Welcome to the Jungle (Gym)

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Welcome to the Jungle (Gym)

Seven tips for warding off plastic predators

YOU FEEL EYES UPON YOU — is that panting you hear? You flee to the bouldering cave . . . but you’re cornered. Any second, the lone, roving male will pounce, turning your once-pleasant session into a socially awkward morass. To avoid such scenes, you visit the gym at weird hours, but even this doesn’t always work. However, there are some simple ways to repel the mack-inations of even the most persistent rock Romeos.Before you start, prepare to identify your foe. Five distinct species of male inhabit the rock gym: Skin Monkey (usually shirtless, aggro, and prone to grunting); Smarmot (an unctuous, Pepé Le Pew-like creature who uses pick-up lines like “Nice rack!”); Chigger (doesn’t take “No” for an answer); the Coach (sprays unsolicited “technique tips” that might make sense); and the bona fide Nice Guy, who wants only to climb and maybe meet someone. While this last type deserves friendly honesty (because, hey, the gym still beats the produce section, the bar, or — heaven forbid — The Sims for meeting people), the former four must be dealt with swiftly and decisively. I recommend the following seven tips. (Note to randy gym d00ds: these pointers will provide insight into how not to meet women.)

1. Evasive ManeuversWith practice, you can learn to spot an incoming predator (you’ll likely smell the Axe Bodyspray, with nearby climbers scattering). Once alerted, activate your impenetrable “Estro-Shield,” in the form of several female friends, avoiding eye contact with your stalker as you immerse yourself in the group.

2. Dress for (No-Molest) SuccessWear actual clothing. That means no whale tail, “Juicy” short-shorts, or sports bras that could double as pasties. Basically, the only visible jugs should be on the wall, and if you dyno, nothing should pop out. I know, I know: women should be able to show off their bodies — this is the age of female empowerment, blah, blah, blah. . . . Ah, right, because when a girl stems while dressed like a Pussycat Doll, that’s just what guys are thinking: “Wow . . . she’s so empowered.” [See Sporting Life, Climbing No. 269, p.42, for the Fleshfest Self-Evaluation Scale.]

3. Say Hello to My Little Friend!Climb with a guy friend, especially a burly, angry-looking one — you know, the Tony Montana, protective-older-brother type. “I’ll often climb with a male friend, which usually keeps the creepy guys away,” says the trad climber LeeAnn Stevens, of Boulder, Colorado. “Although it does keep away the sexy, rugged ones, too.”

4. Authorized Personnel OnlyGuard your safety zone. One tactic guys use to pierce your personal bubble is the Belay Loop Sneak: Casanova finishes a route using an autobelayer and unclips the carabiner from his harness. But rather than simply handing you the biner, so you can have a turn, he “helpfully” attaches it to your belay loop, his hand coming dangerously close to (even grazing) restricted areas. (Anecdotal evidence reveals that males only do this when the autobelayer awaitee is female.) The Belay Loop Sneak is not acceptable, and you should quickly intercept the carabiner or grabby hand with a swift, karate-chop motion. Same goes for the Chalk Bag Sneak and the ever-cheeky, figure-8-loosening Finger of Forwardness.

5. ShrinkageOutclimb them. This frightens away 98 percent of male suitors.

6. Tell the TruthPatent lies like “I got a man!” “I have SARS,” or ”¡Estoy loca!” will eventually be uncovered. Instead, just be blunt. At Yosemite’s Camp 4, where the horny-dude vibe is “worse than the gym,” says big-wall climber Lizzy Scully, “I generally just smile nicely at [my would-be suitor], reply to his questions with one-word answers, and then either walk away and find a friend or, as I did in one extreme case, say, ‘Excuse me, but I’m trying to climb. Please leave me alone. Thanks.’”

7. Jock BlockWear headphones, which act as a Do Not Disturb sign. If a roaming predator still attempts eye contact, look anywhere but directly at him (i.e., ‘What is that fascinating splotch on the ceiling?’). And, of course, avoid high-risk climbing times, such as student-discount night and “Swingers’ Sunday.”

Climbing Associate Editor (and gym fangirl) Kristin Bjornsen has a black belt in plastic-predator Jiu-Jitsu . . . and she’s not afraid to use it.

For the Guys: Coug-Alert!Fit climber dudes are like catnip to on-the-prowl females of a certain age. Cougar warning signs include: inordinate amounts of brightly colored makeup; rock shoes that match the pants (that match the shirt, which matches the chalk bag . . . ); manicured claws (I mean, nails); and batting-eye requests for Beta or a spot. After the latter, “She inevitably breaks into small talk, and then asks, ‘So, do you climb outside much?’ followed by, ‘You have to take me!’” says one of our male sources. To make your escape, respond with, “I don’t have any outside plans right now,” and then back slowly away. (Don’t run, lest you trigger the cougar’s hunting instincts.)

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