts to investigate. Plus, even though she now denies it, she cursed like a rap star. I’m sorry, but that’s hot.
Even after we left the employ of this glossy, she felt close. I profiled her, calling her “the best journalist in Dallas.” And after she left the Dallas Observer to become a city councilwoman and, later, mayor, I inhabited her old office there.
Given how our worlds crossed orbits, her indifference to me was shocking. As I hit the five-minute mark of my workout and my glycogen-lactic system gave way to aerobic respiration, I contemplated the possible reasons for her weird avoidance—while listening to track two of my workout playlist, “Caught Up in You,” by .38 Special.
First possible reason: gym relationships are inherently fraught with awkwardness. The first time I walked into the gym, I saw the owner of this magazine, Wick Allison, blasting his abs, which led me to bribe his secretary to leak his workout schedule to me. I had treadmill run-ins with Lycra-clad co-workers like our general manager (lookin’ good, Pat), which proved time and again that work life and workout life do not mix well. But it had been years since Laura and I had spent office time together, so this wasn’t the problem.
Perhaps she was embarrassed to be seen around me, given that she was no longer something as cool as a journalist. As the iPod kicked into Crowded House’s “Something So Strong,” I considered this theory. She had been my idol, a knee-capping writer clad in Chanel. But then she did the mayor thing, and now she’s making big bucks as an energy PR person (she prefers “consultant”). Perhaps she just felt beneath me, and not because I had switched to the stair-stepper.
By the time Styx’s “Come Sail Away” blared from my earbuds, I realized that couldn’t be it. Surely she knew that I, as a 20-year journalist in this town, had buried my idealism long ago. I crave a high-paying PR gig. She’s still my professional idol.
Only one answer made sense.
She thinks I’m fat.
You may not know this about our former mayor, but she is jacked. I’m talking she can out bench-press me. I’m suggesting Madonna calls her for arm-sculpting tips. I’m saying my money’s on her if she and Ron Kirk were to go at it in an MMA cage match. So, with the help of the four-dozen mirrors irritatingly placed throughout the gym, I realized I was carrying what we in the business call “media weight”—and Laura Miller is way too fit to be seen talking to a fatty.
So I did what any self-respecting man nursing a two-decade crush would do: I altered my workout schedule to avoid her and undertook eight weeks of “turbulence training” (think Spider-Man push-ups) followed by 13 weeks of the P90X system (think gay-level ripped). I dropped 30 pounds.
Sure enough, the next time I saw her, she looked me squarely—scarily, in fact—in the eyes and yelled for the entire gym to hear, “HI, ERIC!”
Finally! I thought. She likes me again. Cue Wham’s “I’m Your Man.”
I thought about bragging to the lean, naked fiftysomething dude in the locker room. Then I realized he was Laura’s husband. (Lookin’ good, Steve.)
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