Perched on the spin bike, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema looked completely unrecognizable. Without her fashion glasses and various kitschy, faux-vintage accessories straight out of a Scooby Doo porn parody, she looked like any of the generically attractive 40-year-old women you see around Washington, D.C. Her pink-and-black workout gear was an acceptable uniform anywhere in the city; for once, she chose not to stand out in one of the most boring fashion cities in the world.
It was summer 2016, a simpler time in D.C. We were months away from our first female president, the phrases “QAnon” and “Dirtbag Left” might as well have been from Game of Thrones, and no one knew who Sinema was. Years away from being possessed by the ghost of John McCain and committing to an unpopular series of centrist viewpoints as to appeal to nobody except for some reason the people of Arizona, she was just another Congresswoman.
I was there because it was two doors down from my house, and I had learned to actually enjoy a morning workout. I was also there as a bit. Perpetually single, I had somehow started joking with my friends about my “crush” on Sinema.
“Omg I’m totally going to this,” I DMed my friend when the spin studio announced Sinema would be teaching.
“Chance for romance?” She asked.
I responded with the gif of the cat with the heart eyes.
But that was then — I’m currently in a happy relationship and Congress has more attractive people who aren’t actively evil like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. In 2016, we had Sinema. Suffice it to say it was a weird time in my life, and as I sat 20 feet away from her, riding a fake bike while “Dark Horse” and “Uptown Funk” played, I realized the bit had gone too far. Here on the bike she wasn’t a semi-progressive lawmaker with a bold lip. I had forked over $20 to spend 45 minutes with a sleep-deprived soulless fitness freak doing her “side gig.” I asked myself if, without her wacky outfits, heavy makeup, and goofy social media presence, Kyrsten Sinema was… basic. (It would be a few years until we all figured out she was much worse.)
Sinema is a dedicated exerciser. She famously wakes at 4 a.m. to lift weights; she’s run a 50-mile ultramarathon. According to USA Today, she began teaching spin class for her fundraisers, but eventually started doing it for fun (she offers her services at no charge). She also taught a class for her fellow Congresspeople at their special gym. Apparently, attendance was politically advantageous. “Last spring, New York Republican Rep. John Katko was looking for a Democratic co-sponsor for legislation that would provide an alternative to paid family leave. He thought of his spin teacher,” USA Today reported. “‘Because of our friendship that we built up there she signed up to it,’ Katko said. ‘That’s how bipartisanship works.’”
The class I went to was announced as “Ride With Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema,” you wouldn’t know who she was from the way she subtly introduced herself as “Kyrsten” via the Britney Spears-style headset mic and apologized that she had “had a late night.” While this could mean anything in a hard-drinking town like D.C., us insiders knew that she had been at the Capitol building until the late hours of the morning, engaging in a sit-in for a vote on gun control legislation.
As the music turned up and she began offering us directions, what followed was a very basic 45 minutes of fake biking to music so loud I could occasionally hear it from my house two doors down. Sinema taught the same class you could take at one of the dozens of classes offered weekly. No edgy or unique tunes, no funny quips about Congress, no generic encouragement that we could do it, not even a plea to vote in the upcoming presidential election. While she made a point to get everyone’s name before class, not once did she call anyone out during class for additional encouragement. As 30-some people labored, she treated us as if we were her constituents asking her to do her part to make sure less Americans die to the extensive healthcare costs in this country. She ignored us — this was the Sinema show, after all.
After class I found myself a bit disappointed, but I was here for the bit, so I furiously wiped my brow to prepare for the big moment: going up to Sinema and talking to her. She was approached by a gaggle of women like her — fit, blonde, and definitely not living paycheck-to-paycheck in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I patiently waited for my turn to approach. I (re)introduced myself awkwardly before cutting to the chase.
“Can I… get a selfie?”
She smiled, as if she was asked this often. “Let me wipe my face down first,” she said. I assumed this would be an ordeal and turned away, only to find that after one solitary wipe, on just a few hours of sleep and after 45 minutes of cardio, she looked stunning.
“Now I look great,” she said. Like her famously outlandish garb, her post-workout glow was excessive. It seemed cute at the time, but as I think back on it with a clear head, it was one of the most annoying fucking things in the world.
As she packed up, I stumbled for words and told her to “keep fighting the good fight.” I could defend myself by saying it was something I heard on The West Wing or something, but I haven’t even seen The West Wing. I just said it. I don’t know why. She said that she would, because everyone knows that politicians lie.
I’m exposing myself to all kinds of ridicule by including the selfie and caption, full of the kind of hope we all had in mid-2016. The worst part of all of it? She never even “liked” the post even though I tagged her in it.
Frank Wisswell is an avid seltzer drinker living in Washington, D.C. with his 19-year-old cat, Tendafoot.