Sure, the colloquial meaning of the word refers to an attitude of slacking off often found among the behaviors of high school seniors — and occasionally college seniors — who are nearing graduation. It is the lame duck period after college acceptances have been confirmed and graduation is not threatened, when the motivation to perform according to the rules of school decorum and expectations is dangerously low. I experienced a significant bout of this myself when I was seventeen, causing one of my teachers to worry that I may have to sit for a final exam instead of being exempt, a reward given to seniors who received “all A’s” in each of the four marking periods; I was poised to receive a “B” in my English course, a class I loved and looked forward to, but I had simply run out of words. I could write no more. I had no words left to produce the perfunctory papers that were required of me and my fellow students. It was also the class in which I discovered and read (and re-read) Anna Karenina; and verbally dressed-down a classmate for his insistence on literary insouciance. It had been a relatively good four years, but I was done. And I was ready to move (on).
But, I digress… and as we(e) academics are wont to do, I am opting to take a perfectly familiar notion like senioritis and imbue it with yet another meaning. (Take heart that I haven’t gone the path of creating arbitrarily complicated language for perfectly simple notions. Well, not here, anyway…)
I am referring to the character that gyms take on between the hours of 11:00a – 12:30p and 2:00p – 4:00p — the quality of being overrum with silver foxes tending to their arthritis, looking to soothe their bursitis, searching for exercise elixirs to ease other their joint pains as they commune with fellow septua– and octogenarians.
These are the times of day when I most love to visit the gym. Gone are the early morning, pre-work runners; missing are the mid-day warriors whose presence spreads out across the weights and the bicycles — these are times of the day when the gym is a place to engage differently. Some seniors take a class in the group activity room, raising a five-pound barbell in the air for six or eight repetitions, laughing all the while with the others in the room. (Oh, how I secretly wish to join their cult – the carefree, the years of institutional malarkey behind them.) Others seem to get lost on the elliptical machines, intentional in their workout gear and sporting headbands, knee-braces, and the odd wrist band. And still others are giving the un-retired a run for their money, literally, as they outpace their younger counterparts on the treadmill or climb artificial stairs with ease. What sets these retirees apart is the absence of hunched shoulders, tightened faces, teeth grinding, and the scowl that the others wear — those who must return to their desks/cubicles/offices/trucks/ and other sites of labor. In the locker room, the stories they share are tender, nostalgic, and wickedly funny; not all, but most.
Perhaps Senioritis is not slacking, but instead a slackening of the vice-like grips that govern our lives otherwise – a release of obligations, a recognition of the arbitrariness of social order, a reduced adherence to what were once strict rules of living…
…and the more than fifty shades of gray… their beautiful locks in all shades of gray, proud demonstrations of time gone by, of lives having been lived and being lived.
Viva la Senioritis!