Lately, all my internal dialogues have been about aerobics. Those classes make me self conscious, especially the “dance party” atrocities, where the instructors act like we’re at boot camp. I feel awkward for three reasons. One: My boobs are so big I have to let them in the room one at a time. Two: I dance barefoot. And three: I don’t do some of the bouncier stuff, like jumping jacks.
Seriously. When there’s a crowd of women jostling back and forth in the entrance, half of them trying to get into the gym and the other half trying to escape it, just about the only way for me to get through without causing bodily harm is to turn on an angle and use my right breast to part the crowd. People don’t mind pressing up against each other’s thighs and stomachs. But you throw a titty in there, and they get out of the way fast. But then I’m turned crabwise and the only way to proceed is by shoving the right boob on through the door and following up with the left. Sorry ladies. Two big ones coming through.
So then, once I’m in the room, I take off my shoes. I figured this out after the third Zumba class was still leaving me with the urge to vomit. I get nauseous when I’m hot anyway, but there’s something about hot feet that pushes me right over the edge and into pukesville. I think it may be that my feet don’t sweat, but it could just be that I’m a crackpot. Anyway, when I suddenly realized that the whole problem with my stomach was my shoes, I ditched them and have been keeping up ever since. But this means that every third class or so, some helpful soul tries to sell me on her shoes, which she assures me breathe well, and will give my feet the oxygen they need. Then doesn’t understand when I have to explain that, among other things, I hate shoes. I wear Birkenstocks in public out of respect for the Health Department, but my shoes are the first things to come off when I hit the door at home and in the car. Yes, I drive barefoot too. Anyway, I’ve learned that acting interested gets me rid of the well intended folks faster than trying to explain. So I ask questions like “Do they breathe well?” and “How’s the arch support?” rather than trying to politely say that I could not care less.
The one valid point these people make is that doing aerobics barefoot can be rough on the lower back. Even without Mt. Vesuvius (pre Pompeii) and Mt. St. Helens (pre 1980) bouncing around on my chest, having bare feet would turn the bouncy stuff into jolty stuff. But the solution is easy. I don’t bounce much. I do the little hops, especially the irresistible ones in Zumba, but when it comes to the big leaps and those hellacious jumping jacks, I pull back. And that’s where I start talking to myself.
When the whole class is doing jacks and I’m back there doing my little step-touch-touches, I feel watched. Particularly as I’m only even a little coordinated at this when I’m following the group, so doing my own dance invariably leaves me off the beat by at least two counts. Which is why I talk to myself. Now, these instructors have pretty much figured out I don’t like to be singled out and they leave me alone. When one of the dance party leaders told everybody to give her some “attitude” in a particular little catwalk twist, I suddenly stopped moving, crossed my arms across my chest and scowled. Hey, she asked for attitude! Apparently she meant “lengthen your stride and bare your teeth”. She herself kept randomly growling like she thought she was the queen of pouty tigers, and the other women in the class flipped their shoulders and growled back. Who knew. Attitude is just looking sexy in dance class. The instructor just tried really hard not to look at me, and I eventually pulled together and rejoined the routine, which felt about as much like dancing as those damned cardio machines, except I could do it without the shoes. (I actually should have left that particular class right then. She had us lifting bloody weights for our cool down. I left a nastygram at the front desk suggesting she study up on the difference between Body Pump and Dance Party.)
But the fact that the instructors have never called me out has not reduced my desire to explain myself to them. I don’t do so for fear that bare feet are prohibited in dance classes, and because, quite frankly, I prefer to be invisible in there. So instead, I talk to them in my head. Driving down the road, I’ll be gesturing to my breasts and feet explaining to someone who is simply not present that I have no intentions of putting on running shoes, but I’d really love it if somebody could find me an exercise bra that stifled the flap-flaps.
“They’re G cups,” I’ll explain. “G cups! When I lost fifty pounds for my wedding, I actually gained a cup size, and I haven’t lost it since I added two kids and put the weight back on. I presume they’re going to only get bigger since I’m exercising more now. Yes, I know that should actually shrink them, but it goes the other way for me.”
“Mom, who are you talking to?” Caroline will ask from the back seat. “What are ‘G cups’?”
“Nobody. Never mind. It’s about bras”
And Sam will add “Can I see your bwa?” leading to an increase in my under-the-breath tirade.
I don’t know exactly where the behavior comes from. It seems like something like this would have to be learned, but I can’t recall anybody from my childhood who did this except me, and as far as I know, I’ve always done it. It seems to act as a check on my desire to burst out with a response in every conversation, even those that have nothing to do with me, and to contain my need to talk incessantly in social situations. (If you’ll know me well, you’ll also know that this “containment” is seriously minimal.) But it means that I have to warn you, if you run into me talking to myself in the grocery store, you should at least double check to be sure I’m not really deeply engaged in deep conversation with a six foot tall white rabbit. Because you know, people, Harvey is out there, and it’s the ones like me that can see him.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.