Fossil of a Gar

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A couple of weeks ago I found a program that offers an adult gymnastics class on Thursdays. A beginner’s adult gymnastics class:

I walk into the building a little apprehensive, the way I always do when I go into a new place where I won’t know a soul. I have no idea what to expect, what my teacher will be like, what my classmates will be like. A distracted receptionist points me in the general direction of the gym. Uncertain, I make my way there, pitifully holding on to my registration paper with both hands. A little voice in my head keeps telling me to just drop the whole thing and go on home, it’s getting late, go on home and watch Desperate Housewives. But I don’t. I walk through the gym doors and… the smell, the children shouting, the coaches with their crisp polo’s and lose sweatpants, all of it hits me at once. Oh god, what am I doing back in P. E. class?

I stand dumbfounded for about five minutes. I look around in circles trying to find figure out where I belonged, but I am near-sighted and have no idea what anybody looks like. I must have been a pitiful sight to see because eventually someone approaches to ask me if I need any help. Ha!

My teacher is an older man of around seventy years. He seems kind and easy-going and looks like he knows how to tell a joke. There are a lot of teenagers, maybe four or five–way more than what I am comfortable being around. There is a mom with a little girl. In total there is about thirteen or fourteen of us. We are still only sitting around in a circle, but I can already tell there are some who are definitely not beginners and will make me look like a fool. Sigh…Right about now I could be finding out if Lynette’s husband cheated on her or not. The beginners are not hard to point out either. We are scared and it shows.

There are only four real beginners in the class, five with the little girl. The rests are ex gymnasts and the teenagers who are only there to train for cheerleading try-outs. The coach tells us the other groups in the gym have nicknamed his adult beginner students “The Flying Fossils” which is hilarious. Of course we all laugh, but then it hits me…nothing is really funny unless there is some truth to it. I am only twenty-three and, though not technically a fossil, I already belong to the older crowd; The crowd nobody wants to invest in. There are only two places that offer adult beginner classes in Houston, because it’s kind of a waste of time and space. No one would be training to be in the olympics (or any other competition for that matter). And no, I don’t want to be a gymnast, but it dawns on me: opportunities are starting to close.

Thankfully, we don’t sit around for long. And thankfully, the coach is easy-going and, therefore, so is the class. You do what you can, don’t worry about what you can’t. As we start the warm up exercises, I realize I am also thankful for the accelerated students because the coach’s instructions aren’t very clear, so I just look to them to see what to do. Of course I can’t do it, but at least I know what he wants me to do.

After doing stretches that make me wish it hadn’t been three years since the last time I did yoga, he asks us to skip. I am laughing so hard inside my head, I can’t pay attention. Who the hell skips? The accelerated students look extra funny because they are skipping all serious. The beginners feel ridiculous, so of course we look ridiculous. The only one that looks right is the five-year old girl. But there is more. Next he wants cartwheels! I don’t know how to do cartwheels. I don’t think I ever knew how to do cartwheels. If I ever knew, it is immediately clear that doing cartwheels is not like riding a bike. You do, in fact, forget how to do cartwheels. I put both hands on the ground, but god only knows what’s going on with my legs.

It only gets harder and more embarrassing from there.

The trampoline is actually pretty fun. Still ridiculous and embarrassing, but more fun. Until he tells us he needs to teach us how to fall. It was like that in yoga too. You’re gonna fail and they know that. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the pose, but if you fall, fall with grace. The trampoline, at least for beginners, makes it really hard, if not impossible, to be graceful. I am told to get on all fours like a dog and jump. Then from doggy land on my belly and back to doggy. Over and over again. I look ridiculous and can feel my face turning red and serious. Why am I doing this? Why are any of us doing this? There are other ways to exercise. It is obvious none of us are here to seriously train for anything. There’s gotta be a reason.

A recent post by Dr. Quack nails it: when we are kids we can’t wait to be older; when we are old we are always looking back at our childhood. We are trying to rekindle a side of us we haven’t seen in a long time, however romanticized it may be. That’s why I am on a trampoline trying to jump on all fours. It makes perfect sense, and yet, it makes no sense.

It is finally time for me to get off the trampoline and stop doing the stupid doggy jump. It is somebody elses turn to go through that. The poor girl starts doing it and then I see it: this is hilarious! And not in a numb, overused “lol” kind of way. We are all laughing, including the woman being tortured on the trampoline, because it just doesn’t get any funnier. I feel stupid for taking myself so seriously, but I don’t even have time to dwell on that too much. I picture what I must have look like and the whole thing is even funnier.

I am feeling good knowing this will be my Thursday nights for at least four more weeks. I am gonna have to figure out when I’m gonna watch Desperate Housewives because I really do want to know if the cute plumber will be blamed for the murder.

P.S. If you happen to go jump on a trampoline, after you get off try jumping on solid ground.