Sometimes, toning up the ol’ bod gets you into some weird situations. Like getting caught by the pizza guy out in the garage jumping rope (true story). Falling down five or six times in the Peace Lutheran Church parking lot while rollerblading (true story, possible concussion, kids had to help me up). Forgetting the steps at Zumba class (big fat lie; I’ve never done that).
One thing I have done in the past (until quite recently, actually) was to take belly dancing lessons. I took them for a while when I was about 15, and it was quite enjoyable. Plus, I got a coin belt and zils (finger cymbals). Not too many other 15 year old girls had those.
Now that I think of it, they were probably busy with actual friends and fun plans because they weren’t complete teenage disasters who took belly dancing lessons.
Socially backward = me at 15.
We needed music to listen to and practice with at home, and a friendly (read: creepy) sales guy at Recordland rang up my purchase of a belly dancing album, winking at me lasciviously the entire time (uh, 15, dude).
We took lessons until the teacher said that our class (consisting of me and my mom) had gone as far as she could take us, and that the next step would be to perform in front of judges to get a certificate.
Belly dance in front of people? Are you frigging kidding me?
A few years passed, but I still remembered how to do the “camel walk” and after the birth of three children 10 years later, it sort of turned into an actual “camel walk.” I needed a little more walk and a lot less camel.
The next attempt at belly dancing for fitness was a class my sisters and I took at Joliet Junior College. We drove to the campus, full of dreams of how we’d soon be snake-arming and shimmying with the best of them.
Arriving at class, there was a woman sitting on the floor with her back to us, long dark hair, tanned, fit and toned. Ah, we told ourselves, this must be our teacher. Well, what an inspiration to take lessons from her, with herself being all skinny and cute and stuff.
But then the real teacher walked in. She was approximately 75 years old and had brutally dyed dark hair. Nice enough lady, to be sure, but our dreams of following around our skinny, tanned, hip-shaking inspiration were dashed and replaced by a pale, frail brunette of advanced years who confided somewhat naughtily that sometimes she danced for her husband.
Someone had the audacity to ask her for an example, and she shot back that it was private. To her credit, despite the unbelievably audacious question, she never broke stride while leading us in a large, jerky sashaying circle while working her blue-lined, spaghetti-like limbs high in the air demonstrating "snake arms." Like this, she'd say. It's like picking cherries.
It’s an arm movement, supposedly sinuous and sexy. I just looked like I was actually picking cherries or replacing a light bulb. Or being chased by actual snakes.
Worse, the classes took place in the cafeteria of the JJC campus. The doors were closed so other students couldn’t get in while the classes were going on. However, this did not deter them from pressing nosy-noses against the glass to snort gleefully at the 30 or so women parading in a big circle, somewhat like a sad cattle drive, practicing arm movements that we would only use later in life for grabbing a bag from the drive through at McDonald's.
To add insult to injury, we found out our entire dance class was on security camera, which was playing on a TV outside the cafeteria for the growing crowd’s viewing pleasure. Our mortification was complete.
We didn’t go back.
Moving to Rockford several years later, I figured I could start over with a new class and a new teacher. I did. I attended faithfully and omi’d the best I could, but what she considered “constructive criticism” I perceived as being “picking on.” (Maybe, maybe not. Also, I found out she had danced for my husband many years ago at his birthday party when he turned 30 and I was all like, “oh-no-you-di’int, he’s mine, beeyotch” and stopped attending.)
I'm cool and confident like that.
I found a wonderful new teacher. Her class times worked well with work schedules, her gentle but effective instruction was pleasing and confidence-building, and she truly encouraged students. Plus, she was about 40 years younger, all fit and toned. She knew what the hell she's doing and did it well.
However, sadly, I am a hell of a lot older than 15 now. Joints that once moved fluidly now feel like they’re filled with broken glass, especially after a long day at work. Shimmying, hip drops, snake arms … the day after a class, I would have to bleakly crawl down the hall toward the copier. All the cool coin belts and zils in the world couldn't make up for actually being able to lift my thigh and operate the clutch on my stick shift without excruciating pain. I reluctantly have put classes on hiatus.
For now, I’m making do with plodding on the treadmill. However, belly dancing is always there, lurking and swaying seductively in the background. Perhaps I’ll practice and bide my time until I have my sweet moves down pat. Then I’ll show you.
Look out, YouTube.