My Trouble with Movement
I guess it all starts with mom. While I happen to be very competitive when it comes to Monopoly, Clue, Settlers of Catan or even Sweet Valley High the Official Board Game, playing sports has never done anything for me. This worried my mother, a lifelong dieter and sufferer of distorted body-image, who doesn’t like sports either. And she encouraged (later forced) me to get exercise so that I didn’t have to face the horror of being a fat kid.
My mom is and has been an excellent mother, and has in recent years come to see and love her body for what it is. She has worked her butt off to overcome most of her disordered eating habits and is probably one of the healthiest, most body-positive people I know. But this is now and that was then. No parent is perfect, some are worse than others, but they all fuck us up somehow. This was my mom’s big error in parenting.
I thought she wanted me to exercise because I was fat. She wanted me to exercise because she thought that I thought I was fat. So it became what felt like a daily punishment. Swimming, which I once loved, was turned into an excruciating daily summer ritual at my grandparents’ pool, or even worse on fall nights at the high school as part of an after school swim team. This meant dance classes where I was eternally in the back row, a giant hulking mass in a leotard surrounded by tiny lithe pixies. This meant karate on weekends at the local McDojo in a nearby minimall, forced to spar with boys half my height as I was shooting up like a bean pole and sprouting breasts every which way. I was so relieved when my parents’ trainer decided I was old enough to do weight training, and that I could quit these humiliating programs with my minuscule peers.
Dee was really cool, a nurse/trainer/photographer/ex-model in her 60′s with a wise, grizzled toughness that commanded respect. I was in junior high, so I can’t exactly say that I felt good about myself when I worked with her, but I didn’t feel quite as bad as I did the rest of the time. She talked to me about yo-yo dieting and unrealistic dietary expectations, about Tom Waits and being a waitress in the 1960′s, about my life and school and movies and boys. She died suddenly of a brain tumor when I was 15, shortly after I had stopped working with her. No one told me.
So yeah, I guess you could say I have some baggage when it comes to exercising. The word alone makes me cringe. Exercise is self-hatred, punishment, humiliation and loss. At NOLOSE this year, I heard Deb Burgard talk about movement. Movement is something I could do.
Movement is something I need to do. In the past month I’ve begun to experience chronic hip and back pain from sitting down all the time. If I want to not be in pain, I need to start moving. But the question is, what do I do? When it came to exercise, my mom always asked me which thing I hated the least. That is not going to cut it. I need something to do because I like it. I need something positive.
So I’ve looked around the city for places I can go. Most gyms in my area are filled with gym bunnies and sleazoids looking to get laid, magazine bodies with bluetooth headsets, blech. I’d like to take a pilates or yoga class, but I’ve searched and searched for a body-positive class not focused on weight loss and come up empty-handed. While LA has plenty of fatties, we don’t have the same kinds of radical fat resources that the Bay and NYC have. It’s frustrating and disheartening that I can’t find a space to engage in movement I enjoy without feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome.
And then I remember. I remember my parents’ bedroom when I was a very little girl. I remember my mom doing aerobics to a Jane Fonda tape. I remember the outfits and the hair and the positive attitude. And most importantly I remember getting up and doing the video with my mom, not because it was exercise, but because it looked fun and because I wanted to.
So after a few months of thought, I have ordered a leotard and leggings. Not slimming black, but bright and shiny clashing colors. I have looked through my library and picked out my favorite disco, hi-nrg and 80s R&B tracks. I am currently choreographing a series of aerobic workouts, which I will then film myself doing and post on the Internet so that you can follow along at home if you want to. If I can’t find a positive space, I’ll create one. A space where we can work up a sweat and give our bodies what they need in an environment free of self-hatred, free of shame. A spandex utopia where all are welcome and all are beautiful. I’ll keep you posted.