Friday, July 23, 2004

9 Decades and a Dancing Sybil

Our friend Frank turned 90 on Wednesday. My mother helped throw him a luncheon, which about 25 friends attended. At one point, someone suggested that they should go around the room so everyone could say something about the guest of honor and how they knew him. Frank interjected that he would do the honors — and, indeed, he said something personal and endearing about each person present. He also received 84 birthday cards in Wednesday's mail. That has to be some sort of record.

Meanwhile, I moved a little further into my thirties on Tuesday. I don't normally think much about my age, except while attending dance class on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Technically, it's an "Adult Dance" class, the title of which conjures images more salacious than six weeks of ballet and jazz ought. But in summertime, much to my chagrin, "Adult" includes anyone 13 and up. Most of the students are high school- and college-aged. If it weren't for the blessed presence of Anthony, the one forty-something male in our class, I might feel freakishly out of place. (As it is, I am freakish in other ways. When we stand before the mirror in fifth position, my spaghetti arms stretch above the crowd's — a wooden spoon among the Q-tips.)

There are three high schoolers in the class—all gymnasts—and I watch them with fascination and horror. Muscular and fit, they should feel comfortable in their bodies. Instead, they frown at themselves into the mirror, fussing with tank straps and tugging at shorts. One will glare at herself, whip out her rubber band, and angrily scrape at her long hair, in a gesture of self-loathing. For a while I assumed that this obsessive scrutiny was melodrama or a cue for compliments. But the ritual is oddly private — to the girls, at least. They don't seem to realize how obvious their self-study. And, although they are friends, the high schoolers never reassure each other. Each girl seems locked in her own world, staring at her image and daring it — pleading with it — to change.

I’m sad for them, because I remember too well that awful body consciousness of the adolescent years—and even the early 20s. So, I stand in the back feeling older and wiser. And also older and out-of-touch. For how can I be anything but amused by the 5-foot-tall kid who shows up to Tuesday's class wearing a pink baby-tee-style sports jersey, with #2 and “SWEETIE” printed on the back? And how am I to interpret the identically cut tee the same kid wore last night? Clearly purchased with the first shirt, the second shirt was black, with a #1 on the back. It labeled its wearer as “EVIL.”

Were these shirts a spoof of the printed T-shirt genre itself? A sardonic take on the “Diva” and “Bad Girl” trend, perhaps? Or maybe the shirt was jab at the current administration's "axis of evil" rhetoric. If so, will this dance studio, which already harbors a politically suspect Pilates teacher, warrant a visit from Homeland Security?


At 1:17 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

Apologies to Anthony for the injustice I'm about to do him, but maybe he is FBI - the insultingly ignorant failure to blend seems like their speed.


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