Earlier this week I went to my first ever Zumba class.
For those who don’t know, Zumba is an aerobic fitness program which is essentially a group dance party with various styles of Latin American and hip hop dance.
So why not try Zumba? Well… I’m a white, male Canadian. Plus I grew up in church, so rather than learn to dance, I learned to get the last drop of juice out of the communion cup. So that’s at least 4 solid reasons I should never Zumba.
But I had two good reasons to be there.
First, I have a new membership to my local Lifetime Fitness – which offers a variety of group fitness classes. I’ve wanted to try a few of them.
Second, my oldest daughter wanted to do a class with me, and she was fine with Zumba. I’ll take any opportunity to do fun stuff with my kids.
Side note: It’s not lost on me that because my teenaged daughter was willing, let alone excited, to take Zumba with her father, it means I have the coolest teenage daughter in the whole world.
My goal was to appear as normal as possible in this Zumba class which I knew would be tough because I would be terrible at it. But I also knew it would be tons of fun, so why not?
Well, aside from potential crippling embarrassment… why not?
Entering the studio, I saw about a hundred ladies in yoga pants. But more importantly I saw three other guys. Never before had anyone been so glad to see 3 guys , well… other than the Magi.
The instructor showed up, welcomed everyone, and just like that, the music started and things started shaking.
The first thing I realized is most people in attendance had obviously done this class several times before. It seemed everyone (minus me and Lucy) knew the routines as well as the instructor did. They knew when to shimmy and shake, which way to spin, when to shout and when to clap. They knew when to pop it AND when to lock it.
It was immediately clear that in the ‘Zumba Power Rankings,’ I would be dead last. But I didn’t care. I was getting exercise and having fun.
I tried to learn some moves as quickly as possible. To do so, I needed to watch the instructor closely. But at times I couldn’t see her (I should’ve started closer to the front) so I needed to observe some of the other participants. I observed close enough to learn the steps, while not observing too intently as to get maced.
Here’s the main problem with me and Zumba: There’s a lot of hip moving and booty shaking required, and my body doesn’t move like that. Again, I’m a white, Christian Canadian which is NOT a heritage cocktail conducive to any of that. One song had the lyric, “shake it ’til you break it.” I would respond with an emphatic “I CAN’T SHAKE IT!!” But if I could shake it, it would most certainly break.
Any time there was hip/pelvic movement required, I would look down at my hips and wonder why I was physically unable to move them. I felt as though things down there had been surgically fused. When I try to move my hips, I look like i’m slalom skiing. In my body, the knees and elbows bend and my head turns side to side – but that’s pretty much it. Everything else stays put. I dance like a marionette puppet.
Perhaps it is a spiritual thing. Maybe Christian parents in the 80s, hoping to discourage social dancing in their kids, prayed that God would inhibit any sort of body movement in us that could be seen in any way as sensual. If my parents did that to me, it worked. It really worked.
There is one move when everyone slowly spins in a circle while moving their hips, looking like backup dancers in a J-Lo video. When I do this move, it looks like i’m trying to kill ants crawling around my feet.
In fact, the only times when I felt the least bit familiar with the Zumba moves was when it was like the “pentecostal church” dance I often saw growing up.
“Hey! I can do this one!!”
It seems as though my Zumba moves are less suited for shaking it ’til I break it, and more suited for “storming the enemies camp.” And I’ll tell you what he stole from me – the ability to move my hips without looking like I’m trying to free myself from quicksand.
The class was super fun. Lucy and I had a blast. As terrible as I was Zumba-ing, I’m sure nobody cared. So here’s the point: There’s so often no reason to be embarrassed.
Another example: We have a high-schooler in our church named Cullen. He was at the recent Packers vs Cardinals NFL playoff game with his Mom in Arizona. This was the week following a crushing playoff defeat of our home town team, the Minnesota Vikings, when they missed a potential game-winning field goal in the final seconds. Had the Vikings won, they would have been playing in Arizona that night.
Cullen thought it would be funny to wear his Vikings jersey and hat and make a sign that said, “I bought this ticket before the field goal.” It was super funny and with 2 minutes left in the first half, the camera found Cullen and he was on national TV.
One minor problem, he spelled ‘bought’ incorrectly.
In the following days, several news outlets picked up the story of Cullen at the Packers/Cardinals game, and his misspelled sign, including Sports Illustrated and ESPN. Amongst our circle of friends and on social media, everyone was talking about Cullen.
What was interesting to me was that upon hearing the story, some friends of ours reacted with excitement – “That’s so awesome he was on TV!!” And others reacted to the spelling error – “Oh no… poor kid.”
I suppose their reaction was based on how they’d feel in Cullen’s shoes. Some saw the awesomeness of being on TV and others saw the embarrassment of making a mistake in front of a lot of people.
I sent Cullen a text message the day after the game to congratulate him on his national TV appearance. I was curious to see how he would respond.
He sent this text back: “Thanks! Ha Ha. It was awesome to get on national TV.”
I love that. I’m so glad Cullen didn’t say “I wish I hadn’t made that sign.” I love that he focused on the awesome experience rather than a very minor error.
After all, everybody makes spelling mistakes. Not everyone gets talked about on ESPN.
It occurs to me that many don’t see it that way. For some, a mistake would cause them to wish they had done nothing at all, and simply blended in with the crowd at the stadium that day.
If you were Cullen, would you rather the whole thing never happened? Would you skip something awesome like being on TV in order to keep your life mistake-free?
If you were me, would the TERRIBLE, near-apocalyptic, Zumba skills keep you from having a fun experience with one of your kids?
I wonder how many fun experiences we miss due to fear of embarrassment. I wonder what great new endeavors we avoid due to fear of failure. How often do we skip something new and adventurous in order to play it safe and predictable – staying in the comforts of home, surfing Facebook to observe other people’s “amazing” lives?
I propose we all just skip the embarrassment part. And I propose we all cut each other some slack. Mistakes will be made. But who cares? Let’s all try new stuff.
Start a business; take a trip; write a book; take a risk; fall in love; forgive someone; make a new friend; find a new restaurant; go on a date; learn to play a musical instrument; build something; do something NEW.
Nobody thinks you’re perfect anyway. So make the sign. Get on TV. Try Zumba. Shake it ’til you break it.