I find it amusing, at the least, that after 52 years I finally found some form of exercise that I can be passionate about. Given that I was always the clumsiest and least athletic kid around, it's probably obvious why I loathed P.E. classes. I honestly tried to learn to play softball and basketball, but I could never seem to hit the ball, or the goal. Stamina, well, I had a plodding kind of long-term stamina in that I could keep going and going and going rather like an Energizer Slug, if there were such a thing. But any kind of intense exertion wore me down in short order.
The only tolerable parts of junior high P.E. were when we did square dancing. There, even though I was still not totally coordinated, I could at least acquit myself competently. When it came time to suffer through six quarters of P.E. in college, I remembered that and took folk dance, ballet, jazz, and tap to get myself through. I might have continued with one or another, but none of them really sang to me plus opportunity never cooperated.
In graduate school, I took up racquetball but there again, clumsiness and lack of burst stamina kept me from becoming any good. I never could crawl out of the bottom half of the bottom league there in Cleveland, and once we moved to Atlanta motherhood took over. Over the years I tried running (in junior high under Dad's orders), aerobics classes, and even the local YMCA and women's gym, but those were always a chore. I might consistently go for three months, five months, but sooner or later I found some sort of excuse to slack off and then quit.
Then I started hearing about bellydance classes, but they were all down in Midtown or further, and I wasn't about to go to that length. Besides, I was intimidated, by that time being neither young nor skinny. My sister started sporadically taking classes and enjoyed them, but I was still intimidated. Then Andrea found a studio, women only, and twisted my arm to go with her to a walk-in workout. Much to my surprise, I was neither the oldest nor the heaviest woman there. After a few weeks I decided to try a six-week class. I still felt clumsy and uncoordinated and inept, but something inside just clicked, perhaps because I did see that over the six weeks I was starting to "get it."
That was sixteen months ago. Since then I have established that Tuesday and Thursday nights are "dance class night." I've performed in the last two studio shows. I'm planning on dancing in the studio's anniversary Hafla on Saturday…twice! I buy cute dance clothes, which have spilled over a bit into my regular wardrobe. I practice shimmys standing in the stacks at Borders. I do chest circles at stop lights. And even though I consider myself still very much a beginner, and have no intention or aspiration to perform more than casually, I call myself a dancer, a bellydancer.