I have never been to a Zumba class before and noticed there was one in my local church hall. I have put off going because I was worried that I’d be the oldest and fattest and least fit, that it would be full of yummy mummy types fitting in a class while the children were at school and I would feel old. The real reason of course was I was too lazy and full of self-pity to get off my fat arse to go.
Yet I needed to inject something into my routine. I either seem to cook, clean or post on Facebook, and occasionally blog. Also, it is cold and I can’t afford to heat the house with just me in it, so off to Zumba; ‘Wi’ Kay’ I went. Yes that is what her banner said. Which nearly put me off.
Anyway Kay is a diminutive, slim, fit Scottish lady with loads of energy and the average age of the people in the class is about 65. I was possibly the youngest there. My heart sank, then, I thought, well even I may be able to keep up with this bunch. How wrong I was.
Some of them were in their beige period, with sensible shoes. All very friendly, everyone came up to me to introduce themselves. Yet, I still thought, what have I done? I used to dance at the Pineapple Studio in Convent Garden. Has my life been reduced to dancing with grannies in a dusty church hall? I could barely give my name, yet alone maintain eye contact, I didn’t want to engage with old people. Not today.
Then they got out these.
As we started dancing I thankfully recognised some of the steps from my ballroom dancing lessons when I was 8. I can still Cha Cha Cha you know. And some of the other moves from aerobic classes in my 30’s. And boy, my hips did ache. I couldn’t co-ordinate the arms and feet though, so I did a bit of a Michael Flatley impression with feet moving madly and arms stiff by my side. And I started counting the steps. I was used to an aerobic instructor shouting out directions, but Kay just danced and we were to follow. Everyone knew the steps and it was all rather
erotic flirtatious, with hips a swaying and come zither looks. All I could think was, do they dance for their husband on a Saturday, and does he notice? Or would he rather watch Match of the Day? These grannies mean business.
Once I relaxed, it did get better. No one was watching me or judging me, I could see that the class was structured well, with a warm up, and mixed tempo like interval training, if you like. The Tango was interesting as it is a very ‘sensual’ dance and my did those ladies like a bit of sensual.
The music was an mix of upbeat flamenco, pop and Bhangra. And Micheal Buble, Save the Last Dance for Me. I just could not equate all this with the average age of the room. Then it occurred to me, these were children of the sixties, they invented the twist and rock and roll. They were the same age as Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart.
To be honest my feelings were very mixed, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in a class with older people. Yet if it had been all young fitness freaks I would have felt worse, I know. My self-esteem and confidence has taken quite a bit of a bashing and I know that by being Active and Connecting as per the Five Ways to Wellbeing
may will help improve my mental health. Being with young skinny girls in leotards may not be what I need to feel better about my body image. Who am I kidding anyway, I meet all the criteria to go on a Saga Holiday!
And you know those grannies rocked with their belly dancing scarves. They were connecting, being active, taking notice, learning and were giving. They were smiling and laughing, it was me with the long face and slumping shoulders. I was grumppy old women who would not engage.
During a break the only other young person (like my age) came up to me and asked if I had been to a Zumba class before today. She was genuinely surprised when I told her it was my first time. ‘But you have danced before?’ she asked. ‘You know all the steps and everything’. And that was all I needed to start letting go of my inner crap and start enjoying myself.
At the end the grannies took off the scarves and wrapped up in their beige coats and went back to being a woman that maybe you would not notice in the supermarket queue. Yet for that hour they had been an exotic dancer and loving every minute of it.
I was ashamed of myself and my negative attitude and age stereotyping. Who am I to dismiss anyone, make judgement on any person? I hate it when young people only see the old woman in me and here was I, guilty as charged.
Later on that day I happened upon a conversation on twitter commenting on a discussion at #commscamp13. I was able to contribute to that conversation and I hope, that to an extent made amends for all the judgemental, depersonalisation I had been guilty of earlier that day.