“In the Pink” is a series about one girl’s search for spiritual, mental, and physical health in a world that values the always grinding mentality. Here, the importance of the phrase “shake the booties” is revealed.
I am about to faint. I can feel moisture accumulating around my neck. Is it sweat? Blood? I can’t even be sure it’s my own.My ankle throbs from a clumsy incident moments ago when I twisted it and almost fell to my doom. Sweat shoots at my eyes like bullets and my glasses are slipping off the bridge of my nose. My heart is pumping so hard I can feel the vibration throughout my entire body with ever boom-Boom… boom-BOom… boom BOOM… My hearing is muffled and I can barely keep my eyes open. My thighs are honest-to-god trembling. I want to cry. I want to quit. But that’s when I hear those words that keep me going: “Shake the booties!”
And just like that, I am reborn.
“Shake the booties! Come on, shake it,” screams Sharon, my five-foot-nothing Zumba instructor.
And man, do I ever. I shake my butt left, right, front, back, up, down, all around. My ankle doesn’t even hurt anymore. This is why I push through the squatting and jumping jacks in the choreography. This is why I allow myself to be tricked into high knees and half-lunges. For the inevitable twerking that Sharon rewards us with.
I started going to Zumba one month ago. If you ever want to hang out Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., I’m unavailable. I’ve got a weekly date with Sharon and 15 other women who are closer to my grandmother’s age than my own. The first day I showed up, I saw the age demographic and panicked. “Am I in the wrong class?”
Pop culture really fed me this idea that Zumba was a bunch of hot, young women dancing like they’re in the club. You know the image, right? Stylish tracksuit with a slicked back ponytail that doesn’t move no matter how much she’s sweating? Well, that’s what I imagined. And that’s why I put off joining for years.
I’ve always liked working up a sweat. Marathon training, volleyball, and cheer conditioning kept me healthy and glowing as a teenager. But my 23-year-old self is slower and more easily exhausted these days. Going up a flight of stairs can kill my entire mood now. Getting up from a cross-legged position involves a lot more grunting than it used to. I knew I had to do something about this. When I completed the L.A. Marathon (26.2 miles, thank you very much) at 12 years old, I saw so many people in their 60’s and 70’s. I was in awe and inspired. I wanted to be their age and still moving my body with that same youthful ease.
I knew I would have to put it in the work now to see the results later. These incredible people I spotted at 10Ks and 15Ks didn’t wake up one day at 65 years old and decide to run marathons. I mean, maybe some of them. I genuinely don’t know. But if I had to guess, I’d say they developed good habits when they were younger. It was while I was huffing and puffing climbing some stairs last month that I said “enough is enough.” Who cares if these hot Zumba girls could move like J-Lo and I cried real tears when I worked out too hard? The only way I’m going to get to music-video-background-dancer level is if I go and allow myself to be a beginner.
So I signed up and showed up. I walked in and there were about four women stretching their arms and legs. I towered over them at a humble 5 feet 7 inches. As more women trickled in, I was surprised. They were the same age as the marathon runners who had been in the back of my mind this past decade. That first class was hard, sweaty and full of so much laughter. These women were so kind and fun. They moved freely to the music and didn’t worry if they missed a step.
Zumba has been a non-negotiable ever since. I go every week to keep my body active and my heart healthy. I expected to get my butt kicked by the 60 minutes of dancing and to struggle with all the squats. What I didn’t expect was for it to keep my spiritual and emotional health in check, too. When I study too much and feel burnt out or neglect getting the right amount of sleep for a week, Zumba has managed to be a very present, mindful one hour where I shake my butt with 15 grandmas.
If you find that thing in your life that makes you feel as happy as I do when I twerk with senior citizens, let me know. Because so far, Sharon yelling “shake the booties” takes the cake.