Let it be known that I am not a fat ass. I am on the treadmill for a half hour every night. I don’t mean just standing on it while I watch TV because the gym has cable. I mean walking on a moving treadmill while reading novels upward of 400 pages. I can feel my heart beating, not like a love song, like a psychological thriller, because if I don’t step lightly and balance the book, it will fall off the stand and I will trip over it, slamming my jaw on the hand bar, biting off my tongue and swallowing it as I gasp for breath, face planting on the treadmill and riding it like a backwards waterslide, until I splash into a pool of my own blood on the floor, surrounded by a gorgeous cloud of chiseled witnesses.
Disregarding my commitment to not dying prematurely – physically or socially – one of my friends, Beth, extended an invitation to a class at Diversity Fitness. I was afraid we would be the diversity. I was afraid that some black woman, like Isis in Bring it On, would say, “can’t even break a sweat without white people breakin’ it up.”
But upon entry, there were bodies of every shape and color – even shapeless and white. While I wasn’t inspired to give a scientific presentation defending white as a color, I wasn’t uncomfortable. Probably because we were joined by my subtly-but-definitely-Hispanic friend Brianna.
We found a spot near the back, by the vending machine stocked with vitamin water. I hadn’t brought any water with me. I wasn’t planning on sweating that much. The class was called Latin Cardio, and I thought it would be fun, exotic – not really exercise – exoticise. A little vacation from my normal workout.
Near the end of the first song, I began to understand there are benefits to a fat ass. When it’s kicked, it’s not as painful. And when it’s time to shake it, you got some salt in the shaker. And this was a class of Shakers – religiously bootylicious.
At one point we were ordered to engage in a dance-off, like West Side Story. That reference is perhaps not appropriate for Diversity Fitness. Or Latin Cardio. Nonetheless, we faced each other, Brianna and I, taking turns shaking our tukhuses. It was a bizarre sort of urban mating ritual, in which I was not the most flamboyant, and therefore not the man. This was a cause and effect to which I was totally unaccustomed.
The dictator – dominatrix – instructor – seemed to have no threshold. After a good threshing, I looked at the clock. “We’re not even halfway through,” I croaked. Seemingly in response to this, the instructor raised a finger to each cheek, coaching us to smile, like a stage mom. Scared, I smiled. Then there were more songs with a beat that my ass could not follow.
I’ve heard that many spouses share the bathroom during any of its myriad uses. A fitness class is a bit like that. You’re around these people during some rather compromising positions, and after awhile you really don’t care. Yeah, this is my ass. When’s the next movement?
Afterwards, as we all stood outside speculating whether we’d have to call in sick because our muscles would be hungover, the instructor walked by. “Thanks, guys,” she said. “Thank you,” I gushed, wondering if I was experiencing a kind of Stockholm syndrome. I had tried to move with her, tried to make myself work with her. She had almost killed me, but not quite, and – I remembered, as an October breeze cooled the sweat on my back – I was free.