The other day I remembered a younger me, standing in the basement of a house that was only breath away from being blown down by a weak wind. A bare bulb lit the scene of three twenty-something musicians crowded by twenty or so music enthusiasts desperately trying to really like what was coming out of a bass guitar, xylophone, and kazoo combination.
There was some merit to this group’s effort, I’m sure of it. But all I could see was the string of yarn strapping the bass to the thin frame of the girl who played it, her gaze beaten back by unruly bangs. All I could hear was a toilet flushing one floor above. And all I could feel was cold. Because we were in the basement of some club with the word Shoppe in it.
How I loathe redundant letters outside of little English tea shoppes. But this blog isn’t about loathing (as much as I love a good loathe).
We had valid reason to be at the Shoppe. The boyfriend of a friend of a good friend in Scotland was on tour. And he had a voice that rang through you, made you forget the puddle you were standing in where the concrete had shallowed out during some storm long before you ever decided to walk into one of those places you’d be really pissed you’d died in.
That was one of the first days when I ceased caring what other people think. I should have struck up conversation with one of the guys in that basement. Should have straightened my skirt so coolly layered over striped pants and told him I was really digging the vibe of that kazoo, but I just couldn’t. I’d reached my limit of pretending to like things I don’t. Of pretending to be a better version of me when I’m on my game.
And now, thankfully, in my thirties, I can honestly say, I love Katy Perry. I wear exercise outfits to Modest Mouse shows, my electric blue pants a shining beacon as I dance with my wife like it’s the end of the world as we know it. I read romance novels on the T, and leave them in airports for other worthy souls. And I proudly don my “Ask Me About My Cat” shirt (given to me by the lovely woman who saved Sammy from a Somerville front stoop and brought her to me) to Zumba every week because it’s at the top of the clean T-shirt pile. And it’s so soft.
Because I ain’t got time to suffer fools these days. I’m too old. And my life is too wonderful. (Something I need to remind myself of now and then.)
I’m thankful for that–and for Zumba.
Zumba fuels my confidence. No one gives any f*cks in that class. Shannon, the instructor, is this beautiful leader of joy who just wants you to smile and shake as many body parts as possible–no matter the size–alongside the 50+ women in the room. One woman, who usually dances in front of me, a middle-aged love with a happy, self-professed inadequacy to follow the choreography, hops and spins her way through the class with a grin on her face that’s infectious. I light up when I see the new moves she comes up with.
If you’re ever hesitant about taking one of these large group classes, don’t be. Everyone’s friendly, no one’s watching you, and the power of many will egg you on to shake it even harder.
As I fell away from physical activity this winter, heading back to Zumba was like screwing my limbs back on. They were doing what I needed them to, what they’d been longing to do all those hours when I’d been in bed or huddled on the couch. Jumping and swaying, swinging and twirling, propelling me onward so that when I finally did go out dancing with my friends the next night until very, very early in the morning, I could close my eyes, follow the beat, and start to return to my full self.
I still have some steps to take, but I’ll be sure to put a little shimmy in them.