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Dear Haverfriend: Getting Over Gym Intimidation, Touchy Feely Friends, and the Meaning of Life

Hey, everyone! I am a real Haverford student and I have strong opinions about your life. Just remember that I can’t substitute for professional advice because I am an undergrad and consequently I know nothing.

Dear Haverfriend,

I’m trying to get in shape, but I find the gym very intimidating. It feels like every time I go, there’s a sports team having practice and even though I know they’re not, it feels like everyone is judging me for being so out of shape. How can I get comfortable going to the gym?


Hey Anon,

I think this is a great opportunity for you to practice selectively not caring what other people think– a vital life skill.

First, you’re right. The other people at the gym are almost certainly not judging you. You don’t judge random joggers who pass you by, right? If anything, you probably root for them.

And even if the super-fit people at the gym do judge you, that’s okay. Who said you need their approval? Their opinions alone can’t touch you. Of course, if you’re worried about getting harassed or don’t feel safe in any way, that’s a different issue entirely. But if you’re only concerned about feeling embarrassed or judged, I can almost guarantee that a little time will help you get more comfortable.

In the meantime, here are a few other tricks. Wear workout clothes that make you feel confident and strong. Listen to music to block out distractions. Make a pact with a friend to go to the gym together. Find a way to record your progress so you can look back and feel proud of the time you spent working on yourself. Remember that success builds on itself, and this will all become easier with time.

Dear Haverfriend,

One of my best friends is super touchy-feely. She’s constantly hugging me, elbowing me, sitting on me, and generally invading my personal space. I know this is just how she shows affection, and it doesn’t seem to bother our other friends when she does it to them, but it makes me really uncomfortable. How can I tell her to back off a bit without hurting her feelings?

-Hands Off

Dear Hands Off,

I really love hugs. I grew up in a very emotionally expressive household that taught me to expect at least several hugs a day. To be honest I kind of resent the lack of hugs in my current day-to-day life. I have ended romantic relationships over hug-related conflicts. I take my hugs seriously, friend.

But even I know that every individual has boundaries, all of which are equally real and valid. Your friend has to respect those boundaries. So some day soon, when you’re both in a good mood, take her aside. Tell her how much you value her friendship, make sure she knows it isn’t personal, then explain that you just kind of don’t like to be touched. You can be specific here– if you’re okay with some kinds of touching but not others, just explain that. She might be a little embarrassed at first, but it’s far better to have this out in the open than to quietly put up with something that makes you really uncomfortable.

Dear Haverfriend,

Q: What is the meaning of life?

A: 42.

That’s it for this week! If you have a question or are in need of advice, use the form below to submit something for next week’s column.

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