Sunday, February 10, 2013

Death by Zumba

Like many Americans, I have spent much of my life tethered to a desk to make a living. The problem with this is that, unlike people who work in construction or in other physically active jobs, you don't get much exercise. After a while, you get used to that and exercise becomes a real effort rather than fun.
Just looking at this illustration makes me tired.

I didn't used to be that way. When I was younger, I enjoyed volleyball, baseball, lacrosse and soccer. Then I got married and had children, worked long hours and helped my offspring with their homework with my remaining waking time. Now my daughters are grown, so I thought I would use their homework time to go to an exercise class. A friend of mine, who is 69, suggested I join her for some Zumba classes at the local YMCA. I had no idea what Zumba was, but it was exercise, so it fit the bill.

I arrived at class with my brand new sweat pants and stylish long-sleeve, moisture-wicking exercise shirt. A woman about my age from South America was the teacher that night. She was lively and cheerful. My friend warned me that I should stand up front near the teacher so I could see and follow what she was doing. So, fighting my urge to lurk in the back row, I took her advice. The class was made up of women ranging in age from their twenties to one woman who looked to be in her eighties. I fell somewhere in the middle.

The teacher started the music. It was loud, fast and contained vocals in which men were crooning suggestive phrases about our body parts in English and Spanish. Our instructor began to dance/exercise in time with it and the class, including me, followed a beat behind as best we could. I swear that this incredibly lithe exercise guru had body parts moving that I have not yet discovered. I confided to another student that I felt like a "tight-assed honkie." Indeed, I was.

Within minutes, I realized that the long-sleeved exercise shirt I was wearingwhile trendy and moisture-wickingwas way too hot for this class. I was drenched and feeling overheated within minutes. Still, determined, I continued clumsily trying to copy the rhythmic footwork, kicking, twirling, gyrating motions led by our rubbery teacher.

Picture 60 to 90 minutes of the above with a middle-aged woman.
I only lasted for half the class then sat down on the floor to the side to watch everyone else until their self-imposed torture ended. I was exhausted, drenched and unabashedly panting. I'm a writer, dammit, not a Rockette. My 69-year-old friend, while somewhat damp, seemed to have weathered the experience much better than I. Oh, the humiliation. I comforted myself in the fact that she made her living in a more physical trade, massage therapy, so had not suffered the atrophy that we desk-jockeys endure.

The next day, I was totaled. But as I dragged around the house groaning like a reenactment of a zombie movie, I comforted myself in the knowledge that maybe someday, perhaps before I'm 69, I will be able to last for the entire class without the urge to lie down on the floor and expire. For then, I will know that I have conquered Zumba rather than the other way around.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tenacious G and the Facade Underneath

Not all facades are on the outside, as anyone visiting a fancy lingerie department might attest. And such was my observation in the latest adventure with my 86-year-old mother, aka, Tenacious G, as we explored the seamy world of flamboyant undergarments.

It all began when I stopped by for my usual Sunday visit and Mom announced that she needed to buy some new bras; her current ones were tattered. Could I take her to "The Store?"

I escorted her to my trusty 2001 Saturn sedan and we drove to the mecca of everything underwear—the local mall. We struck parking-lot gold with a coveted space relatively close to the front entrance. It was a cold day, and I held her arm as we made our way to the front sliding-doors.

Once inside, we passed through the beady, sparkly jewelry department and made straight for the den of iniquity—the undies section. The lingerie department was very colorful, lacy and a tad risqué. It was forested with vertical racks, blooming with undergarments of every size and style, from modest white cotton to the most decadent G-strings and taunting underwire bras.

Mom grimaced and picked distastefully at the offerings, lamenting that the underpants were too short and she wasn't interested in "those type of bras"—she preferred something basic, thank you. It was an odd sight watching a gray-haired octogenarian clad in a practical woolen coat pitted against the racy unmentionables that surrounded her.

I asked her if she knew her size and she didn't. No matter. Her way of solving the problem was to ask me my size and assume that she was a size or two up from that. The overabundance of choices was a bit much for her, so I found some racks that offered no-underwire bras in sensible colors like white or tan. I grabbed several for her to try on.

In her lumbering gait, Mom made her way to the dressing room to determine what would fit. I stood outside the door and listened to the quiet rustling as she tried them on. The first items we chose were too big, so I went out to get the same styles a size smaller, which fortunately, was a more common size. As fate would have it, the style that fit her best was the only brand not on sale. She wanted eight, so I gathered a bouquet of them and headed straight for the register while she was still in the dressing room. I knew there would be trouble if my mother thought she was paying full price for these undergarments. She would make a scene. But I wanted her to have some quality underwear so they would last a little longer than the previous unraveling bunch.

I explained to the woman at the register that I needed to pay for the eight undergarments before my mother emerged from the dressing room because the price would upset her. She smiled knowingly, told me she had a coupon that could be used if I had a store credit card and she reassured me that she would try to speed up the transaction. I think she instinctively knew that this was in her best interest as well as mine.

The sale took a while longer than usual because I didn't have my store credit card with me—the only way to get the discount—so she had to look it up on the company database. She found it, but wasn't sure how to enter the coupon, so had to flag down a passing supervisor. All the while, I could picture my mother slowly reassembling her clothing, getting everything just so, picking up her sensible purse, leaving the dressing room and slowly plodding up to the register to claim her purchase.

The supervisor quickly entered the coupon and my mother received a substantial amount off. Even with the discount, the final cost would be more than she typically paid for underwear.

Just then, I saw Mom leaving the dressing room and heading up toward the register. I signed the credit card screen and pushed the green button to approve the amount. It all seemed to transpire in slow motion like a scene from Reservoir Dogs except without the cool sunglasses. Mom was halfway there. The register made a prolonged noise as it processed the transaction. Just as Mom reached the counter, the lingerie clerk tore the receipt off the register and handed it to me. I turned to Mom and passed her the bag of bras, while deftly stuffing the receipt into my purse.

It was well-timed. Mom was satisfied. The lingerie clerk was spared a public lecture about overpriced, shoddy merchandise. And I returned my mother to the comfort of her assisted living facility for dinner following a thankfully uneventful shopping trip.