Group Mentality

We stand in a row, our left hands resting on the wooden bar. One girl is wearing a ballet leotard and shoes, but the rest of us–mostly women, mostly in their 20s and 30s–look awkward and clumsy in our basketball shorts and yoga pants. I am at the end, my back to the rest of the class, and there’s only one woman to the right of me to use as a point of reference. She is much taller human than me; her hips are at my chest.

I haven’t been on a sports team since Sophomore year of high school, when I was running around with the plaid skirt hacking at a ball with a wooden stick. I rarely go to concerts. I like the Red Sox, but not having to sit next to the fans. Large groups of people make me nervous, and I’m not a good candidate for a cult. Exercise classes are the only sort of group mentality I can get behind.

Lift one leg up, another one down, the teacher says. She is pacing the room, her voice peppy. She wears exercise clothes but a full face of makeup. I have not yet fallen in love with her yet, but I will by the end of class. My friend Bethany and I have discussed this before–there’s a certain aura to exercise instructors, a seductive power in their ability to make an entire room of people sweat.

I am particularly bad at following kinetic instructions, so it is belittling in a good way to always be one of the worst students in the room.

Up, down. Side, side. Right. Left. That’s it.

I pivot my hips left and then right, right and then left, lost in my movements. I look towards the girl next to me to see if I’m doing it right.

“I don’t even know,” she laughs, looking back at the mirror to try to get a glimpse of the teacher in the reflection.

I lift my hands off the bar and shrug. “Me neither.”


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