Raising the Barre

I’ve never been skinny. I’ve made peace with the fact that I never will be. Really, I have.

There have been a few times in my life, however, when I’ve been fit. When I’ve felt strong and limber and good about my ability to move the way I want. The most recent of those involved dance class. Belly. Modern. Ballet.

It was a few years ago now that I was going to three or four dance classes a week. I’ve wanted to go back, but the combination of time and money and the dread of getting back on the wagon have held me back.

This morning that changed. This morning I went to my first barre class. Here’s how it went…

I showed up at the studio twenty minutes early. I was the first one there. The girl who checked me in assured me it was 1) nothing like ballet, 2) really hard, and 3) unlikely I’d be able to do the whole class. Then she sold me $20 grippy socks.

Don’t get me wrong. She wasn’t mean. In fact, I appreciated her saying she couldn’t do the whole class at first either. She pointed out the room and told me to grab a mat and pick my spot.

I entered the room. Funky mirrors hung on the walls; ballet barres lined the room. The instructor promptly asked if I could take off my shoes first. Right. I’d not noticed the cubbies when I’d arrived. (They weren’t pointed out either.)

I took off my sneakers, put on my (cute, hot pink) $20 socks, and tucked my things into a cubby. Another regular arrived and the three of them talked amongst themselves. I hovered awkwardly.

Other women (and one guy!) trickled in. I was definitely the chubbiest in the mix, but there was a range of ages and body types. I felt better. A couple of them told me what to expect and how to situate myself in the room.

Why is it that the older, non-skinny women are the kindest? Do they know what it’s like to feel out of place? Or have they settled into themselves and are actually happier and more confident than the younger, more perfect-bodied ones?

I like to think the latter. After all, there’s hardly a woman alive without some kind of baggage about her body. Even the ones who are much closer to society’s standards of perfect. The patriarchy does a bang up job on that front. Besides, it’s not like anyone was mean. They might be introverted people who are just as nervous about being there as I am.

Class began. Much sweat. Extensive muscle trembling. A couple of things I couldn’t do at all.

But the instructor said encouraging things, corrected my form a couple of times, then complimented it. I made it to the end. I didn’t throw up.  Or cry.

The verdict? An intense workout that taps into my affinity for form, posture, and grace. Not as much actual ballet as I’d like. Intimidating, but not unbearably so. I’m booked for another class on Wednesday.

4 thoughts on “Raising the Barre

  1. Karen says:

    I’m 20 years older than you. I think I have also finally made peace with the fact that I’ll always be heavy. To be honest, losing weight is hard and really boring. I’m too tired at age 56 to have it be the only thing I think about, which as you know it becomes everything you think about. Meal planning. Exercising. Tape measures and scales. I love to cook and I love good food and I’m one of those nuts that thinks that cooking good meals is how I take care of my family. I wish I weren’t like that.

    I will give you this advice though. If you don’t do it in your 30s you’ll never do it. It just gets harder to accomplish and we become more set in our ways. I had a baby at age 38 but before that I was on track to finally get my body and fitness in order. After that I had the superior attitude that I wasn’t going to work all day then go to a gym when I had a child to raise. By the time he was 10 it became impossible to make any more headway than to get off 20 pounds. I had a heart attack last year on April 23, and immediately I got 15 pounds off and have managed to keep it off. But I’ll probably never progress beyond that because I’m just tired and as the kid said, “Mom, nobody is looking at you anyway.” That’s a hard realization, that no one is looking at you anymore.

  2. Avery says:

    It’s great that you went to the class and that you are going back! So many times the fear of failure or what other people will think of me have held me back from trying new things, but when I’ve set those fears aside and have just gone for it, it’s been exhilarating!

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