Heads Carolina, Tails California
Yesterday, since I had no freelance booked (ahem) I got to participate in my favorite 2 hours of gym fitness: a 1-hour ultimate conditioning class which consists of an allover weight workout followed by a 1-hour Booty Kickin’ step class (yes, real name). I’ve been going to this class fairly regularly since I’ve lived in San Francisco so even though my fitness levels have gone up and down over the years, I’ve mastered a lot of the harder moves taught by the instructors that have come and gone. Quite an accomplishment for an un-rhythmic white girl from the south. This isn’t one of those corner-to-corner-knees-only kind of classes, no sirree. It skews a little dancey. So in my fitter days, when I’d gotten the moves down, I felt like quite the Laker Girl. Ok, so I didn’t look like a Laker Girl but damn, I could move and I could keep up and some days I just swore I was Paula Abduhl.
But that was then and this is now.
I showed up to class yesterday with many of the very same people who’ve been in it for the past 6 years. All of us were in standard SF gym-wear: mainly tank tops and yoga-like pants and/or sweat pants. We exchanged nods and hellos and went back to our pre-class activity of standing around.
And then she arrived. A woman, my age-ish, who had somehow hijacked the instructor on his way in to explain to him that she was new to our gym, new to San Francisco, fresh off the United Airlines boat from the great state of North Carolina. And oh, was she representin’.
Dressed in a Carolina blue fleece jacket and extremely tight, short, lycra Carolina blue shorts (typically worn UNDER a longer pair of shorts), she explained that she’d been extremely active in her gym back home. She took her Carolina baseball hat off and removed her Carolina blue fleece to reveal – that’s right! – a Carolina sorority t-shirt of some ilk which she then removed to reveal a half-tank top that perfectly matched her Lycra, Carolina blue shorts. She donned a Carolina blue and white sweatband on her head and began to enthusiastically stretch while the rest of the class watched - mouths agape and unmoving- and listened to her explain to the instructor that she’d just had a son.
Now, before I get on with the real reason for this entry, I have to point out a couple of things that are probably fairly obvious. I must preface these points by saying I mean no offense to my southern readers, you’re my people, after all, yo. Nor do I mean any offense to you Carolina fans as you will most assuredly see me wearing some ridiculous Kentucky hat come March. But come ON:
- If you have a child, you should not wear sorority gear anymore. In fact, I’d say sorority gear should be phased out by 12 months after graduation, if not sooner.
- When in Rome, step, lift, sweat and dress as Romans do. Translation: DO NOT matchy-match gym wear in San Francisco. This kind of shit may fly in Atlanta (I lived there too) as does curling one’s hair, applying a full face of make-up and showering and applying perfume before going to the gym. But not here.
- Do not announce your incredible fitness abilities when you’ve moved from one of the most unfit areas of the country to the most fit. This is a recipe for disaster. Which brings us to yesterday’s class.
Upon announcing her incredible activity at her gym “back home” a change in energy came over the class, a collective bristling in the air. I almost felt sorry for her for a second. Who the fuck did this woman think she was impressing? Aside from me, most of these are Californians you’re talking to, sweetie. They were eating wheatgrass when you were putting back Dip ‘n Licks. (a favorite of mine, circa 1974). Clearly she was fresh-off-the-first-class-United-boat. I noticed a couple of eye-rollings and overheard a few grumblings. Several people began to effortlessly stretch, the top of their skulls touching the floor a foot behind their legs. Uh-oh. To capture the mood with a favorite movie quote: “You better bring it.” “Oh, it’s been BROUGHT-en….”
The music started while she was talking. “How’s this, guys?” our instructor asked.
Carolina: “Um, wow, this is REALLY fast!”
Instructor: “ Yeah, it is. But this is how we do it in San Francisco. Have fun in your first class!” And for a second, I really thought I might want to marry my gay step teacher.
After that, I’m not sure what happened. The world’s fittest athletes and most accomplished dancers took over my body. I spun where I normally shuffled, I added jumps where only kicks were necessary, I did jumping jacks during water breaks. In fact, I noticed everyone had stepped it up more than a few notches. Someone took a lap around the room during a water break. One woman even added a toe-touch cheerleading jump after a cross-over, a move that we all tried to master (but I never could) at least three instructors ago.
Carolina looked concerned but she wouldn’t be defeated. I was exhausted and sweating like a farm animal but I WOULD. NOT. STOP. I WOULD. NOT. BREAK. FOR. WATER. NO!!
Finally, Carolina missed a crucial jazz-step turn mambo-shuffle. She stopped. She watched, slightly hunched over, red-faced and defeated as the rest of the class moved as one-finely tuned, ass-kicking stepping unit. And then the final battle cry: “One last time – FROM THE TOP!” Was that a small smile I saw cross our instructor’s face as Carolina broke down and left for a water break? We all knew what had just happened and the next 2 minutes were pure booty-kickin’ step bliss. Each of us had triumphed in the face of southern, post-sorority, know-it-all-gym-girl wearing too-short Lycra matchy-match shorts. And it felt fantastic.
I’ve been wondering lately if I have that competitive spirit still in me. Freelancing, job-searching and apartment-searching don’t always allow you the opportunity to see who you’re up against, or at least give you the chance to stick around long enough to make a valiant fight/argument for yourself. Even human golden retrievers like me need a face to associate their “battles” with sometimes, It’s nice to know I’ve still got it in me, that I’m not all collaboration and smiles all the time.
Here’s to kicking your ass again tomorrow, Carolina. I’m looking forward to it.