My friend Lou is athletic and likes to try new things. She has lots of friends just like her. (I’m a friend NOT just like her. While I do like to try new things, I’m not athletic. I can barely walk without falling down. I like inside activities like reading and writing. The sloth is my totem animal. Lou and I are different, but we can still be friends.)
The last time I stayed at Lou’s place, one of her other friends suggest a group Zumba excursion.
I’d heard of Zumba. Someone I used to know had been a Zumba instructor. But I’d never been to a class, and I didn’t really know what to expect.
(I learned a few things when I did an internet search on Zumba. According to Wikipedia,
Zumba involves dance and aerobic movements performed to energetic music. The choreography incorporates hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, merengue and mambo. Squats and lunges are also included. Zumba Fitness, the owner of the Zumba program, does not charge licensing fees to gyms or fitness centers. Approximately 15 million people take weekly Zumba classes in over 200,000 locations across 180 countries.)
Although I didn’t know much about Zumba, Lou invited me, it was the start of a new year, and I was in yes mode. I agreed to go.
The class fee was $6. As I’ve written about that time before, my funds were meager. I thought six bucks was cheap enough for a healthy activity, and I’d get to meet some of Lou’s other friends. How could I go wrong with a healthy social activity?
Although one of my goals was to meet some of Lou’s other friends, I don’t remember any of the other women with whom we attended Zumba class. I don’t remember a name or a face or a personality. While I think at least some of the women met us at Lou’s house before the class, we didn’t spend much time together. People arrived five minutes before it was time to leave, then we all left in multiple cars. (I rode with Lou.) During class, there was no time to talk, and after class, people split. So much for being social.
Another thing I don’t remember is what I wore to Zumba class. I didn’t have much of a wardrobe at the time, and I certainly wasn’t toting around exercise clothes. Maybe I still had the loose fitting pants I’d gotten free from a church clothing give-away in Mt. Shasta, CA? I honestly have no recollection.
We arrived at the location of the Zumba class. We lined up and paid our class fee. I don’t recall if we signed waivers saying we released any and everybody from liability if we dropped dead during the class. (No one dropped dead during the class.)
We went into the main room, the room where the class was held. It was a long, narrow room with mirrors lining one of the long walls. (Ugh! Mirrors!) There were three or maybe four long lines of women (I don’t remember any male students) facing the mirrors. Lou and I and Lou’s other friends stood in the last (or maybe the second to last) row. I tried to line up perfectly behind the woman standing ahead of me so I would not have to see my reflection in the mirror.
The instructor was a man. A young man. A young, effeminate man. I didn’t speak to this man, and I know nothing about his sexuality, but if I were going to slap a label on him (and that’s what I’m about to do), the label I’d give him is flamer. Every vibe I was getting from the young man triggered my gaydar.
I understand it’s also difficult to know anything about a person’s heritage just by looking at her, but I’ll tell you, Lou and I were the only gals I looked at in the class and thought white girl. I wasn’t bothered about being in the minority (I suppose we were all united in fitness, like in the Olympics), but I did notice I was adding a little diversity to the group.
Then the music started, and we were off. No introduction. No preliminaries. The music started, the instructor began instructing, and the students began…Zumba-ing.
Zumba was dance, but akin to the aerobics I did sporadically in the 80s. I guess aerobics was akin to dance too, but with more arm than foot motion.
The women who’d been to the class before definitely had the advantage of knowing the routine. There was no help for the newbies, no hint at what would come next. We were on our own. The instructor announced what to do NOW, but for anyone (me!) who didn’t know how to do what to do NOW, she (me!) was out of luck.
The other friends of Lou seemed to be struggling a bit, but at least they had their natural or (acquired) athleticism and grace to fall back on. Me? I had nothing.
I remember glancing over at Lou for a brief moment. She had a look of intense concentration on her face,but she also looked absolutely graceful, as if this experience was not entirely foreign to her. (She admitted on the way home that she’d been on her high school dance team. What? Dance team? I’d never pegged house-building, roller derby Lou as a dance team kind of gal. It’s amazing what we can still learn about people we’ve known for years.)
I may not have had the dance moves down, but I was totally enjoying the music. Unlike the aerobics we did in 6th grade PE, it wasn’t American Top 40 for this class. I don’t know what tidy category this music fit into, but it was fast and the lyrics were primarily in Spanish. This was the kind of music I wanted at trance dance.
I was trying to keep up, but I was on the wrong foot again. Then, when we spun, I went in the wrong direction. I was clumsy. I was a mess. I started feeling bad about myself. Why can’t I do this? I wondered. Why am I so useless? I longed for the experience to be over.
Then I realized no one there cared if I was on the wrong foot. No one cared if my spin was opposite every else’s. The women there for a workout were concentrating on their breathing and and burning calories and building muscle. Lou (good ol’ Lou!) has been my friend through worse than a clumsy exercise class. Lou’s other friends were not the catty girls from middle school PE, ready to make fun of my every misstep. And certainly the instructor wasn’t looking at me and judging.
So I decided to cut myself some slack and relax a little. I might have had a little bit of fun before the class was over. But I didn’t suggest a group Zumba excursion for the next week.