Not everything that happens during a breakup is the stuff of tragic tales. For example, loosing my appetite for months after being dumped gave me a much needed kick start dropping that "comfort" weight I'd put on during my long running relationship. When my depression diet had done all it could, I decided to handle the rest the old fashioned way. I laid off the proverbial bonbons and soap operas and got my buxom bum to the gym. Sure, in the beginning I had to do a bit of self bargaining to get myself there, but after awhile, I was completely addicted to the endorphins; not to mention the new budding muscles I was discovering in my arms and legs. Perhaps more importantly, I quickly found that gaining physical strength similarly affected my emotional state as well. Before too long, melancholy theatrics were a thing of the past and a new life story had begun; one that had me feeling like there just might be a happy ending after all.
I'm not a morning person, so I frequented an afternoon weight training class taught by a no nonsense gay with boot camp demeanor. Generally speaking, he seemed downright pissed at us - sputtering weakly through reps as he chided our general wimpiness - but I didn't mind his tough love approach. Exercise was meant to be difficult; and toughing it out was a part of the process. While I rallied for the difficult session ahead, I would often amuse myself watching the class which came before; a room full of uncoordinated, scarlet faced people gyrating somewhat lewdly to Latin music. All in all, an embarrassing spectacle from my estimation. As the classes shifted, and we serious weight lifters and our stern instructor took the place of these drenched, smiling dancers, I watched with mild disgust as students rushed into a line to hug their sweat soaked teacher, Don Julio. Really? Blech! A bunch of star struck, smitten women hot for teacher. This was my take on Zumba and I wanted none of it.
But the next week, I had trouble sleeping. Finding myself awake hours before my regular class would begin and restless for the gym, I think sleep deprivation must have gotten the best of me. I decided to bypass my inhibitions, go to Zumba, and check out what all this fuss was about first hand. Trouble was, I soon found out taking Don Julio's class was no easy task; requiring getting my name on a lengthy list, and braving a line of pushy women eager to claim territory on the dance floor. Gym personnel were given the formidable task of managing the unruly group; the threat of mutiny quit real in the growing pandemonium of rustling sweatpants and squeaking tennis shoe rubber. As I was pushed from behind by a Chinese woman half my size and twice my age, I started to question my decision to come. But it was too late to turn back. Once the doors swung open, these aggressive Zumbaholics charged, carrying me along in their wake. Several arguments erupted in the aftermath as groups of allied ladies fell into turf disputes. My gawd! These ladies were behaving like this an Usher concert, not an exercise class.
Once hard battles had been fought and won, I found myself sandwiched unhappily into the back most corner of the room. Though it was nearly ten after, there was still no teacher in sight and the anticipation was palpable. When at long last Don Julio showed up, he looked like some short, less attractive B Boy version of Mario Van Peebles. Was this really him? The man these ladies were so hot for? I was not impressed with the package or lack of punctuality. My classmates, however, were undisturbed by his tardiness. Rather than annoyance, he was met by a cheering crowd of grateful, eager dancers. He said nothing; simply put the music on and began to dance; everyone easily falling into step all around me. I was a fish out of water. Sadly, from my corner, I could barely see what was happening, let alone follow the foreign movements. So I sussed out the best little booty shaker in my vicinity and did my best to keep up with her. As I moved clumsily through Salsa and Cumbia inspired routines, I noticed the usual suspects from weight training gathering outside, curiously watching me through the glass doors. Ugh! Now who was red faced? With an exasperated puff of air I blew my bangs from my eyes, pin pointed the clock, and started counting the minutes till this nonsense was over and I could leave.
As the next song ended to more jubilation from the crowd, suddenly everything changed. Don Julio reoriented his position in the room, and just like that, my shitty little spot in the corner had become beach front property to the wavelike undulations of our smooth as silk instructor. Ok, sure, I had to admit, this guy had some suavemente moves, but whatever. All I cared about was finally being able to see well enough to actually follow the choreography. Step ball change, with a pelvic roll, and a thrust. It took almost as much effort to learn the sequence as to fight off my embarrassment to be doing these crazy moves in public, under harsh light, without the aid of several alcoholic beverages. And then it got even worse.
As Pitbull's Hip Hop anthem "Pause" pounded away over the speakers, Don Julio began rolling his hips around like the bastard love child of Elvis and Rico Suave. Soon, he was making his way through the expectant ladies, hoping to be the next one flirted with. When he stopped in front of me, I was mortified. I dropped my eyes from his gaze, but now there was nothing to do but watch his hands lifting his shirt while caressing his own body, slowly exposing the brown, smooth, sweaty skin covering the rippling six pack of his abs. Um, did it just get really fucking hot in here? I looked around me for some sort of support or at least a witness. I almost felt like I shouldn't be watching this. Was this a gym class or a scene from Magic Mike? I panicked and looked back up, but now he was starring right into my eyes, mouthing the words to the ridiculous song; "Look, I got what you need to get you hooked/ I steal all your hearts I'm a crook." I pretended to be unaffected, but truth be told, I was giddy as a school girl. Had he lingered I might have accidentally yelled out "take it off!" Perhaps nobody else could tell, but exertion alone hadn't caused my face to flush like this. Had this man straight up seduced me in the middle of a Zumba class?
After that, I was hooked. I found out where and when Don Julio was teaching and made sure I was there too. Some may call this stalking but it passed as a commendable commitment to my physical fitness. Each week, I made sure I was in the front row with a look that said I was ready to take out anybody who challenged me. And soon, much to my delight, my initiative paid off. I was finally getting the hang of this dance style, learning lots of crazy new ways to pump my abdomen, pop my chest, or ride and lasso an imaginary horse. Don't we all need a few of these moves in our repertoire? And all the while I was lavished with plenty of special attention from the object of my desire; both on and off the dance floor. When class was over, I'd slip into my bikini for a soak in the rooftop hot-tub, and before too long, Don Julio would break away from his entourage of devoted Zumba groupies to come chat me up over my steamy bath. Just add bubbles and you had the sudsy makings of a dishy new daytime romance. This was all going just according to plan.
But the plot thickens. Needless to say, I wasn't the only lady in class with a hidden agenda. Soon enough, I was as familiar with the routines as the expected cast of other regulars vying for some of Don Julio's Dance Fever. Perhaps most noteworthy of the bunch, a mother and daughter duo who never missed a class. The two were hard to ignore, wearing color coordinated workout ensembles; kinda like a pair of Zumba super heroes. The pretty young Latina was never without a fully made up face, and her mother sported a signature braid like a thick rope down her back. Wonder twin powers activate! But all kidding aside, I have to admit, at first I admired their close family bond. I hadn't worn a matching outfit with my mom since I was eight. There was something kind of sweet about this display of familial pride. I fancied it a cultural difference, both charming and wholesome. But then the music started; and let me tell you, my musings on innocence flew right out the window.
If this young woman was a super hero, her super power was Salsa dancing. Miss thing started whipping her hair back and forth, adding a saucy bump and grind to each dance sequence, working it out like a Solid Gold dancer. I don't want to sound like a prude here folks, but I just don't think I could shimmy and shake it like that in front of my mom. Her moves were sizzling hot and nearly screamed sex. If this had really been a dance off, I'd like to believe I held my own for a song, maybe two. But let's face it, I didn't stand a chance. Maybe I've just seen too many episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, but it was clear; this hot little tamale had me beat. Not to mention that her mom looked like she could beat me up, or at least put me in a choke hold with that braid. Histrionics aside, I accepted that I was not only outmatched, I'd been out-Zumbaed!
Several months after I'd stopped frequenting Don Julio's classes, I ran into another regular who was eager to dish to me about the latest scoop. "Did you hear?" Turns out, Don Julio had been dating a fellow Zumba instructor the entire time; although he'd never mentioned a girlfriend to me while we flirted by the jacuzzi. But then; escandelo! News broke that the well loved teacher had been having an affair with a student. No surprise; his paramour was non other than that little salsa kitten herself! Thus, after some public turmoil at the gym, Don Julio was forced to announce to a room of crying women that he would no longer teach classes at that location. Guess I'd dodged a bullet there. But lucky for me, I'm no less fickle than any other daytime drama queen. It wasn't long before I'd lost interest in getting the guy. And somewhere in there, while trying to shake my money maker into Don Julio's heart, I'd fallen out of love with that Latin Lathario and madly in love with Zumba.
Over time, I branched out and took many different Zumba classes from a variety of great teachers; each with their own flair and style. Going to class felt like taking a fabulous tropical vacation, and I couldn't wait for these lovely escapes. As encouraged by my instructors, I left my stress at the door and spent the next hour of my life on a little international dance journey; imagining myself wading thru the tall dry grasses of the African Sahara; stomping under the Amazonian canopy, dirty dancing in a sultry Havana tavern, or giving Jay-Lo a run for her money as a fly girl in a Hip Hop video. Just as Zumba had transformed Don Julio into a pseudo celebrity and his student into the ultimate vixen; dance had the power to transform ordinary people or situations into something spectacular. Once the music began, there were dozens of epic exotic adventures to be had. As the heat and energy heightened, cheers emanating from the excited clan, we were like Zumba warriors. Sure maybe before and after class, we were still as different as could be. But there, in the middle of a gym doing Zumba, we men and women of all sizes, ages, and races were one human family; transfigured into a bumping, grinding, sweat soaked tribe once again.
OK, this might sound downright delusional to you. Perhaps you're thinking, poor girl with a broken heart has gone and lost her mind. I'll admit, maybe I've let my romantic imagination run wild a bit, but my response to that is, have you done Zumba yet? And if not, what are you waiting for? Why not join the 14 million people who are responding to the simple Zumba philosophy of "health and happiness and of loving everything you do; especially your workout" No need to suffer at the gym when you can wiggle and strut your way to fitness; or as we Zumbaholics like to say; "Ditch the work out; join the party". Sure I still like to lift weights, but I've left the boot camp behind. True, now I'm one of those red faced people gyrating lewdly to Latin music; and you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. I think my friend Angie put it best when she said, "In Zumba, everyone is a star." I might look like a mess to the people looking in, but those of us in there dancing know the truth.