Zumba, Stereotypes and Me

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the changes over the past 3-4 months.  Within about a week, I started a temporary job as interim development director at Vermont Works for Women and attending Zumba classes. 

Given how many women attend Zumba classes, that might not seem like a terrible unusual thing.  It was more the timing and the irony that is amusing now looking backwards.

I was coming out of one of the most mentally mixed up periods in my life.  Not just a little, but that midlife brain scramble that had me questionning everything.  I had quit a job, we had a long-term guest at the house, I’d started therapy.  I wasn’t sure from day to day what life would bring, or if I would be okay.  I had no clue how long it would be before I found another job – before I wanted to work again – before I felt like I really could “get it right.”

Seemingly out of the blue, a call came from one of those people I tell people unabashedly that I have a Mutual Admiration Society with, asking if I wanted to help out their organization, their development director had just resigned.

Okay, scratching my head, “Can I do this?” I took the position.  I had a lot to learn – grantwriting is a key element to this position.  But – I had a lot to bring.  I’m good with computers, databases.  What I wasn’t expecting as part of this package deal was how quickly I would start to see another work culture and style.

Visionary.  Supportive.  Grouded.  Compassionate.  Fun-loving.  Hard-charging.  All in the same day in the same space.  I found myself questionning reality for a while about this.  Was it just cause I was the newbie in a small workplace?

As I said, about the same time I started there, I took up and followed a friend off to Zumba.  I took that first class with her and wondered if there was room and space for the fat girl in the back who was having fun, but definitely out of shape.  I hated the mirrors in the class room.  I hated the skinny folk that made it look so damn easy.  I hated the gods who made Latin footwork so complicated.  And yet…

I loved that sense of fun.  The smiles on the women’s faces in the room.  The fact that I seemed to be the only one judging the fat chick!  The music rocked my world, and I found myself dancing in the car at stoplights.  First one class a week, then two.  (Now it’s often 4!)

I got downright pissed when bronchitis interrupted my workouts.  I had just gotten on a roll when I had to stop.  But, the other side of it?  I wanted more!  More Zumba baby!  I signed up for the local master class and retreat.  What was I thinking?  I KNEW that there was no way I’d survive that weekend.  Four master classes and one night dance.  And strip hop?  No way was I removing any clothes, but I wanted to see THAT class.

The weekend came and went.  I made a ton of new friends.  Discovered that indeed I COULD do Zumba.  That I loved it, the people teaching it, the people in the classes.  That you don’t take clothes off in strip hop – it’s more about the dance, the sass and the chair!  That although I am out of shape, these people would support me in doing this – whatever I wanted to do.

The crossover?  While at work I was hearing about empowering women.  About empowering young girls.  Work about body image.  Not sexualizing women.  And here I was feeling empowered by work, emboldened by Zumba.  I was getting my sass back.  Why – because it was okay to feel sexy as a woman again – EVEN when I don’t feel sexy per se.  I feel sexier.  I want to grove, shimmey and shake.  While I might not want a 6 year old to dance like the classes I’ve been going to – it has truly been a releasing event to discover that it really doesn’t matter what size a woman is – Zero or 30 – we all pretty much have the same battles.  I’m learning to have fun again!

So a shout out to the amazing group of women that are in my world now – I’m not sure where we are headed, but I am SOOOOOOO glad we’re heading there together.

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