I am all about grooving to Rihanna's evocations of a poorly mannered young man's erectile difficulties. But hip-thrusting to "Rude Boy" with 25 middle-aged women at the Alexandria First Presbyterian Church in my small, rural hometown of "No, I Do Not Know Snooki," N.J., seems a little ... incongruous.
Not so during Zumba. When the fitness dance craze swept the nation, it swept me into the multipurpose room of my local church. And there I was on the morning of Christmas Eve, reunited with my favorite two dozen mostly white, almost uniformly middle-aged, and variably overweight ladies, ringing in the holidays with some good-'ol-fashioned booty shaking.
These women—classroom mothers, elementary school teachers, members of the Rosary Society and Ladies t—are not the people you would picture gyrating to reggaeton. But that's what I love about Zumba.
Where else but hometown Zumba can I join my retired high school English teacher—a tiny, flame-haired, flamboyantly Jersey woman—as she "back[s] it up like a Tonka truck;" or witness that church lady, who is roughly 75 years old and skinny as a breadstick, "jiggl[ing] that bit;" or cheer on my friend's mother as she "shake[s] it like a Polaroid picture?"
As the class nears its end, our instructor, Jeanie, whose personality is as peppy as her gluts are toned, pulls me to the front to help lead a song. As Jeanie models the move I am to follow—a pelvic scoop and gyration—I experience a moment of epiphany. My education, at home and school, is fluid: both college and Zumba have taught me a thing or two about hip-thrusting.
The ladies notice. "I'm not sending my daughter to Harvard!," someone shouts amid cheering as the song ends, and I, high on exercise-induced endorphins and the exhilaration of homecoming, return to my spot in the back.