Friday, February 4, 2011

I finally took a Zumba class

Never Done: Took a Zumba class

This time for real. Maybe you remember that the last time I tried to take a Zumba class, the teacher was a sub, and she was actually teaching her own improvised Cuban dance class to Zumba music, and all the regulars were grumbling "that's not Zumba" and crashing into each other, and I left early and ran on the treadmill and had some realization about decisiveness. Well, this time there was a real Zumba teacher, and she was wearing a hot pink t-shirt that said Zumba instructor and everything. I jest, but she was great. She didn't say a word the whole class, but her physical communication quotient was extremely high. She moved clearly, with athleticism and grace, and always took the time to indicate where she was going next.

And I did a pretty good job following her. Every now and then she did a sequence I couldn't do (my knee doesn't bend all the way, so sometimes I had to stay more upright than her) or one I couldn't follow (I couldn't always see her from where I was) but I never felt bad about it. I just caught up when I could, and got those hips wiggling with the best of the Zumbies. (I just made that up.)

Basically, Zumba is a dance class, which is why their motto is "Ditch the workout! Join the party!" I can't say that it felt like a party, but I did have a good time. I love dance classes, particularly the way that physical memory kicks in, and reminds you how to separate your hips from your waist, or your knee from your thigh. (After all these years, I still have a hard time separating my torso from my waist. Maybe one day I'll get there.) Hmmm, interesting. This week's mide (middah) is Separation: Respect in sexual and intimate relationships. I know that's a different kind of separation from separation of the torso from the waist, but still, dance and sex are certainly related activities. At least in Borsht belt routines.

Typically in Mussar, Separation is about the separation of the self from lewd thoughts, and from forbidden, unhealthy, or unsanctified sexual relationships. Rabbi Alissa Wise approaches the mide of separation differently from how it's traditionally interpreted, writing:

For some of us, we need to be separated from pain and hurt around our sexuality or sexual identities. Maybe we have been victims of sexual assault, maybe we have been targets of homophobia, maybe we have internalized messages about sexism or misogyny, maybe our gender identities has been rendered invisible
by a rigid gender binary. For others of us, we are still searching for our sexuality and our own desires and wants. Some of us need to be separated from the confusion caused by messages and images of sexual objectification of women, by the pervasiveness of sexual violence in our culture and media, by ideas of masculinity that are too violent, of femininity that are too submissive, or of our culture's fear of gender non-conformity. Some of us need to be separated from feeling disconnected or embarrassed about our sexual desires.

Some of us need to be separated from actual relationships in our lives that aren't serving us. Relationships where we lose our desires and ourselves. Where we prioritize another's needs over ours, or where we prioritize our own needs over another's. Relationships where we are subjected to harsh judgment or criticism, or where we are being emotionally, physically or sexually abused. We need to be separated from being lied to be our partners, or from breaking our partners' confidence by having intimate or sexual connections with other people outside of agreed upon understandings of non-monogamy.

Some of us need to be separated from our own tendencies to hurt people we are close to, from our own patterns of manipulation and aggression with those we love and are intimate with.

We are all sexual beings, and our sexual needs and desires are real and often powerful. We need to attend to them just as carefully and thoroughly as we do any other aspect of our lives.

I understand if it feels like I took a sharp left turn in this post, when I connected the separation of the hips from the waist to the separation of the human from our full sexuality, but it's often hard to bring up the topic of sex. Why should it be any less awkward in a blog? And now that I've blurted it out, maybe I'll find it easier to write about the hip wiggling we do when we're not wearing any Zumba brand cargo pants.

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