Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Got Her Groove Back

I'm a little embarrassed to admit how much I really love Zumba at our YMCA. It seems like such a trendy, suburbanite thing of me to jump on some popular fitness craze. Yet there I am, every Tuesday and Thursday, smooshed somewhere up in the front right corner of the gym...

For those of you not familiar with Zumba, it's an exercise class that involves high-impact dancing to Latin and hip-hop music. It's kind of like difficult aerobics where the teacher doesn't call out instructions as to what's coming next. You just have to watch the instructor and catch on.

I started going this summer because my friend and fellow sorority alumna Diana was teaching, and I knew a few other people who went to her class. The dance moves she did were pretty straightforward, and I danced some back in my cheerleading days, so I caught on pretty fast. It was fun, and involved enough jumping around to be a pretty good workout, so I continued going.

In the fall the regular teacher returned with the start of the school year. She is a college student who is on one of the dance teams at Truman, and I had heard her classes were pretty intense. This turned out to be quite an understatement. Despite having done the class all late summer, the first week Claire took over I was so stiff and sore I could barely move. Really, it's basically an hour of sustained squats, lunges, and jumping, cleverly reinvented over and over with different arm movements and pelvic thrust/hip roll thingies. In Diana's class I could decide to really push myself, or to take it a little easy, but in Claire's class everything is full-out all the time. If you don't move fast and jump high you can't get most of the moves done, and if you slack on the arm movements she will tease you about it.

Here's where we get to what I really love, though: because she's young and on a college dance team all the moves Claire chooses seem to be really too difficult and way too cool for most of the people in the class. You look around, and the class is mostly moms (and even some grandmas); women in their 30's, 40's, and 50's. The parking lot's full of minivans, but inside everyone is dancing like Shakira. There is nothing patronizing or condescending about the way things are presented or taught. Both Claire and Diana basically just put on the music and start dancing, as if this is a song we've all heard a hundred times and nobody is going to have any problem picking up the material. The first time Claire put on Drop it Low and started the dance, the lady behind me said, "Oh she has GOT to be kidding," which (to be honest) was pretty close to what I was thinking. But a week later we were all not just doing it, but doing it fairly well and enjoying it.

I think there is something about being a mother that requires you to be inherently uncool. Sure, there's the spit-up smell, the reduced time for grooming, the focus on another person's defecation habits, but it's something even more than that. It's the status of it, that you're someone's MOM, for goodness sake; I know I pretty much walked out of the hospital with Daniel, donned some loafers and a cardigan sweater and that was it. Nobody expects you to know the songs being played in nightclubs or the latest Lady Gaga video. You have a child to raise now, an important job, and the soundtrack for that job is lullabies and nursery rhymes. Maybe, by the time your children reach adolescence, you can lapse into some kind of bland Top-40-adult-contemporary listening.

I've found that after a few years of youth culture treating you like you're old and boring and uninteresting, you start to feel that way a little. You can fight it as long as you're not a mom, but it becomes much more difficult after that. Having small children creates a haze of need that makes it difficult to see outside your own situation in order to participate in things like world news, social life, or hobbies. I feel like my kids are just starting to get independent enough that I can get back to some friends or interests. I've kind of been having a look around the past few months, seeing what I'm interested in these days.

I think falling into Zumba when I did was good for me. To see that, no, I actually CAN still make myself move like that has been empowering. I wonder if I would have had the nerve to try singing in our church's Christmas Cantata last month if I hadn't tried dancing first. I was interested enough in current music to download some new songs for my running playlist. Songs that our 19-year old international student recognizes!

Now believe me, I have no illusions that a bunch of middle-aged women dancing to salsa and club music at the YMCA is inherently awesome. I think, though, that I am slightly cooler for having done it.


  1. "Haze of need"--I love that phrase! I think you're absolutely right, too. "Mom" can seem like such an all-encompassing definition. But life is SO far from being over...

    The class sounds wonderful. (I only wish the first thought that came into my mind wasn't, "Oh, I wonder if my knees could handle that.")

  2. You go! I for one never had that salsa kind of groove. But I love this essay and I too am starting to think about some creative endeavors I might like to pursue as the "need haze" starts to dissipate a little.

  3. P.S. I really think this essay would be publishable somewhere. You should look into it.

  4. I came back to this post because I'm considering taking a Zumba class at our gym. I always feel dumb at dance-type classes, so I NEVER take them.

    I'll let you know what happens!