I was never much of a girly girl. In my youth you could find me digging in the dirt, riding my brother's skate boards or flying planes. Not only did I act more like a boy, I had super short boy haircut all the way through school. It didn’t help that I had no curves to confirm I was a girl. I was a tom boy missing that genetic component that other girls seemed to have that made them want to do fun, frivolous things like dance. So why at 40 years old, with some kind of weird genetic mutation and two left feet, would I start now?
We pull up to the gym and I see a sign above the door. ASS Olympique, it proclaims. I assume this ass has a meaning other than turd originator. It’s hot, so the door is already propped open, but there is a privacy curtain preventing passing men on the street from seeing in. The class is strictly for women only. A place where women trade in their headscarves for hip scarves. In the dressing room, modest flowing djellabas are replaced by sparkly, tight, midriff bearing belly dance costumes. I'm way too overdressed in my tank top and stretchy Old Navy jersey knit skirt. I look like I'm shopping for hummus and Tom’s toothpaste at Whole Foods.
Zeinab, the instructor is originally from Egypt. She married a Moroccan diplomat about 25 years ago and has lived in Morocco ever since. Her family disowned her for this act of treachery. At first, her name sounded so extraordinary. Later, I'd learn it's the Arab equivalent to Jennifer. The class is taught in French with some Darija (Moroccan Arabic) thrown in when the conversation gets very casual, which happens with some frequency. I don’t know either, so I resort to forced smiling. So, I’m pretty sure it conveys the exact forced aloofness I was trying to conceal.
Right foot where? How does she move her hips like that? Wait. What the hell are my arms supposed to be doing? Shit. My smile disappeared and was replaced with self commentating my screw ups and peppering them with swear words. No one knew English anyway, so, I figured it didn't matter how loud I cussed in public. Until I remembered that the first things you always learn in a foreign language are the swear words. Shit. Who cares? No one knows me here. Maybe Ass Olympique needs a mascot. I’m gifted at being an ass.
I clumsily stumbled through the rest of class. Trying to bury myself discreetly in the back of the room. Which doesn’t work when the room is wallpapered in mirrors. Dammit. My captive belly dance audience, Ember, is judging me. I can feel it. Oh, I know she looked like she was collecting the coins that the other dancers shimmied right off their hip scarves. But I know she was thinking, "My mommy is an uncoordinated ass. I wonder if I gouge my eyes out with these coins?” Then her worst fear was realized when the class ended and the other dancers kissed her. On the mouth. In America this would have another context entirely. CPS would be called, but it doesn’t exist here. Nor does the concept of personal space.
I’ve already decided I’m coming back because I love a challenge. Plus, I need to get out of the house on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the expense of my daughter’s boundary issues.