Zumba class is a place for epiphanies.
In this morning’s class alone I had two. Well, maybe “epiphany” is a strong word for the first one, given that I’ve pretty much known since childhood, with the same sort of innate conviction of a trans person in the wrong body, that I will never be a mother. I never liked dolls, never liked playing house. I barely even liked other children.
Still, every so often I’ll come across an exceptionally awesome child (such as the members of Children Medieval Band or the Duran Duran family) and think, well, what if I could have one of those? Obviously, it’s a rhetorical question, at least until the whitecoats figure out how to do prenatal screening for awesomeness. But having an awesome child seems like it could be…well, pretty awesome.
It just so happens that my zumba instructor, who brings her two-year-old son to her morning sessions, has the most awesome child I’ve met in real life. He is super sweet and well behaved, plus he has really good hair. One day, when my zumba instructor was telling us how he challenged a six-year-old to an impromptu dance battle at the mall, I had an identity crisis. Suddenly, I understood what parenthood was all about: living vicariously through the impromptu dance battles of your offspring. Maybe I could be a mother, I thought. Maybe.
But today I saw another side to this child—a side that was not even remotely awesome. He was sick, which made him tearful and belligerent. As he stomped around crying, it dawned on me that even the best children can be pretty awful. I was particularly impressed when he engaged in what I can only describe as hate-play, angrily sobbing as he carefully stacked the yoga blocks (which he normally plays with cheerfully) and then knocked them down on purpose, a tiny Godzilla destroying his city.
Toward the end of class, when the angry sobbing had devolved into a sort of primal howl, my zumba instructor took advantage of a quiet moment during the cooldown to get to the root of the problem. She bent down and quietly, but urgently, asked him a question.
“Did you poop or did you fart?”
In response, the child howled even louder. Whether it was because he had in fact pooped, or farted, or if he was simply raising his voice to protest the indignity of it all, I do not know. What I do know is that I never want to be in a position where I have to ask another human being that question.
Epiphany #2 was more of an honest-to-goodness Deep Thought about self-image.
One of the things I find interesting about Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (and, really, all of his stuff) is the way in which the protagonists keep their cool under strange and baffling circumstances. In 1Q84, when the female lead realizes that the sky has two moons instead of the usual one, she thinks things through and concludes she has somehow fallen into an alternate reality. Never once questioning her own sanity, she keeps calm and carries on.
Me, I question my own sanity almost constantly. You can best believe that if I saw two moons, or if a cat started talking to me, I would take copious notes and stay up all night WebMDing that shit. (Although, admittedly, I'd be pretty stoked about the cat thing.)
In psychology, there is something called the fundamental attribution error, which basically says it’s human nature to rationalize your own mistakes while blaming other people for theirs. So if I forget Sara’a birthday, it’s because I’ve been busy and stressed—things that aren’t really my fault. But if Sara forgets my birthday, it’s because she's inconsiderate.
My own attributional bias is pretty much the opposite—I’m far more likely to find fault with myself than with someone else. So when weird stuff starts happening around me, my first impulse is to assume that I am doing something wrong.
To wit: today in zumba class, this lady kept making strange comments to me in between songs. Like we’re talking pure gibberish. After one song, she turned to me and smiled conspiratorially.
“New country!” she said.
And then she turned back around and the next song started.
The first time it happened, I was like, man, I really need to get my hearing checked. The second time, I was pretty sure I had suffered from some sort of stroke and was dealing with full-blown aphasia. Would I have to communicate with the world by writing on a notepad for the rest of my life? Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.
(I frequently worry about strokes in zumba class because sometimes I find it more difficult to perform moves on the left. So in addition to having a broken attributional bias, I’m probably also plain crazy. Or disabled?)
Finally, after maybe the third time, I was like, wait a minute, why is she wearing a see-through outfit? And why is she wearing a turban that seems to have been fashioned from a pillow sham?
For once, I realized it wasn't me. Food for thought.