It started with a gif.
The girl in the clip lies flat on the floor with her hands clasped behind her, a long white pole looped between her arms and her lower back. Slowly she pulls her knees forward and then gracefully comes to a standing position with a big smile and a visible six-pack. The heading on this gif was “EVEN HARDER THAN IT LOOKS.”
I watched it, rewatched it, and then with an arrogance borne of pure ignorance thought, “Well it doesn’t look that hard.”
I watched the gif again. I read over the comments explaining that to do this correctly, the head, shoulders and pole must stay off the ground. I nodded to myself. Challenge accepted, I thought, nodding confidently, even though nobody had challenged me.
On a mission of my own making, I marched through the apartment with singular focus. I found the mop and pulled off the head with a satisfying THWUNK. I carried the pole to the area in front of the fireplace and lay down on my front.
So far, so good.
I placed the mop handle on my lower back. I locked my fingers together, clasping it in place. I like to think that in this moment my face was a mask of grim determination, but in reality I was probably just facing the wall with the blank resignation of a beached porpoise.
Alright, I thought. Right knee first.
I pulled my right knee up, and then attempted to move my left. This movement shifted my centre of gravity, and in slow-motion I tilted forward, coming to rest on my chin. I looked down my nose at the floorboards and huffed out a sigh of foiled ambition. I put my left knee back down. I moved it up a couple of millimeters and again, my chin came down on the ground. I growled with frustration, and wiggled myself back to the starting position.
The third time, I shifted my left knee and managed to tilt my pelvis up in the air. For a brief moment I felt like I might be getting somewhere; my shoulders weren’t touching the floor and neither was my chin or my pelvis or the mop handle. Unfortunately, I had reached as far as I was going to get.
I was stuck.
I tried to keep going, but I couldn’t move without starting a slow, creaking descent to the floor. I stared blankly at the floor for a moment, and then I started to giggle. There, on the floor, with one knee up around my waist and a mop handle lying across my back, I started to giggle to myself and then I just couldn’t stop. The giggles turned to laughter and I lost the little strength I had in my midsection. My body slumped and the side of my face came to rest against the floor. That made me laugh harder, and soon there were tears streaming from my eyes. I imagined someone walking in and stumbling across my misshapen form, and my laughter turned into hysterical howls.
I spotted movement at the door and shifted my head to meet he worried gaze of my cat, Oscar. He was puffed up defensively and crouching low to the ground, tiptoeing towards me with a face of grave concern. His eyes, wide as saucers, were the only thing countering his sudden and startling resemblance to a fat raccoon trying to steal some food.
The sight of Oscar creeping towards me stole the last bit of breath from my lungs. My laughter turned into choking, wheezy gasps. Oscar carefully and reluctantly picked his way over my knee and under the pole until he was right in front of my face. He stared intently at me, his nose against mine, and then, after a few seconds, apparently decided that there was no danger present other than my own stupidity. He depuffed himself with a shake and trotted over to the side of the room, where he sat at a safe distance to supervise my moronic behaviour. I watched him through a watery haze, laughing to myself on the floor with my mop handle and no upper body strength.
By the time my laughter died away, I was done. I unclasped my hands. I wiped my cheeks and threw the mop handle onto the couch. I picked up Oscar and gave him a hug for coming to check on me, and then went back to work.
It is, indeed, harder than it looks.