I was scared about this happening since the moment I signed up for convention. I fully admit to being an insecure, scared teenage girl inside. There's a part of me that always feels like I have to defend myself and what I've accomplished. It's something I'm working on and I went in to convention with the highest hopes for a positive, life affirming, experience with my fellow instructors.
You see, I tend to be a bit of a pessimist when it comes to my expectations of people. I guess I've dealt with one too many bullies and I expect one to be hiding around every corner.
I was full of elation Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of convention. Everyone I met was so positive and kind. I was feeling the Zumba Love to my very core. All of my sessions, all of the downtime spent meeting new people, everything was going along beautifully.
I even got to share the joy of being able to wear Zumba pants for the first time with random strangers who happened to be nearby when I got those awesome purple pants on in the dressing room. When I squealed the girl asked if everything was okay and I said "YES! I CAN WEAR ZUMBA PANTS!" She laughed and when I explained that I had lost 190 pounds and these were the first pants in the store I could wear she gave me a congratulatory high ten!
Then Saturday morning happened.
Sarah and I headed off to the Miami Party Masterclass with Heidi Torres and we were ready for a hot sweaty hour and a half with music that was on fire... and we were not disappointed.
The class was in full swing, Sarah and I were dancing our hearts out and we got separated on the floor. That's when I heard it... the snickering. I shrugged it off, telling myself it was probably just friends having a good time. Then I heard snippets of conversation and my heart sank. I had become the elephant in the room...
Phrases I heard included:
- She can move, for a fat girl
- I'm shocked she can breathe
- She can't possibly do the whole class like that.
My heart was aching though. Who thinks it's okay to talk about anyone like that. I felt like I was back in middle school again.
All I wanted to do was go and hide in a corner and cry and eat my weight in chocolate and pasta. I couldn't let them win though. I've fought so hard to get to where I am and some mean girls were not going to ruin this incredible experience for me.
Admittedly, I did skip the next session. I just couldn't handle another room full of people so quickly. Plus, Sarah and I had to get ready to meet our choreography group to record our routine. So I internalized, tried to reason the meanness away, and steeled myself for feeling like a gross mass of blubber while dancing with my team, all of whom are too pretty for words.
Our recording session went really well and my team was awesome, supportive and helped to make me feel sassy and awesome for the video taping. Liz let me wear her sassy hat, Paulette gave me some shimmery eye makeup and we went in to record dressed in a sea of teal and black.
Our third session of the day? Hip to Strip. Talk about a well timed class.
I was still feeling very insecure and scared of people pointing and laughing ... especially considering the topic of the class.
It wound up being the best thing ever.
Firstly, the presenter, Ann Saldi, was all about empowerment and how the most important thing someone can sport is confidence. She talked about sexy doesn't have an age, a weight, a color or creed and I felt that message to my very core.
Then I danced. I danced harder than I thought I could. I let myself feel sexy and flirty and playful. My hands tossed my hair and rubbed my thighs, smacked my booty and reached for an invisible man to come and get me.
I stopped being so nervous about the size of my thighs and thought about how powerful they were and how I could use them to press up from the floor in a way I couldn't have just a year ago. I thought about the balance and control it took to hold my body in some of the more controlled movements and how hard I've worked to get there and then I remembered something important.
I was at the convention to celebrate fitness and fun with my Zumba family. I could not and would not let a handful of plastic girls take away from me what I was experiencing. Then I danced even harder.
And there were folks in that room that were giving me a ton of positive feedback. There were two ladies near me that asked "How did you DO that?" and it wasn't about my weight, it was about how I got my incredibly bouncy hair to flip in just that way. Sarah said I had a bit of a fan club in the back of the room where she was taking a break. People were loving what I was bringing to the class... because it was real.
By the end of the session I was 110% wiped out but I walked out of that session with a renewed swagger and confidence.
And the Zumba love continued.
Sunday when we were saying our goodbyes to old friends we'd just met, one of them pulled me aside and said "I heard you had a rough time yesterday and I wanted you to know how impressed I am with your dancing and your positive spirit." She told me how glad she was to have met me and how lucky she felt to have had me in her choreography group. Several other people echoed that sentiment in that last day or so as we parted ways. How much they loved my openness and positivity and the joy and excitement I brought to everything. While standing in the hallway someone stopped me and said she loved watching me dance in the Flamenco session we'd shared earlier in the week. That shocked me. That session was Friday morning... this was Sunday afternoon. Obviously I made an impression on her.
Those were the people who mattered... the ones who saw past my waist size and saw me for me.
It's still a hard fought battle but those moments, those conversation, those lessons are the ones that I will carry with me most from convention. Every time I put on my sassy teal blue pants or my nearly see through purple top and teach a sassy Burlesque song or a hard hitting Reggaeton routine I'll remember the Hard Knox Crew, my room mates, the awesome students in my Hip to Strip, Reggaeton, Brazilian, Flamenco and Belly Dance classes and the droves of kind and generous people I met milling about at the convention center or the various parties.