I love the Superbowl.
It took me a couple of years in America to realize that for the few hours of the game, America stopped. The freeways were emptier. The grocery stores had short lines. The gym was as quiet as a library.
It's the perfect time to get things done.
I went to the gym and it was glorious. The posse of uber-muscled loud Latino bodybuilders who regularly monopolize three machines and four sets of dumbells at a time were gone. The new-year-resolution-people who are usually crawling all over the gym in their brand new sweatpants, clutching their water bottles, were gone as well. It was as if someone had taken an eraser and just wiped the slate clean.
I could park close to the entrance ( I know that shouldn't be a concern when you are going to the gym but...). I could have my choice of the BIG lockers. There was no sweaty line at the water fountain. For one delirious moment I stood in the neon-lit expanse of the weight floor and wondered which machine I should tackle first. The sudden buffet of choices was exhilarating and almost paralyzing. What was the one that was invariably occupied? Should I grab the large blue exercise ball? It was OK, I told myself. Take a deep breath. It will probably still be free when you are done with that empty bicep machine. Oh, but that solitary 30 lb barbell was free for the first time this year.
I looked around me. The only people at the gym seemed to be gay men, recent immigrants, and middle-aged women. We all nodded to each other silently - a secret brotherhood of the un-Superbowlers. We recognized each other for who we were - we were the ones who had snuck out of an American ritual.
The game was on in the television in the locker room. But we didn't stand around pretending to be interested. We were beyond that. We didn't say "So what about those Steelers? " The only time I saw a cluster of people near the television was when Bruce Springsteen came on stage to perform.
It was such a relief to know there were all these people like me. It was a coming out of sorts. In my first years in America, I tried desperately to fit into what I thought was the American ritual of masculinity. I grew up in India where men and women separated at weddings and social functions as if by some mysterious filter. The men stayed out front talking football, business and girls. The women gathered inside talking saris, scandals and servants. I loitered in the no man's land in between. It was a relief to come to America and find social gatherings a little more integrated. But then would come Superbowl and I'd find myself an outsider again, grimly making myself sick on nachos and cheesy dip while my American friends hooted and hollered. I did like watching the ads, but that was the only time they stopped paying attention to the television.
But now that I've given up the pretence, I can finally enjoy my Superbowl Sunday too. Best of all, it's never tied to who won and who lost. It's my party and I won't go if I don't want to.