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My Face-Off with the Gym Bully

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DaniLennon513d95dbe91a1.jpgIn this modern era there is a myth, or perhaps a theory traveling around this nation, that today’s youth is experiencing a bullying epidemic within our schools. A myth that is dishearteningly proving to be an alarming reality. Blame it on environment, parenting, the rise in technology and or social media, the fact remains that the basis of this issue not only runs rampant on the playgrounds and in classrooms…it occurs often in adulthood.

As a former victim and target of harsh juvenile bullying that took place prior to social networking sites, I am abhorred at the behavior that is fastidiously growing between the young people of today. A far cry from the prank calls, pickle chucking, locker shoving and name calling taunts of my hay day. Imagine my astonishment as I came face to face with yet another tormenter in my adult life…in Female form no less!

In Hollywood or better yet, Hollyweird as I like to refer to this city and this Industry, there can be insurmountable pressure to stay in shape. Having been an athlete for the majority of my life I actually enjoy working out. Believe it or not. Whether I involve myself in weight training, yoga or various forms of cardio, the adrenaline that accompanies a gratifying work out routine overshadows my distaste for the crammed weight rooms and the rude and chauvinistic gym etiquette. We have all experienced as male or female gym goers the selfish and sometimes barbaric patrons that try to shove us aside from the free weights and equipment. These individuals are known as the Gym Bully.

My random encounter happened on an uneventful Tuesday at my local gym. Moderately crowded, I found my way to an empty Roman Chair to perform an abdominal sculpting routine. During my thirty second rest period between sets I spy out of the corner of my eye a rather large female body builder approaching me. Assuming that she wanted to use the same piece of equipment that I was currently involved with I conveyed to her that I had one more set to perform. If she did not want to wait I was more than happy to work in my last crunches with her, essentially sharing the chair. This  stranger’s response was in thick Russian. Due to my dark hair and light skin it is not unusual for me to be mistaken as Slavic and greeted in that language. In a very kind manner I apologized, stating that I did not speak Russian. This woman’s response to me in English was startling to say the least.

Anger laced statements such as ‘You’re just a pretty girl who doesn’t work out and just sits on the equipment’ and ‘You are wasting my time little girl’ shot out from her lips. As the shock and disbelief from her negative assumption quickly wore off my reply was this ‘You came up to me and are wasting MY time’. ‘I was resting in between sets and am here to work out like anybody else. Please let me finish’. Falling on deaf ears and a now crazed look in her eye, she raised her voice giving way to our conflict for all of the male patrons surrounding us to behold. Alert in their positions my male spectators seemingly froze in order to witness an epic gym cat fight as my bully delivered her demands. The woman ordered me down from the Roman Chair I was standing on or she would rip me from it.

At this point there was a button pushed! A subconscious flashback to middle school swelled within my brain. Unknowingly setting free a deep rooted memory where I faced a circle of my tormenters wishing death upon me on the last day of school as I embarked on a summer performing in Europe. An eerie calm settled over me as I realized this situation could turn violent. I by no means condone meaningless and primitive violent actions, but when attacked one is entitled to defend themselves. As I faced my antagonizer my position held strong. ‘Absolutely Not’. I said.‘I’m not going anywhere’.

As a fan and enthusiast of the Zombie Apocalypse genre I humorously find myself assessing my surroundings. Creatively constructing weapons in minds eye, safe holds and fighting tactics just in case chaos were to break out. This altercation was no exception. In mere seconds I had a plan of action. This bully in a female’s visage had about eighty pounds on me. Although much larger than my frame I had the upper hand. In her deranged state she underestimated me. Athletically inclined with strong abs and thighs I looked down at her from the Roman Chair as she neared me. Ready in an instant to bring my knees to my stomach and propel my feet into her face if need be. Having been a fairly successful soccer player this would be no easy take down.

I braced myself for the impact as the larger woman closed in on me with snarling menace. I had one last chance to poke sense into this nut job. A firm believer in choosing wise words over brutality I challenged my attacker. Staring her straight in the eye as I delivered my final warning…’I am not afraid of you’. With a wolf like gaze I penetrated her fictitious battle ready demeanor. My words rendering her senseless as the older gentleman next to me broke up the fray, telling her to ‘Get the hell outta here!’. She stared me down one last time as I watched her slowly back away… All bark and no bite. It was moments later when this bully was out of my sight that I let out the breath I was holding and let go of the handles that I was gripping to an almost bruised state.

I turned to the knight in gym’s clothing standing to my left side, quietly thanking him for his assistance and reminding me that chivalry was not dead. However, I was surprised and saddened when the man began to explain to me that this particular woman had been going from gym to gym terrorizing both men and women. To which I replied ‘So nobody has done anything about this’? ‘People just watch her threaten others?’. Talk about enabling bad behavior. Not one to be detoured from my daily routine I finished my set and dismounted the Roman Chair. As I made my way onto the floor I was met with high fives from several members of my male audience congratulating me on my win.

The momentary pride that accompanied my victorious feat with the gym bully was bittersweet. I had successfully come out on top of this confrontation but I was left with the unsettled feeling that even in a gym surrounded by adults I was still very much on the playground. Had that man not intervened would I still have been victorious? Would the other male onlookers have joined in my rescue had she physically attacked me? Would I have been left to fend for myself if I was overrun? Of this I can’t possibly know but in that moment I beheld nothing but bystanders save for a lone hero who had the courage to defend another.

It has been three weeks since my brush with this confused female. Looking back to my bullying experiences of middle school and today, a pattern emerges. This abuse had little to do with me as a person. For whatever reason this woman and those children decided to hurt me lies solely within them. It is up to us to teach our children and our children’s children to not be the Bully, the Victim and most importantly the Bystander. I believe a message was delivered to me as my life came full circle when I faced off with this woman. I haven’t seen the female gym bully since our encounter. I’d like to think that complaints accompanied by my own made to the front desk were the cause of her departure. The motive could also be that I was the first person to disarm this bully by sticking up for myself and others. Through this incident a couple things have become clear. I am not a victim and I will NEVER be a bystander. This bully messed with the wrong person regardless of my sex. In this face off the Bully was left with no victim and I was left with a voice stronger than before.

From my experience with a victim’s past I can’t help but draw some parallels to my own life and career in Hollywood. Be strong and unyielding in your drive, convictions and talents. Never back down to those waiting in the corner in sheep’s clothing to take you down in the Entertainment business and in life. Stand your ground as a confident and ready Ms. or Mr. In the Biz.

Dani Lennon

About Dani Lennon

A Chicago Native and a classically trained singer, Dani has performed all over the world and the country in exciting places like Carnegie Hall. Singing transitioned to acting as she took part in stage productions all over Chicago where she worked with many talented actors and Steppenwolf directors. After moving to Los Angeles she has been working consistently in television, soaps, film and new media. One of her most notable projects to date is Lionsgate/Machinima’s successful Series ‘Bite Me’. In addition to acting and singing, Dani’s interests and talents are extended behind the camera as a Screenwriter and a Creative Producer. Having been an athlete most of her life, she enjoys performing her own stunts, firearms, boxing and riding horses. As a self proclaimed adventure junkie, Dani loves the outdoors. Hiker, camper, fisherman and equestrian are the few roles she plays in her everyday life.