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Confessions of a Proverbs 32 Woman: How I Went from Messed Up to Blessed Up Without Changing a Single Thing
by Kerri Pomarolli
Learn More | Meet Kerri Pomarolli
Jazz Class Groupon
I really did it this time. I blame Groupon.
In my infinite wisdom, I decided to take a jazz class last night. Jazz class is a happy part of my childhood, and I guess I signed up on a day when I was feeling rather good about myself, in that “I can fit into my skinny jeans so I can conquer the world” kind of way. I’d been dieting like a mad woman for this ridiculous high school reunion. I tried on the sequined outfit I wore to the last reunion...and it fit! I mean, it really fit. Not just in that way where you have to hold your breath.
But just because the jeans fit doesn’t necessarily mean we should move on to the Lycra and the leg warmers that have been under the bed for ten years. But no one told me this, so I suited up and went to the dance studio. The sign should have been my first clue that this wasn’t going to be exactly what I expected. The studio was called Celestial Expressions, and the girl on the billboard looked more like a Gumby rubber toy than a dancer.
Here’s how it went:
Tammy, the Perky Desk Clerk: Hello, can I help you? (So, obviously she thought I was a Mary Kay salesperson and in no way was I there to take a jazz class.)
Me: I’m here for the class.
Tammy: What class?
Me: The jazz class at 7:00 p.m.
Tammy (with a look of terror on her face as she tried to hide her horror at my parachute pants): “Ohhhhh, I’m sorry. Studio A. Right down the hall. Tiffany Amber Jasmine will be with you in five minutes as soon as she’s done with her charcoal ice cream.”
Since the teacher’s name was Tiffany Amber Jasmine, I could assume she’d just graduated from twelfth grade, at best. If the teacher was named Madame Olga, Dawn, or Jennifer, then there was a fighting chance she would be close to my age. But not Tiffany. Tiffanies are cute and perky. They wear bouncing ponytails, chew pink bubble gum, eat pasta for dinner, and never gain an ounce.
I walked into the studio, and there were literally three girls there. When I say girls, I mean girls…as in high school. They were in a huddle discussing the trauma of their school’s new policy on uniforms, and they were very worried about how tenth grade was going to be much more demanding than ninth. The tall girl in the middle looked my way with an expression that seemed to say, “Haven’t I babysat for one of your kids?”
They continued their conversation without including me, so I sat down on the floor and searched for my phone so I could look popular. Thankfully I hadn’t yet deleted Facebook from my phone (yes, I eventually did that, but more on that later), and I immediately went to my safe place, since I’m very well-liked on Facebook. That is why I carry my phone with me everywhere, in case of moments like these.
I heard one of them say to the others, “I know, it’s, like, um, so on point ’cause I, like, um, get to do the thing, like, every day.” The other girls who spoke her language nodded in total agreement, understanding every word she said.
After nine unbearably long minutes, Tiffany (“I’m so beautiful and skinny and I eat cupcakes for breakfast with my organic kale açai smoothie and weigh 104”) walked in. She was clearly old. And by old, I mean 20. She said, “Okay, guys, welcome to jazz basic. I’m Tiff, and we’re going to do a lot of floor work and turns and leaps tonight. Let’s start our warm-up with an oldie but goodie.”
I was thinking she’d play Michael Jackson, or maybe my man Prince. But then she turned on a Beyoncé song. (So apparently Beyoncé is really old now. If you come out with a hit song and then you have a baby, you are put out into pop culture oblivion. Unless your name is Madonna.)
The music was playing and all four of us jazz divas were doing the warm-up. Except that my muscles hadn’t done any warm-ups like those in literally ten years. I used to dance. I used to be somebody! I used to be a contender! When I took classes back in the day, I’d see these moms sneaking into my classes, all with their Fosse jazz hands, trying to keep up. Back then, in NYC at Steps Studio, I’d say to myself, “May I never be like one of those old ladies in their (gasp!) thirties.” Then I’d laugh with my six-pack abs flexing in my dish towel of a top!
My mom was a Jazzercise diva in her day, and I remember judging her too. “May I never be like my mother, Barbara, who dragged me to her Jazzercise classes where I sat on the floor eating Cheerios and watching middle-aged women run in place singing ‘Maniac’ on the dance floor.” And in case that’s not enough of a mental picture, it gets worse. You should have seen them wagging their hips and marching in place, singing, “I Will Survive!” by Donna Summer. These images are burned into the memories of my childhood.
So there I was, now the mom doing my best to look cool. As I looked at these tenth graders wearing the same rainbow leg warmers I had in high school, it hit me that the new dancewear styles are throwbacks to the ’80s and ’90s, so I actually did fit right in, at least in the wardrobe department. (So here’s a tip for you: never throw anything away; just put it under the bed for at least ten years. It will come back in style.)
The warm-up was difficult. It’s hard to explain, but let me try to give you a visual. Tiffany was lifting one leg up high by her ear while standing. I imagined she was a Twister national champion. She then asked us to show her our center splits. Center splits? That is not natural. My legs hadn’t been in that position since the last time I gave birth. And as the mother of two daughters, I knew that if I attempted this position, I just might pee on myself. Still, I couldn’t be shown up by the young’uns. So I spread my legs as far as they would go...and then I got stuck. I was not in the splits, but I was not standing up either. I was exactly smack-dab in the middle, forming some kind of crooked V with my legs, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get up or roll over. My hamstrings were cramping with the worst charley horse pain you can imagine.
I didn’t want anyone to know. The other girls were fully and comfortably stretched into their split positions. (I’d like to see them go through the births of two kids and give it a try then.) I used my arms to try to push my legs harder and wider apart, and that’s when I audibly heard the tendons in my thighs ripping to shreds. I realized at this point that I was not going any farther down. So I used my arms to grab on to each thigh and pull myself up to safety, all while waving my jazz hands and sparkle fingers.
Tiffany was very clued into my difficulty and tried not to draw any attention to me, for which I was grateful. The question on her face seemed to ask, “Do we need an ambulance?” But she just nodded at me and said, “Um…do as much as you can!”
Do as much as you can? Do as much as you can? Do you know what that means? It means, “Don’t overdo it, old lady, because when you fall and break a hip, I don’t want to get sued. And I don’t know why you’re even here in the first place. You should probably go to Jazzercise.”
I just smiled and kept my hips moving from side to side, like I was working on a new move.
I wasn’t about to be outdone by the Teen Squad. It was time for leaps and turns across the floor. Here was my chance. I used to rock this! I knew I had it in me, and the first round wasn’t half bad. I did some leaping and turning, and I didn’t even fall down. Did I experience extreme vertigo? Yes, of course. Did the room seem to spin in 14 directions, causing me to feel like I had just ridden Space Mountain at Disneyland? Yes, absolutely. Did I have to focus with great intensity just to walk in a straight line back to my spot? Yes, but I did it! Mission accomplished! No falling! And no blood!
Unfortunately, for the next go across the floor, I was feeling overly confident. Have you ever heard of Mikhail Baryshnikov? I think, in that moment, I thought I was him. I thought I’d add a little split into my leaps, so I geared up like an Olympic athlete. With jazz fingers spread and eyes focused, I did a few runs. I thrust my legs into the air and attempted a scissors-type motion before landing. Attempted is the key word in this sentence. I know I should give myself an A for effort, but I also know my legs hadn’t tried to do anything like this maneuver, um, ever. And so, instead of scissor-kicking, my muscles rebelled. They decided to set their own personal boundary. I stopped mid-air and landed on the ground with a loud thud.
Luckily, Lady Gaga was loud enough on the boom box to drown out the sound of my elephant landing. I just smiled and sashayed back to my place. With each additional run across the floor, I gave it my all. I was a maniac on that dance floor for sure! Flashdance had nothing on me.
I looked at the clock, and it was time for class to be over. Our lovely, energetic teacher said, “You guys are so awesome. Let’s go another 15 minutes, okay?” Well, of course I had to stay and torture myself. She put us through some more combinations and across-the-floor moves. I did every single one without bleeding. It was like an out-of-body experience. My mind was saying, “Yes, you can do this!” and my body was saying, “Please don’t make me do this!”
When class was over I collected my things and what was left of my dignity, and I hobbled to the car. As I walked into the house that night, I said to my family, “Kids, tonight Mommy was a rock star dancer!”
And then I fell onto the couch and said, “Can somebody get me the Bengay?”
Okay, I’m not sure I have found some deep spiritual lesson in the whole dance class experience, but it definitely showed me how big God’s sense of humor is. I could hear Him laughing at me from heaven! He gave me my love of dancing when I was three years old, so He must have a perfect place for me to express it. Maybe the perfect place is in the privacy of my own home, doing dance parties in my living room with my girls.
I wonder if they had dance parties in Bible times. I mean, from what I hear, King David was a dancing maniac too. Did you hear about the time his wife bawled him out after he was literally “Dancin’ in the Streets”? Can you blame her? I heard he was naked!
I also wonder if the Proverbs 31 Woman worked out. Maybe she didn’t have to, since her whole life was physical labor. I think she had to walk six miles each way, just to get water. Anyway, all the clothes in the Bible sound pretty baggy, so maybe it didn’t matter to her if she was fat or thin. Funny, God never talks much about fitness in the Bible. He just says that our body is a temple. And, as one of my comedian friends used to deadpan, “I’m building a megachurch!”
But I only get one go-around in this life, and as long as God gives me a healthy body, I’m gonna work it. It’s good to challenge ourselves and do things that scare us. We get busy with life, jobs, relationships, and kids, but there’s no time like the present to do the things we’ve been meaning to do. I had been meaning to go to a class like that for a long time and I finally did it. I’m glad I tried.
Maybe I’ll take another dance class in the future, since I found one called “Dance It Out—for Baby Boomers.” It sounds like it’s just my speed and style. There is only one problem...it’s at the Senior Citizen Center, and I’ll have to get a fake ID that says I’m 55 to get in. Now, you probably think I’m joking about that. But they literally told me I couldn’t come to the boomers’ class because I’m not old enough. So I’m too old for hip-hop jazz, and now I’m too young for boomers. Once again I feel like a square peg in a round hole. I suppose you could say that’s been the theme of my life—never fitting in.
I used to make fun of comedians who did age jokes. I promised myself I’d never become one of those “old ladies” longing for yesteryear. But here I am...Pot...Kettle...Black. And maybe it’s a question I need to ask myself. Am I okay with the age I am and the body I have? Okay, probably every woman reading this just shouted, “Nooooooo!”
I get you. I’m with you. I live in LA where no one ages. They just get Botox—and fillers and liposuction and face lifts. I mean, seriously, even Betty White’s forehead is smooth. So it’s strange that I never thought about aging until this recent experience. Most of the time I don’t feel like I’m a day over 25 (although at this precise moment my body feels like I could check myself into an assisted living facility and they’d take me, no questions asked). I still sometimes feel as though I should be able to do everything I could do when I was 20, with the same amount of ease. After all, we see celebrities every single day who are fighting a battle against Father Time quite splendidly—and winning! And they also promise us that we can look exactly like them if we buy their skincare products and workout equipment. We also forget they are mostly airbrushed in the photographs of them doing their “yogalates” and “cardio barre.” The only exceptions are Cindy Crawford, Sophia Loren, and of course Robert Downey Jr. But they are immortal.
The question I have for myself and for you is: How can I find balance between being okay with who I am right now and still wanting to take on new challenges? I mean, it doesn’t sound as if the women in the Bible worried about aging. They mostly lived to be over 100, and some of them were even bearing children in those years. (When my daughter asked me for a little brother years ago, I told her I was too old. She replied, “No way, Mom! Sarah was 80 when she had her first kid!” All that Bible school backfires on me every so often.)
I want to learn from the women in the Bible, but I also realize we are living in a totally different society. They were worried about literal survival in the face of famines and boils and plagues. They were happy to live to see another birthday. I’m worried about getting thinner thighs and trying to do a center split to impress girls I could have given birth to.
And speaking of the girls I actually did give birth to, my two daughters seem to like me just fine the way I am. They crawl in bed with me, and they tell me I’m the most cuddly mama in the world. I don’t think I would be so cuddly if I were as thin as the models in magazines. They just look angry and hungry.
Whose approval am I really searching for? Mine? God’s? My family’s and friends’? All of the above, I suppose. I need to pare that list down to the basics. God gave me this body that, by His grace, gets up and walks and talks and drives and dances and functions, for the most part quite nicely. He also gave me the desire to bust a move every once in a while.
So I think I’m going to continue the tradition in my house that we like to call “Holy Spirit Dance Party.” We put on some Kirk Franklin praise music and jam out in my living room. It burns calories and teaches my kids that Christian music can be cool and funky too. (Oh, snap! Did I just actually write the word funky? As in Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch? Yes, it’s official—I am 105. But I look gooood for that age, girl!)
Hey, that reminds me of what my mother always told me: “The older we say we are, the better we look for our age!”
So what about you? Got any secret desire to try something crazy and fun? (Did I inspire or scare you? Maybe both?) Have you ever wanted to do something crazy but were too afraid of what others would think?
No matter how you feel, I hope you will think of me the next time you get out there and “Jam on It”!
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ice my thighs.
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