My dad in his stretched tighty whities staggering after a hard night’s sleep.
Gus’s pepperoni pie surprise face on Breaking Bad.
A dog trying to crap out tinsel and pine needles.
There is a long list of visuals that, while I’d prefer they weren’t, are permanently burned onto my brain. And now I can add yet another disturbing entry to the bank: My older brother tentatively thrusting his hips to the rapid beat of a Mexican pop band.
If you’ll recall, Matt (Just Matt if you prefer) and I recently put a pursuit for constant wonder and self-discovery in motion. We plan to take on one new challenge each month – some big, some small – in an effort to feel alive and push ourselves into the forbidden land that exists just off the hamster wheel. Consider it a personal wake-the-hell-up-and-smell-the-adventure accountability partner. This month, we picked something super simple.
September Challenge: Pick an exercise class the other has to do. No excuses.
I was up first and I picked Zumba, naturally, because I am 95 percent thoughtful and kind but 5 percent of me likes to scheme with the devil. Now, I’ve seen my brother dance. I mean, it’s always been either after midnight, after a dozen rounds of a made up drinking game, or both, but I’ve seen it. I figured he’d be able to hang. Turns out sober movement translates to invisible extremity shackles for the big guy. But I’m getting ahead of myself …
You can call my brother a lot of things, but one has to be, “a good sport”. He picked me up and immediately the deep exhalations and profanity started. One could say he wasn’t excited about the hour ahead, though I couldn’t imagine why [evil laugh]. “I literally feel sick to my stomach,” he said, a few times. I just kept looking down at my phone and reassuring him. I felt like, if I looked up at his face, I might laugh to the point of tears and pity, thus causing us to change course. “I researched it, ya know. Zumba. Turns out, a guy actually invented it. Now I guess it’s like 80 percent female and 20 percent male,” he continued. Oh, Matt, I thought. Sweet, chocolate-covered gigantic Matt. You actually think there’s a 20 percent chance you won’t be the only man in the room. That’s cute.
We walked in early enough to set up a perimeter in the back corner (always prime real estate for group classes). Just as the nervousness was starting to dissolve a touch, the instructor came over and introduced herself.
“Oh my gosh, how did you manage to get him here?”
“On a dare.”
“Ya know, I think it’s great! Not many couples do things like this together these days, and–”
“Oh, no, this is my brother!”
“It’s my brother!”
“OK, here we go!”
The Latin beats bombarded me and bounced off the wood flooring as the seven or so participants spread to their invisible, designated spots and started stepping side to side, eventually falling in unison with our instructor. Grinning like a Golden Retriever at a waterpark, I tried to conceal my eyes as they rapidly darted back and forth between the teacher and Matt in the mirror in front of me, my mind swelling with the overwhelming volume of information flooding in. I was courting both choreography and curiosity at the same time and it was too much for one girl to handle. This was my brother! The kid who wouldn’t go out to eat with us because his friends were waiting. The guy who once told the hiring manager at Dairy Queen that I couldn’t come to the phone because I was, “taking a shit.” The guy who was always too cool for what was common.
Here he was doing the cumbia.
Doing the salsa.
Doing the hip thrust. (Can’t unsee that one.)
Doing the grapevine.
Raising his hands in a dramatic fashion.
Shaking his butt and pumping his chest. (Kinda.)
I couldn’t stop looking. It was like watching the Hulk star in the Nutcracker.
At some midpoint of the class, the instructor mumbled something about hips and the bedroom in our general direction, but thank goodness for the acoustics because I never did truly make it out. For eight full songs I watched my brother try his damndest to harness some resemblance of rhythm and ride those beats all the way home. Once I stopped cry-laughing, gosh dangit I was proud of the guy.
But the universe had one hilarious footnote to add. It was our instructor’s last day teaching. Of course a group picture was the perfect ending to her tenure in that Thursday night time slot. We all gathered together around her – a handful of sweat-soaked regulars with their arms around each other, then me, then Matt. We stood on the end with our hands at our sides, like a pair of perspiring footlong hot dogs in a bag of grapes. This is so awkward, I thought. Let’s send a dog in to wildly hump someone’s leg and wrap this thing up.
Turns out, it didn’t take a frisky mutt to elevate the situation. Just a well-meaning gym-goer.
“I’m gonna make my husband come to a class!” she said to me as we gathered our keys and water bottles, post picture.
“Oh, no …” Matt and I interjected simultaneously.
“This is my brother.” I explained.
Her plan to guilt her spouse foiled, the smile slowly deflated from her face. Matt, however, was so relieved the whole thing was over he was happy to chat. “Man, you know I was so nervous all day I was going to see someone I knew in there … Or, like, I was gonna fall down …” he divulged to the stranger. She just stayed in stride and shuffled out to the parking lot. She had to get home to tell her husband the stories were true. She had met one of the 20 percent of men who show up for Zumba.
Zumba, huh? Just what every grown-ass man wants to do. Especially every grown-ass single man, am I right? Please, let me go make myself look like an asshole in a room full of women.
When DSS dropped this class on me, it consumed my thoughts. I’m going to fall down, I thought. I’m going to step to the right when everyone else is stepping to the left. I’m going to knock some poor lady down. I’m going to have to dance. Good Lord, I’m going to have to dance. I resigned myself to the fact I was just going to have to go all in, show up, get past the girls pointing and laughing when I walked in, try my best not to run anyone over and just own it.
I picked up my sis to roll out to the gym. She giggled the entire drive, because who doesn’t giggle at the thought of a giant man shaking his ass at a Zumba class? I get it. Joke was on her because, yeah there were some looks, but for the most part these gals were so nice and, I’m pretty sure, they were psyched I was there.
The instructor mentioned that she “wished she could get her husband to do this.” Ahhh no, ma’am. I’m sorry to give you false hope, but I’m just this chick’s big dumb animal brother she laughs at because I always say yes to everything. But no time for explanations or dream crushing. Class was starting.
I literally never took my eyes off of the teacher because I was so damn focused and didn’t want to look like an idiot. Mind you, I’m a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier then anyone else in there, so I was going to look like an elephant at a mouse convention no matter what I did. Overall, I’d say it was a great class. No, really. I can definitely see how it helps with footwork for sure, balance and abs (all the laughing). I’d laugh too if I saw my brother squatting in the mirror and thrusting his hips in a room full of women. I’ll give Biscuits a break on this one.
Paybacks are typically not my style, but I had a lot resting on this pick. What could I make her do that was as embarrassing as what she made me do? The answer, nothing. Nothing I choose is going to give my sis the anxiety she gave me doing a damn Zumba class! So what do you do? You pick the earliest class available on Saturday morning when you know she is drinking with her friends the night before [evil laugh]. That’s what you do.
I picked her up Saturday morning at 6:40 (about 5 hours after she got home from her party, for reference). I pulled up but didn’t see any activity in the house. Was she even going to come out? Then the door slowly – and I mean slooooowly – opened and out comes DSS; Holding her water, lips still red, hair lookin’ crazy. In that very moment, I knew I’d made the right choice. Making her get out of bed when her head was about to explode was all the satisfaction I needed to make all that hip thrusting worth it. I felt so invigorated, I couldn’t wait to get on that bike.
What could make this better, you ask? How about the perkiest spin instructor ever? Oh, she was a morning person alright. She chatted about apple picking and hanging with her husband … and then this sweet, happy women proceeded to kick our asses. Let’s just say one of us felt very confident standing up, cranking up the resistance in position 3, and one of us was very concerned position 3 was going to lead to an embarrassing number 2. It was so good, man. I couldn’t stop looking over and laughing. Her struggle was so, so real.
Did I feel bad? Hell no! She made me do Zumba, you guys. Zumba. Love ya, sis!
The Friday morning following Zumba, my brother called to deliver his revenge. “We’re going to do Spin at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning.” he shot from his fox hole. “Fine,” I replied, even though we both knew it was like taking a bullet to the thigh for me. Not spinning, per se. I’ve done spinning. It was more so the call time. During the week, the melodic tones of my alarm sound promptly at 4:36 a.m. so I can get to the gym before the chicks start stirring. Saturdays are my sweet sleep savior. He knew that when he picked the class. It was the only grenade he had to throw, so he pulled the pin and tossed ‘er right over.
But let’s add to that, shall we? That Friday night was my bimonthly gathering with old coworkers, Pretty & Plastered we call it. I’ve been trying to be “good” with calories lately and I didn’t plan on taking any cocktails to pound town that evening, so I grabbed a nice red blend on my way over and promised myself I’d be classy. I’m sure I was classy … I mean, it’s just hard to remember things like that when you drink the entire bottle of wine. I don’t even really like red wine!
Have you ever woken up after excessive drinking and been astonished by a task you completed the night before? I parted my mascara-smattered eyelashes at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning and painfully semi-smirked. I had set my alarm. I couldn’t find pajamas or brush my teeth, but I set my alarm. Would you believe it? Then I sat up. And the hating myself commenced.
Just 10 short minutes later, the headlights of my brother’s truck filled the living room. I could just lay down and pretend like I slept through it, I thought. I thought that for awhile. But he’d shown up and now I had to man up. I managed to mumble that I had a hint of hangover and glee filled my sweet brother’s eyes. To him, this scenario was better than a brand new puppy on Christmas morning. I had made him suffer and now I would, in turn, endure the same.
I managed to get into the saddle and thanked the heavens the lights were dimmed in the classroom. The buzz of the spinning wheels felt like a razor blade slowly dragging back and forth across the space between my ears. But that was child’s play compared to the pounding of the techno tunes that followed. Every beat was like taking a tiny bullet. Perhaps what being tasered feels like.
Something else worth mentioning here is the sweat. Ohhhh, the sweat. My brother and I come from a long line of excessive sweaters. It’s not so much the heat, but the humidity that will get you. I tend to perspire profusely from my face, while my big brother pours water from every pore in his body. As we pedaled, a puddle began to form under Matt’s bike. It would have been worth giving him a hard time if it weren’t the smell. My smell. It was like a pair of gigantic sweaty palms were pressing together around me, wringing red wine and various cheeses from my insides. It wasn’t good, OK?
The thing about spin, too, is that when you think 15 minutes have passed, only 3 really have. It went on for an eternity, you guys. A stinky, sweaty, dark eternity. I felt so ashamed. Here I was, spinning on the outskirts of a sea of optimistic Saturday morning pep seekers, who would likely take in the yoga class that followed before grabbing a pepita-topped quinoa bowl at Earth Fare, and all I could do was hang my head and stare at my big brother’s swimming pool of perspiration. It was a low point.
On a brighter note, my hangover did clear up toward the end of class. My tears and exertion washed the head fog away and left just a tolerable dose of dehydration. I had survived to spin another day.