It’s 8 a.m. I’m already struggling to get up, but I some how miraculously find the energy to pull my almost lifeless body out of bed and even more alarmingly manage to get on a sports bra and sneakers. I get to the gym and there’s a line of women hanging out of the classroom door, all of them waiting eagerly to take a Zumba class.
This is my first time here, I’ve been intrigued by the loud noises and shouts coming from the room accompanied with pop songs you hear in any gay bar. I finally decided I wanted to see what the hype was all about. I swarm into the room, noting that in a sea of Caucasian ladies, I am the only African American who you would stereotypically believe would be able to ace this class, no problem. I’m concerned though when I look down and see that many of the women in the class are wearing Danskin professional dance shoes. This is around the time when I considere that maybe I was not prepared for the class.
The class begins, and I am now properly able to discern that I’m way in over my head. These women around me must have all been dancers and/or lifetime members of this class. The class starts strong and heavy into dance moves I’ve always wanted to learn, but not in a high pressure fast pace setting. I always thought we’d tackle these moves in slower 8 count sessions with the teacher counting it out for me instead of me trying to find the beat, salsa, cha-cha, spin, pivot, and shimmy all at the same time.
I admit I was terrible at this class. I was never a dancer, and the class is fast pace. Before I could finish the first pivot we were spinning and shuffling across the room. I noticed some older ladies in the back of the room that maybe seemed more at ease by my lack of choreography and rhythm. They smiled warmly at me, as if they recalled their first time in this class.
I bumped into the woman next to me more times than I could count. Thinking about how I must have looked to these women was comical to me so I found it hard not to laugh at myself. It’s like when I took Tai Bo, I enjoyed the class mostly because my friends and I got a good laugh out of our ridiculous hip flexing thrusts and jab punches. I waited for the time when the woman next to me might smile and nod like the other older women in the class who seemed to understand that this class is hard if you don’t know what you’re doing and it’s your first day.
After a few more times of awkward bumps the woman next to me looked at me and glared. I blinked my eyes to confirm that she was indeed angry and not just really really focused on the moves at hand. This meant that I was delayed for the next side shuffle fist pump and caused her to bump into me. Her eye roll and teeth suck told me everything I needed to know about how she felt about me. If she could have I believe she would have asked the gym to escort me out of the class. I could see her complaining later and a gym wide memo going out to all users that people who were not as familiar with the classes should be cautious of this when attending. That those who weren’t familiar with the class should in essence lurk around in the back of the class like the elderly women who at least offered a smile.
This thought made me angry. It’s a fitness class for Christ sake. This isn’t an audition for America’s Best Dance Crew. I get that we all want a good Saturday Morning Work out… That’s in essence why I’m here. I didn’t pull myself out of bed to disrupt someone else’s work out. I did it so that I could come and try something new on my path to a healthy life.
I get it; I’m out of shape. I know I’m slowly trying to learn the moves and because I am uncoordinated when the class goes right I go left. I know I look like an idiot, but that’s part of the fun of this class. Based on everyone’s skill levels around me, and what I can decipher though I am not the first person this class has intimidated. It’s almost as if by process of elimination the woman who were less skilled at dance but wanted to take this class were eventually weeded out and made to feel like they should lurk in the back of the class or just not show up at all because of their inconvenience to the other ladies that might be more skilled.
The attitude doesn’t just come from the random woman dancing next to me; it’s everyone around me. When I go to grab a mat for cool down one-woman rushes in front of me to snatch a floor mat as if there is a shortage of mats piled along the wall. When I return my mat another woman snaps at me for getting in her way even though I apologize she still feels the need to sigh at me condescendingly.
I realize that this class is not very welcoming, and I’m frustrated by this thought because I really like it, and believe I could learn the moves and actually get an intense cardio work out. I also really like this gym and have found it really friendly until now. The women around me make me feel like there is not room for error in a Saturday Morning Cardio Class. You either perform or you get to the back of the class and hang out on the wall aspiring to one day be like the rest of them. I will never understand why women can sometimes be this way.
A Saturday morning work out should not feel like a Julliard School Audition. It also should not feel like high school when adolescents struggle to find a seat in the cafeteria or walk down the hall and are glared at by different cliques. These 30-40 year old women have created an environment that only the best thrive in, and they push the others out of their way. I am baffled that people take this class so seriously that they can’t smile and offer a hand to someone who they can clearly see is new.
I want to go back to Zumba for myself. To be honest my personality is quite determined and I would go back to that class every day if it meant that one day I could master it. I will however remember my first class as I become more familiar, and I will not recreate that feeling for someone else. I wish more women did this.
To the ladies of this Saturday Morning Zumba Class, I would just like to say that your attitude is tasteless and I believe that you should get over yourself. I will not move to the back of the class, and next week I plan to be back, and I will be early so I can get a spot in the front.
In the Name of All Things Zumba,