When going to the gym feels like going back to high school.

For all I know, this is the next big thing in fitness attire.

There are about thirty of us, all sitting around, waiting for the class to start. It’s a diverse group – retirees making the most of their health and retirement, uni students, mums and dads of both the working and stay at home variety. The odd sleep deprived shift worker. Some are chatting away in their own little social groups. Some are playing on their phones (where do they put them when the class starts? I’ll never know!). Some are just chilling out, waiting for the class to start. Style is open to interpretation – attire ranges from rainbow running tights and Kmart singlets (me, no surprises there), to faded old Bon Jovi tour shirts with last season’s footy shorts.

gym selfie
Kmart top, messy hair, ready to work, gym selfie. Clearly not a cool gym mum here.

Suddenly, the door opens. A group of five women walk in. All blonde, all dressed in variations of the same outfit. All with current season’s sneakers. The cool mums have arrived. They survey the room briefly, in practiced unison. They acknowledge nobody. And they make their way to their preferred exercise location, which is still empty, reserved for them alone by nothing but their own coolness.

Nothing has changed since high school. I am still in awe of the cool group. It’s a less envious awe, these days – I no longer want to be them, but I am still fascinated by them. Like in high school, I know them, vaguely. And like in high school, it’s pretty clear that they have no desire to know me better. Which is OK.

But I have so many questions for them. For example, how do they manage to keep all of their makeup on for an entire spin class? Do cool people not sweat? Or do they sweat Revlon? Also, how do they know that brightly coloured minimalist sneakers are out, and structured, monochromatic nostalgia sneakers are in? Is there some kind of cool person memo system? A secret social media app that dags like myself are not aware of?

running shoe too
Where was MY secret shoe memo? WHERE?

I like to exercise. I always have. I enjoy getting sweaty. aching muscles give me satisfaction. I really like the fact that I am fit enough to keep up with my kids. Regular exercise has been a pretty constant hobby in my life. But I’m hardly gym-glam. I’m less Lulu Lemon and more Kmart. I often wear a tank top with a bleach stain on it. My socks occasionally don’t match, and I buy my sneakers in the brightest, loudest colours possible, and usually off the clearance table at a factory outlet store.

I can’t selfie, but SHOES. Rainbow SHOES.

The cool gym mums wear the right clothes. They have the right brand names. I’ve walked into the stores that sell cool gym mum clothes, and on price alone, I am never going to make the grade. How do you do it, cool gym mums? How do they spend $120 on a pair of black tights? I know them well enough to know that they aren’t filthy rich. On paper, we are probably comparable, in just about every way. Do they get a special “cool gym mum” discount?

Example of cool creche kid attire. Note muted colours and impeccable style.

Cool gym mums have cool creche kids. And, like my kids are an extension of my own “unique” (disorganised) sense of style, their kids are mini-representations of their own style. Effortless. Co-ordinated. Neutrals. How do you do that, cool gym mums? How do you convince your kids not only to wear beige, but to keep beige clean? How many pairs of interchangeable, neutral-coloured-completely-on-trend harem pants does one child need? Do you have to strip them down when they eat sausage sandwiches with tomato sauce?

jared flag
Example of non-trendy creche child. Jared insists on wearing this hat and carrying this flag everywhere. Both were destined for the chuck out pile, until he decided they were worthy of obsession.

On the few occasions that my children have been gifted or purchased trendy cool creche kid neutral clothing, they have either destroyed it within 24 hours, or refused to wear it. “There’s no rainbow unicorn on it, mum!” says Phoebe. “But I want to be Batman!” is Daniel’s problem. It probably doesn’t help that my kids are being raised by adults who would prefer rainbow unicorns and Batman t-shirts themselves. If I won’t wear beige pants for fear of staining them beyond redemption, how can I expect my own little mini-me kids to do any better?

Daniel, demonstrating the reason why beige is banned in our household.

Cool gym mums, I have no beef with you. You do your thing in perfectly coordinated trendy gym clothes, and I will do mine. It’s cool. I do wish that you guys were a little more friendly, however. When someone says hello, it would be nice for you to, y’know, say hello back. As much as the gym sometimes feels like high school, we are not teenagers anymore. And I am not ashamed to admit that it stings a little when I say hello to one of you, and you look at me in a way that seems to indicate that you would prefer to consume a full fat, non soy, multiple origin latte from a service station than return my greeting. I get it, I’m weird. You’re not. But we are all humans. And despite my garish leggings and bleach-splattered tank top, I’m pretty awesome. I’m sure you are too. Let’s be nice instead of awkward.