I stepped on the "Balance Board" and a mechanical voice protested: "Oh!"
The games hadn’t even begun and I had the distinct feeling I’d already failed by hurting the machine.
"Stand still" the voice admonished as I tried to center my feet in the rectangles. "We can’t find you … please step off and we will reboot the system."
Nintendo’s tiny army of virtual trainers mean business.
I try again. Another protest emanates from the console as I step up. "Oh!?" it says with increasing alarm.
Can I be getting worse at this? I shift my weight again.
I half expect the voice to become shrill: "What is wrong with you? STAND STILL ALREADY, WILL YOU?!"
Bling, the machine chimes with my first success. "OK. Got you."
Bling. The voice happily tells me my weight and my body mass index as I try to lower the volume (Shush — let’s not tell the whole house, huh?) It then insults me a few more times as it leads me through a routine of basic balancing games.
"You’re pretty shaky, aren’t you? Do you trip a lot when you walk?"
Then, from nowhere, there is a drum roll and spotlights. The Wii Fit Plus is getting ready to tell me my Wii Fit Age.
"It is mocking me.
"People like you are the reason I don’t go to the gym," I tell the voice.
My husband laughs. I shush him, too.
I run through more preliminaries: I choose an avatar with little difficulty. (I say "little difficulty" because I didn’t bother to personalize "Figure F.") In fact, I consider the consumer satisfaction I would have had were I able to make my character look less human. "Too bad they don’t let you pick animals," I grouse.
"Oh, I could totally see your avatar being a cougar," my husband laughs as I contemplate throwing the nunchuk at his head. I decide it’s not a good idea. This hateful thing was expensive, the last thing I want to do is replace it.
He disappears, realizing he’s better off wrestling the kids into their pajamas than jabbing at me from the peanut gallery. (Men have been eviscerated by women for lesser transgressions.)
The computer tells me I need to pick a trainer. Do you want a woman or a man? "Definitely a woman," I say aloud as I try aiming the controller at the screen. "I don’t want any man, not even a computer generated one, commenting on my posterior."
Like magic the Barbie-esque figure appears on the screen, her hands on her waist and her hip jutting slightly outward.
"Wait? Did Santa bring us Wii Fit Pole Dancing or something?" I grumble, thinking of the programmers, in their geeky glasses and pocket protectors, designing the girl of their dreams instead of one that might actually exist.
I follow along as the perky trainer twists, bends, reaches and balances.
In between each exercise she takes time to critique my performance. She contradicts herself with each assessment. She tells me balance isn’t my strong suit, then tells my I have excellent balance. She tells me I’m weak and strong.
I hate her.
But I keep going.
Push ups, side plank, push ups.
And then my husband hands me a wet towel containing my screaming, flailing boy.
"He didn’t want to get dressed for bed," he says, dusting his hands of the chore.
The woman on the television notices I’m just standing on the balance board. She doesn’t see that I am trying to calm a grumpy lump of terry cloth.
"You have to do the exercises to get the benefit. …
"These exercises won’t do themselves you know."
I step off the Balance Board and head upstairs.
"Where do you think you are going?" chides the voice.
A few minutes later both kids are asleep and I go back to the workout. I turn on the machine and it welcomes me back. I return to lunges, where I left off.
The male trainer appears on the screen.
"I hope you don’t mind. We’ve had to substitute trainers for this exercise. Your regular trainer is unavailable."
I stand there blinking.
"How can a computer-generated trainer be unavailable? Did she go out for a virtual latte?"
"Now that is impressive!" my husband whistles. "Even your imaginary trainer is avoiding you."