While breakups often equal melodrama; it's not all tragedy. Hell, appetite loss alone kick started dropping the long relationship "comfort" weight I'd put on. When my depression diet had done all it could, I handled the rest the old fashioned way. Goodbye bonbons and soap operas; I got my buxom bum to the gym.
I became a regular in a weight training class taught by a no nonsense gay with boot camp demeanor. Though he sneered and chided us through our wimpy sputtering reps; I didn't mind his tough love approach. Exercise was meant to be difficult. No pain no gain as they say. Plus, getting critisized by a man who didn't want to have sex with me was not so unlike my defunct relationship. This felt right.
While I waited for the difficult session ahead, I amused myself watching (and feeling embarrassed for) the class which came before; a room full of uncoordinated, scarlet faced people gyrating somewhat lewdly to Latin music. As we serious weight lifters and our stern instructor replaced these drenched, smiling dancers, with mild disgust I witnessed departing students rush into a line to hug their sweat soaked teacher. 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, awake hours before my regular class and restless for the gym, sleep deprivation bested me, and I decided to check out this Zumba fuss first hand. No easy task I soon learned; requiring getting on a lengthy list, and braving a line of pushy women eager to claim dance floor territory. 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, squeaking tennis shoe rubber, fake eyelashes, and bad perfume. As I was pushed from behind by a Chinese woman half my size and twice my age, I questioned my own sanity. But once the doors swung open, it was too late to turn back. These Zumbaholics charged, carrying me along in their wake.
Several arguments erupted in this tidal wave's aftermath, as groups of allied ladies fell into turf disputes. The Jets and the Sharks went on this way for a good ten minutes; and I was growing weary. Finally battles faught and won, we waited. When at long last Don Julio breezed through the door, he was met like a celebrity by the cheering crowd of eager dancers. My gawd! Was this an Usher concert, or an exercise class? He said nothing; simply put the music on and began to dance.
Was this really him? A short, B rate, B boy version of Mario Van Peebles? I was not impressed with the package or lack of punctuality. My smitten classmates however, were undisturbed, falling quikly and happily into step all around me. I was a fish out of water. From my corner, I could barely see what was happening, let alone follow the foreign movements. As I struggled, I noticed the usual suspects from weight training gathering outside, now curiously watching me through the glass doors. Ugh! Whose face was red? I diverted my eyes, pin pointed the clock, and started counting the minutes till this nonsense was over.
Song change. More jubilation from the crowd. And suddenly everything was transfigured. Don Julio reoriented, and much to the chagrin of those warriors who'd faught for their front row position, my shitty little corner spot became beach front property to our instructors wavelike undulations. Ok, admittedly, this guy had some suavemente moves, but whatever. I cared only that now I could finally see well enough to actually follow the choreography. A pelvic roll, a thrust, and the spinning of a lasso above my head for my imaginary horse?!? Learning the sequence, and dismissing my embarrassment took equal effort. It felt insane to be doing these crazy moves in public, under flourescent light, without the aid of several alcoholic beverages. And then it got even worse.
Pitbull's Hip Hop anthem "Pause" pounded over the speakers, as Don Julio began making his way through the crowd, rolling round his hips like the bastard love child of Elvis and Rico Suave. When he stopped in front of me, I was mortified. Dropping my eyes from his gaze, I was confronted with his hands slowly lifting his shirt, exposing the smooth, brown, rippling six pack he was caressing. I looked around me for some sort of support, or at least a witness. Should I even be watching this? Panicked, eyes up; he was now starring directly into my soul, 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." Um, did it just get really fucking hot in here? 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 this way. Somewhere in the limbo between gym and strip club, Magic Mike had straight up seduced me in the middle of Zumba.
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, front row. Pumping my abdomen, popping my chest, and riding my imaginary horse; ready to take out any and all who challenged me. All the while 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 from his entourage to chat me up over my steamy bath. My breakup was now yesterday's news. Just add bubbles and you had the sudsy makings of a dishy new daytime romance.
But the plot thickens. Needless to say, I wasn't the only lady in class vying for some of Don Julio's Dance Fever. Perhaps most noteworthy of the bunch, a mother and daughter duo who also never missed a class. Wearing color coordinated workout ensembles like a pair of Zumba super heroes, the two were hard to ignore The pretty young Latina never without a fully made up face, and her mother sporting a signature braid like a thick rope down her back. Wonder twin powers activate!
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 sweet about this display of familial pride. I fancied it a cultural difference, both charming and wholesome. And then the music started; and all musings on innocence melted from the heat radiating off this she-bitch. Nemesis revealed! If she was a super hero, her super power was Salsa dancing. Miss thing, whipping her hair back and forth, adding a saucy bump and grind to each dance sequence, was working it like a bionic Solid Gold dancer. Her moves were sizzling hot and screamed sex. All that, right in front of her mom. What the hell?
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 her mom looked like she could beat me up, or at least put me in a choke hold with that braid. Not just outmatched, I'd been out-Zumbaed! I stopped going to class, and accepted my defeat.
Several months after, I ran into another regular eager to dish 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. Hmph! 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 announced to a room of crying women (I kid you not) that he would no longer teach classes at that location. Dios Mio!
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, taking many different Zumba classes from a variety of great teachers. Going to class felt like a romantic escape, and I couldn't wait for more. 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; wading thru tall dry African Sahara grasses; stomping under an Amazonian canopy, dirty dancing in a sultry Havana tavern, or giving Jay-Lo a run for her money. My imagination ran wild.
Just as Zumba morphed Don Julio into a pseudo celebrity and his student into the ultimate vixen; dance had the power to transform the ordinary into something spectacular. Before and after class, we were still as different as could be. But in there -- men and women, of all sizes, ages, and races -- we were a bumping, grinding, sweat soaked Zumba tribe once again. Sure I still like to lift weights, but I've left the boot camp behind. And now I'm one of those red faced people gyrating lewdly to Latin music; but I wouldn't have it any other way. Who needs the drama of a relationship when you've got this? I think my friend Angie put it best when she said, "In Zumba, everyone is a star." It might look like a mess to the people looking in, but for those of us in there dancing, it's showtime.