Lessons from an ex-Baptist attempting Zumba

Taking a commercial break from the heavy stuff…  today it’s all about Zumba and the lies my hips don’t tell.

I went to my first Zumba class recently and learned a few surprising things about myself.  I was temporarily under-employed, so I decided to make the best of my extra free time and work off some of the taco-induced jiggles that have joined me here in Southern California by hanging with the retirees swiveling their hips at the gym.

It’s probably relevant at this point to admit that I was born a Baptist.  (The frozen-stiff kind, not the wavy-hands kind).

I secured my spot in the back corner of the aerobics room, as far away from the instructor and public windows as possible.  The svelte instructor cranked the music, struck a pose, and we were off to a Salsa beat.

It took about two minutes for me to curse my undergraduate Spanish degree for not including Latin dance classes.  I can move my feet. I can move my hips. I can even wave my arms.  But I cannot move them all at the same time, especially in multiple directions at high speeds.  About five minutes in, I started thinking that while my hips had been quite adept at propping up babies and collecting the extra yumminess from all this uh-maz-ing ethnic food in LA, they had certainly not been endowed with the ability to swivel.

Thankfully, about half the class was old ladies.  My hips were in good company, so swivel (or something like that) they did. Those Baptist-born hips have never seen so much action.  If my children had been in the room, they would have died of either embarrassment or laughter.  Heck, I don’t think my own husband could have kept a straight face.

But me? My hips and I were determined to stick out the entire class, so I tripped over my feet, waved my hands in the air, sashayed, air-lasso-ed, bounced, kicked, and flailed my limbs in every direction.  About half-way through, I acknowledged silently to myself that most of the little old ladies swiveled waaay better than I did so I just kept hopping around and avoided direct eye-contact at all costs.

The class ended with an enthusiastic whoop as the instructor dismissed us with a cheerful “Wasn’t that fun?!”

As I made a bee-line for the door, I met eyes with an old lady who grinned at me, “Fun!?!?  I think I’ll go die now.”

I chuckled all the way to my mini-van where I spent the drive home formulating a few conclusions from my ill-fated Zumba class:

1.  I’m not very cool, and I’m ok with that.  I kinda liked the fact that the old ladies had more zip than me.  It gave me something to look forward to.  It reminded me that closing in on 40 means I feel a whole lot more comfortable with who I am, and that comfort will only grow stronger as the years pass.

2. It’s a good for me to do things I stink at.  I’m a teacher and a writer who generally controls everything around me.  Swiveling my stiff hips and tripping over my feet keep me humble, reminding me that I don’t always have everything figured out, especially my own body.

3.  Old ladies who do Zumba are freaking-awesome.  I may go back just to hang out with them in the hopes that they’ll rub off on me.  I mean, seriously, who can argue with this?

4.  Growing old need not be boring.  Even though #1 gets truer and truer by the day, I’m reconciling the fact that cool does not necessarily equal fun, and that old does not unequivocally equal boring.  I have a whole lot of life left to live, and there’s still so much to learn and understand and grow into that I know so little about.

5.  As Shakira suggests, hips don’t lie.  Mine were shouting loud to the whole world that the gift of groove was not bestowed upon me.  In our world of plastic bodies and photoshopped selfies, my clumsy hips reminded me to be true to myself just as I am, not as the world tells me I should be.

I’m not sure how soon I’ll be going back to swing my hips with the old ladies.  (I’m pretty sure I’m more of a yoga girl.)  But in the mean time, I’m walking hobbling around with a slight grin on my face, grateful to a silly little Zumba class for reminding me of both who I am and what I am becoming.


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