Dec 30, 2022, 05:57AM

The Rings I Didn’t Ask For

My phone is suddenly an obnoxious 1980s aerobics instructor.

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I can’t recall the exact moment I unleashed this option on my phone, but it was accidental. I’ve heard of these things from other people who own “Fitbit” devices and talk about “getting their steps in” etc. People who care about diet and exercise. I have nothing against the health industry people, just as long as they mind their own business and I’m not subjected to social media updates about their successful trips to the gym. I don’t care.

The only fitness I care about is “fitness donut into my mouth.” The only time I’ve ever bought a scale was nearly 30 years ago when a cruel and unusual doctor complained during my first pregnancy that I was gaining too much weight and forced me to keep a daily “food journal,” triggering what ultimately became a sort of sad pregnancy eating disorder, wherein I was forced to weigh myself daily, lie about the Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies I was eating, starve all the time and feel ashamed about the 50 pounds I gained and later (mostly) lost.

After spending my childhood being reminded by my mother that she weighed 90 pounds on her wedding day and that I was “so thin back when I was on the swim team back in high school,” I’ve never had an interest in keeping score on a scale. I believe in maintaining a natural healthy weight for whatever body size you happen to be, and not obsessing over it. If jeans feel too tight one day, black “yoga” pants always come to the rescue. My weight has fluctuated over the years by 20 pounds or so based on the number I see when I go to the doctor once a year, and I couldn’t care less about it. I’m relatively active—could I use to exercise more? Sure.

But did I install the FITNESS app on my phone to stalk me every day of the week and talk to me dozens of times a day about closing some motherfucking arbitrary “RINGS”? No the fuck I did not. One day I opened or clicked on it and suddenly I awakened an obnoxious 1980s aerobics instructor that had been hiding in the legwarmer and headband-wearing section of my phone. This bitch is here to stay; I don’t even know where that app is, but the notifications seem to be set to 25/8/366 and Karen with her feathered hair, Aqua Net and blue eyeshadow wakes me up in the morning like “YOU DIDN’T CLOSE YOUR RING YESTERDAY MARYMAC! IT'S A NEW DAY!”

Which I hear as, “You’re a lazy piece of shit and you looked really thin when you were on the swim team in high school!” For a while I ignored Fitness Karen. I don’t carry my phone around all day, so this isn’t accurate, sit and spin on your fucking rings, Karenosaurus Rex. Then one day she said, “Maybe you should change your goal” and I thought life is all about lowered expectations, let’s get this Jazzercise bitch off my ass, I make candles all day, I don’t run Boston marathons for fuck’s sake. So I went in and lowered the calorie count or miles or whatever meaningless math Karen calculates her condescending front-screen single-raised eyebrow messaging based on.

On days when I go beachcombing, I’d smash her idiot ring goal and she’d send still-condescending messages like “Wowww, nice work! You took 500 percent more steps today than ever before!” and I’d find myself just screaming into my phone’s front wallpaper: "Ugh you dumb bitch, just because I happened to have my phone in my pocket and be outdoors today! Calm down! Can’t you go play Wordle or text Alexa or something?”

Some rings people should keep track of: engagement rings, Lord of the Rings, five golden rings, brass carousel rings, and any other kind of ring than running around being worried about pleasing an invisible dominatrix Jazzercise instructor inside your phone trying to make you feel like shit about yourself. You know what’s a ring I just completed, legwarmer Karen? I just finished fitness donut ring, right into my face.

—Follow Mary McCarthy on social media.



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