Once, a long time ago, I dated a man who disparaged his ex-girlfriend to me, relating the time that she had dragged him to a remote ashram somewhere in India because she had heard that this particular ashram achieved a preternaturally high level of devotion amongst its attendees, and this ex-girlfriend, I was told, had “always been attracted to anything cult-like.” This personality trait of the ex-girlfriend was interesting to me. Partly because it is always interesting to hear how men describe their ex-girlfriends, or even their current girlfriends, but mostly because I had never felt compelled in any way to join, well, anything. Not a cult. Not a team. Not a group text message. It was an impulse I had just never felt. So when this man told me, his voice dripping with scorn, about what a lemming his girlfriend had been, I could vaguely understand his contempt. She sounded awful, she really did. Alas, my relationship with this man ended badly because, well, almost all of my relationships end in what could not inaccurately be called flames (that was just one time, but it was memorable), but also because what this particular man actually wanted, disparage it though he might, was a girlfriend who was capable of cult-like devotion. And truly, I am, for better or worse, rarely capable of even maintaining eye contact for longer than 5 seconds.
All of which is to say, I’d been hearing about SoulCycle for awhile. I’d been hearing about it from people who claimed, quite earnestly, that it had changed their lives. I’d been seeing Instagrammed shots of people—grinning ear-to-ear and dripping sweat—who were proudly sporting the famous post-SoulCycle glow. Even Lena Dunham told Vanity Fair, “It’s the first exercise I’ve been able to do that I enjoy. I love the music, I love the sweat, I love the handsome gay teachers shrieking in your face—I’m super cult-y about it.” My aversion to all things cult-like started to waver. I felt like I was quickly approaching SoulCycle saturation point. And then I heard that SoulCycle was opening up a new branch in Williamsburg. That was it. That was the tipping point. That was the drop in the bucket. I was going to go to SoulCycle.
I don’t think I would be called the world’s best candidate for SoulCycle. For one thing, there’s the previously mentioned problem with being a part of something bigger than myself. And SoulCycle is really about community. There is very much the feeling, when you are in the class with dozens of other people, that you are all in this together. At least for the duration of the 45-minute class, you are committing to something. This is actually terrifying to me. Then there’s the fact that I’m not in the world’s best shape. I spend hours a day sitting at a desk hunched over my laptop, and hours more lying on my couch, hunched over my laptop. I rarely exercise. I do ride my bike from time to time, but I’d never even taken a spinning class because they’d always seemed too intimidating and competitive. So, basically, when I first went in to SoulCycle, I was scared. Do I scare easily? Sure I do. I get scared all the time. But this actually seemed valid.