It was 1991 and I was in my first year of university. All the girls were doing it - at least, some of all the girls - so a friend and I said we'd have a go. I lasted about ten minutes, I think, between the vast gym full of people who knew the steps gyrating away in time with the crazy-fit lycra-ed instructor, and the balcony full of male students whose lunchtime entertainment was to go and watch the scantily-clad girls bounce up and down. "I'm not going to be a piece of meat in your between-lectures porn fantasy," I said, as a good feminist; "and also, I don't like getting sweaty and I don't want to have to bring extra clothes to college every day, and I certainly don't want to shower in the sports centre, and it's too long a walk from the Arts block, and it looks haaaard."
So that was that. Until this morning, when I participated in an Ultimate Groove Workout - which turned out to be, as far as I'm concerned, thinly disguised aerobics to music. (Didn't aerobics always have music? But somehow this is different. Maybe the music is more intrinsic to the movement here.)
I had thought that my two or three years of ballroom and Latin dance would help me out, but it seemed not. Apparently, I'm incapable of moving my arms and my legs at the same time. You'd think I'd have noticed that before now, but it seems that over the years my body has become skilled at hiding this tiny handicap. Dancing with a partner, my arms were almost always engaged in leaning against the other person; it turns out that when you take this person away and ask me to make prescribed motions with my arms while stepping steps apace with my legs, my brain goes into its math zone: that fuzzy place where all of me decides to go on hiatus until someone asks an easier question. Or in this case, until the music slows and something relatively simple happens, like standing still or maybe lying down and closing my eyes.
Even when everyone was clapping their hands nonchalantly above their heads while skipping lightly from one step to the next, I was the one clapping out of time. Decades of my life dedicated to weekly choir practices, years of recorder and piano and clarinet lessons, many many nights spent shaking my booty on the dancefloor, and I couldn't even clap in the right place. Sigh.
The good news is that I can only get better. Surely.