My Life in Sweats: Fitting In

Day 2: I have successfully infiltrated my urban dance classes and eliminated their suspicions. My college-aged peers smile at me when I use their language and seem very receptive. At the beginning of class I remarked to one girl, “Yo, chillin’ home fresh cool breeze, those moves be fly. Word to ya mutha.” The mix of emotion on her face was truly something to behold. It went from surprise to confusion to a struggle to hold in a smile. My compliment made her feel joy! It was beautiful. When it came time to show off my moves I left the room speechless with my cabbage patch. My high school-aged peers acted as if they were seeing this dance for the first time. Nailed it! They will never guess that I am twice or in some cases even three times their age. Will continue to share intel with you as I learn their secrets.

I don’t often think about whether or not what I’m doing/saying/wearing is cool but that has changed since I began all of these new dance classes. On the second day of class I wore what I consider to be cool yet quirky or maybe artsy. “This should pass for something hip-hoppy,” I said, convinced. Somehow I still managed to stand out like Bob Ross in a mosh pit. This only hardened my resolve to find the right fashion formula. I’m trying to balance the fine line of “sad old lady trying to look half her age” and “hey that lady has a little style” hoping to eventually be in a place where these younger people see nothing but a dancer. “Oh yeah her? That’s just Sue Anne.” I observed how they dress and found that it’s usually a loose t-shirt and sweatpants. In one class an amazing young woman wore some billowy sweats with a tight cropped shirt. Maybe one day I’ll terrify these kids with my white stomach, but only after I’ve developed a six pack. Poor things. They won’t be able to look away but it will probably blind them in the process. I should show them mercy no matter how awesome my abs might become and just keep these rocks covered. They don’t deserve that.

I hit the thrift stores with my new intel and my daily wardrobe has completely transformed. Adding to my already cool Beastie Boys and Star Wars shirts I’ve found several other t-shirts that have a fresh hip hop feel to them. I remembered that I’ve ordered crazy Japanese stickers from this cool website, www.sumofish.com, and that they also sell the same designs as t-shirts. I purchased several. Adidas, Puma, and Nike seem to be the brands of choice with Adidas rising to the top. Maybe their three-striped articles of clothing just happen to be the most recognizable. I now own several pairs of Adidas sweatpants among a few other brands. This is probably the most comfortable wardrobe I’ve ever had. And hey, shopping for new (used) clothes is fun. I’m starting to receive a few compliments on my fashion choices! It is a fantastic release of dopamine. (An alternate origin of the word “dope.”)

Let me just tell you though, that everyone in this culture has been nothing but nice and accepting of me from the very beginning. My feeling of not fitting in is probably mostly in my head. But guys… c’mon… I’m sure when the kids saw this unfamiliar elderly woman sitting in the lobby (where all of the parents wait for their kids to get out of dance class) get up and JOIN them in class, well, here’s what I envision went through their heads:

  • “This old lady is lost.”
  • “Some poor kid’s mom must be mixing alcohol and muscle relaxers.”
  • “WTF?”
  • “Are we being filmed for a reaction video or something?”
  • “Is this what a cougar looks like?”

While I don’t doubt that these thoughts did arise in some form, here’s a few things that were actually said to me:

  • “Wow! You are popping! I saw you on the first day of class and you’ve already improved so much!”
  • “Hey! Don’t worry! All of us are learning here.”
  • “Just focus on your progress.”

I’ve also gotten some very chill fist bumps from a silent but extremely talented student and several subtle twitches of a gun shaped hand or soft utterances of the word “hey” when the class approves of a move I’ve made. A particularly nice reward is a final judgement of “dope” or “fire” after I’ve performed an improvisational dance of what I think is popping or krump or hip hop (flavored by belly dance). During one of my rounds in popping class I caught another student out of the corner of my eye mimicking one of my moves to try it out for himself. This right here is the highest compliment I may have received so far.

I’d also like to point out that while I am mos def the outlier where age is concerned, this sampling of the population is otherwise completely diverse. I see black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, and Arab roots in my fellow dancers. I see no judgement, no angry accusations of cultural appropriation, only support and encouragement. It’s been that way since the first day. On a drive home a few nights ago while still high from class, exhausted, and covered in sweat, I had a deep thought: How pure is this, that people of all ages, sizes, economic backgrounds, and races get together and celebrate life by moving their bodies together in dance?

So yeah. I think I am making progress on all fronts. I look forward to continuing to share this experience with you all.

Nothing to see here. Move along. Love,

~S

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