How to recognize beauty in Zumba class

You're beautiful.  Those were the words of the song that made me cry in Zumba.  Who cries in a Zumba class?

Life by the swake has lots of great moments but everything needs a shake up now and then including my body.  So last week I took myself to a Zumba class for the very first time.  I had watched the Zumba class through the glass at the gym before.  It looked fun.  There was music and dancing, both of which I love separately and together.  I was a cheerleader back in the era of dinosaurs. I had a knack back then for picking up the moves and doing them in synchronicity with the rest of the squad.  I was pretty sure I could do Zumba but there was a sliver of doubt in my mind.  You know that sliver that tells you, "You might look dumb." That's a lie.  It wasn't a sliver of doubt it was a big loud voice over a megaphone in my head yelling at me, "You will look dumb. Don't do it."

All the more reason to do it.  I arrived early to stake out my floor space.  I knew that was important because a couple of years ago a fist a cuffs broke out at Zumba because two ladies kept colliding with each other.  I didn't witness it but it was relayed to me by a reliable source and the story became part of the gym lore.  It also triggered a change in procedure which limited the number of Zumba participants and required people to check in with a card.  Anyway, I'm out of synch here with the story.  I staked my spot, off to one side, and nearing the back.  It seemed like a good spot for a rookie.  I could see the instructor and I wasn't in a position to inflict any injury on anyone else if I flung my arm the wrong way at the wrong time.  I had thought it all out quite carefully and was pleased with my strategic position in the room.

Soon enough the party was underway.  Music was reverberating ladies were grooving and the instructor was calling out the moves.  There were at least four of us who were newbies and luck would have it that I had two of them right beside me!  When things were really moving it was a little like being a child on the streets of Hong Kong.  Everything was moving, it was super noisy, and I wasn't sure who to watch out for.  I had to watch the instructor and my fellow exercise ladies.  I wasn't any better than the two newbies.  In fact if someone had secretly taped that session it would probably go viral on youtube!  I wasn't very good at it my first time but it sure was fun.

Being good at it didn't matter though. No one was very good except one lady in the front row and the instructor.  The rest of us were all pretty normal in our Zumba attempts.  Even the ones who had proclaimed themselves as experienced were going the wrong direction occasionally.  I only ran into the equipment cage once and I managed to avoid running into any other people at all.  I figured that made it a success on some level.  It was a pretty good workout that made us sweaty and out of breath.  While we were sweating and dancing our way to health, I was looking around the room wondering about the other ladies.  Who were they?  What was important to them in their lives?  Why did the lady beside me wear a hat and have wisps of hair sticking out in chunks around the edge of her hat?  Was she battling cancer?  Did the lady in the front row who was super good at Zumba go every day? Just trying to do choreographed moves at a frantic pace to music with a roomful of strangers wasn't enough.  My mind had to orchestrate stories for those around me.

As I worked out stories about the others, I worked on some of my own stories.  Why had I waited this long to do Zumba? I was scared the loud voice on the megaphone in my head was right. How comfortable was i seeing myself in a huge wall of mirrors? Yuck, not comfortable at all. Did the other ladies have to screw up their courage to attend Zumba or did they just go and not worry about how dumb they might look?  Did some of them know how uncoordinated they truly were but not care?  How did one get to that point?

Forty-five minutes of thinking and dancing later, I figured it out.  The final song came on and the only part I remember was the chorus, "You're beautiful." I looked at the women in the room all shapes, abilities, ages, and agility just doing their best and having fun.  I saw myself in the huge wall of mirrors too short, too round in spots, and too jiggly.  Then it happened.  I started to cry in Zumba.  How embarrassing it that?  In the moment that the tears started to fill my eyes, I saw the beauty of the women around me.  They were diverse, they weren't perfect, they were past the expiry date for getting on the cheerleading squad, but they were beautiful.  They had the courage to show up and give themselves permission to have some fun for forty-five minutes.  It was quite evident they were okay with not being the perfect Zumba participants but they would be their best.  I grabbed my water bottle and got the heck out of there as soon as the song was over.  And I was still wiping tears as I sat at the stop light a few blocks up the road.  They were my Zumba tears.  They were tears of gratitude for the beauty that lies in each of us.  I was grateful for being able to recognize the beauty of a roomful of strangers who by society's definition would not have been called beautiful.