15: All That Jiggles May Be Old

15: All That Jiggles May Be Old

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

All That Jiggles May Be Old

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.

~Chili Davis

Twice a week I take myself to what I secretly call my BHGLLD (hint — rhymes with jiggled) class. It has a different trade name, but I think of it as my Blue Haired Gringa Ladies Latin Dancing class. I can call it that because I happen to resemble the “BHGL” part of that remark, though I think the blond in my hair still edges out the white. Barely. But not enough to avoid using the purple shampoo that makes me fit right in with the rest of my classmates. Actually, I may bring the average age down a bit.

Unexpectedly, attending this class has me harking back to high school, and not just in a boy-do-I-feel-youthful-and-energetic-again way. There is a lot of hip shaking, shoulder shimmying, and pelvic thrusting, reminiscent of the action in front of the bleachers on Friday nights, let alone in the hallways between classes. Reminiscent, but in this iteration weirdly entertaining, as back then it was just nauseating. There are also the unspoken but hierarchical fashion norms, as some ladies proudly wearing (and working!) their belly dancer scarves with the shaky coins on them, and/or their BHGLLD official trade-name Spandex.

I’m probably creating more of a visual than you had anticipated. Sorry.

There are the flashy overachievers who consistently plant themselves inches behind the instructor so they can focus on their own strutting images in the front mirror.

Remember the hot shot in the front of the class who would shout out an answer before the teacher even finished asking a question? Mmm hmmm. She grew up to be the one to start prancing through a routine before the instructor has a chance to demonstrate the moves.

The introverts tend to gather in the back corners of the room, making no eye contact with anyone, and hardly able to see, let alone follow the instructor. Drably and loosely draped, they barely move in synch with the zealots, but smile, sweat, and come back again and again.

As in high school, the cliques in this community are impenetrable. Their members arrive early, within seconds of each other, stake out their territory and guard it more fiercely than rival gangs. Any new and therefore unsuspecting intruder is gradually and systematically salsa-ed out of the elite zone as class progresses, until flattened directly against the side mirror. The orchestration of this maneuver by all the clique members is really quite impressive.

For a few weeks I noticed the cliques were all wearing the same blinding neon color. Rumor had it that they were deciding among themselves each day which color they would wear to the next class. When the suggestion was made that everyone could participate if they would assign a color to a certain day of the week, such as Monday being yellow day, one of the ringleaders decided it wouldn’t be “special” anymore, so they decided to quit doing it at all.

There are a few unique, or “token” attendees, such as a couple of men and a pair of über-youngsters who appear to be barely out of high school. These two are the artistic types, willowy and excessively expressive, gyrating in their eyeliner and musical theater T-shirts. The male of the pair has only come a few times, but he looks like a keeper.

BHGLLD class has become one of many new routines in my life since I quit working my eight to five job and joined my husband in trying to make a success of our small business. I have found many such positive routines, but the one negative is the significant decrease in social stimulation. The major change in my schedule does not jibe with my buddies who are still working weekdays, so I have been open to finding new acquaintances who share my current interests and timetable. So far, as you can probably tell, somewhat like high school, BHGLLD class has had few if any likely candidates.

One day I came in after the warm-up song had started, as usual, and tried to slip myself into a “neutral zone” opening as surreptitiously as possible. It had been a few weeks since I had attended, having planned, then survived, my daughter’s wedding and gone on vacation thereafter. I glanced back to the introvert corner and apologized to a gray-clad, mousy-looking lady with glasses, asking if she could still see the instructor. She surprised me by actually looking me right in the eye and responding, saying with a smile that it didn’t make any difference to her dancing whether she could see or not. Since then, whenever I come in, she has jokingly elbowed me aside or otherwise teased me about “these people who come in late and think they can stand wherever they want.”

On a subsequent morning I noticed that she was happily chatting with another lady whom I did not recognize, but who absolutely fit right in the introvert corner as well. But wait, I guess not, because they were happily chatting. I maneuvered my way into a small opening, and between songs my new acquaintance jokingly and loudly pointed out to her new acquaintance how I had “barged in” and blocked their view.

The three of us are now not only on a first-name basis, but we cover each other’s backs. They position themselves to keep a space for me when I am inevitably late. One of them has a short-term bladder, so we other two “guard” her spot when she leaves to use the bathroom during class. I know the name of one’s grandson, and which plants are the other’s favorites in her garden. So far we haven’t made plans together outside of class, but it feels as if it’s definitely headed in that direction. Even so, we aren’t a clique. At least not yet.

~Robin Calkins Gwozdz

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