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Zumba with Judy

By Julie Klein

My friend Judy and I are taking a beginning Zumba class. The difference between my approach and Judy’s is quite apparent. Judy and I are about the same age. However, her petite frame looks great in spandex. She comes to class in an adorable outfit, complete with matching head band, towel, and a color-coordinated water bottle.

I bring a large, ugly tote bag with medications I might need during the one-hour class and a battery-operated fan for my relentless hot flashes. I throw in a protein bar and a banana in anticipation of a hypoglycemic attack. When I see how perfect Judy looks, I begin to ponder my life’s choices, questioning how on earth I have a good friend who owns color-coordinated workout gear. We look about as mis-matched as Martha Stewart and one of her fellow inmates on their way to a cooking class.

As we enter the room, I wonder if the Zumba class is in here, or have we accidentally stumbled into “Hot Yoga.” Between the oven-ready temperature of the room and my hot flashes, I am sweating profusely before the class begins. I usually turn my phone off when I take classes, but I left it on anticipating the possible need to call 911.

I begin to surreptitiously eye Judy’s towel to mop off my forehead. I notice an enormous fan in the front corner of the class and wonder, Do I stand right in front of the fan, calling attention to myself? Or should I comfortably hide in the back of the room and risk collapsing from heat exhaustion?

I manage to procure a spot that allows me to move freely back and forth as I gauge which is more important — avoiding embarrassment or staying cool and avoiding medical intervention. I notice the full-length mirror in the front of the room and as I see my reflection, many thoughts go through my head: Ithought I was way cuter than this. What was I thinking with this exercise outfit? I look like I am on my
way to a funeral but couldn’t fit into my clothes, so I had to default to black stretch pants.

As the class unfolds, we are thrust into a hyper-speed world of uncomfortable and unnatural movements — gyrating, shimmying, swirling, squatting, marching — an embarrassing blur that I just want to survive. At the epitome of my discomfort, I burp up my fish oil supplement and think, “My sentiments exactly!”

When it’s finally over, Judy exclaimed, “That was fun wasn’t it? Julie, Julie!!! You don’t look so good!! Why are you sitting on the floor?” I am too weak to respond verbally but lift my hand up to cue her that I need help getting up. When I regained enough energy to speak, I asked, “Do they have a Zumba class you can take from a chair?”

— Julie Klein

Julie Klein was born in Philadelphia and raised in South Florida. She worked in the telecommunications industry as a corporate trainer and customer service manager for many years. While still in her 40s, she survived two aggressive cancers. Her illness reshaped the course of her life. Forced into early retirement due to her failing health, she began focusing on writing about her life. Surprise! Turns out, she had a lot to say! Julie self-published her memoir, My Healthcare is Killing me, a Personal Journal, about the lack of compassion in the American healthcare system. Recently widowed, she has two amazing step daughters, and a step granddaughter. Last, but not least, she is healing through writing, laughter and better health insurance. 

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