Like many kids, I was always afraid to show my mom a bad report card. Grades were not the most important thing in our house, but they were definitely important. A low score on an assignment or test was inevitably met with weeks of discussing personal drive, making work schedules and making study charts. It was worth excelling just to avoid the conversation.
But I will never forget the joy that accompanied my one and only final grade of a C in college or my fearlessness as I ran downstairs, tripping over my own two feet because I was beyond eager to tell my mom the wonderful news. My one and only C in college was in aerobic dance.
Yes, that's a real class. No, I did not want to take it. Failing it — or, I should say, being average at it — was probably the crowning achievement of my college career.
As part of our liberal arts education, we were required to take one activity class. My university had so many cool options — ice skating, horseback riding, archery. The only one that fit into my schedule was something similar to Jazzercise.
Lacking any rhythm and with a deep aversion to sweating, I thought of this class as my biggest nightmare. Worse, it was filled with students who thought it was the best thing that had ever happened to them. An entire sorority joined our Tuesday and Thursday 11 a.m. dance room of despair. They wore the same pink shirts with sayings intended specifically for this class:
"The only thing that moves me more than aerobic dance is my sisters."
"Breathe. Groove. And Love Your Sisters."
Their makeup was always flawless. Each strand of their hair was impeccably pulled back in adorable ponytails that looked the same going into the class as they did going out. But that's not what made me hate them. I hated how, at the end of every class, each one of them would give me a sweaty hug and say, "Didn't you just love that?"
I would scream back, "No! That was the worst! You are the worst!" Well, I would have if I could have actually breathed at the time, which I never could.
Years later, I befriended and lived with one of these glistening optimists. She didn't remember we'd taken the class together. On the night of her wedding, donned in my bridesmaid dress, I told her our true origin story.
"You were Bright Red Angry Loud-breather?"
Yes. Yes, I was.
After college, I moved to Los Angeles. Over the years, I tried my hand at exercising again. I would take a class here and there, trying kickboxing, Pilates, yoga. The only time I was consistent about going was before my wedding.
No matter the class, I hated it. The women were even more perfect than the sorority girls. Their makeup sharper. Their hair slicker. Their buns tighter. The shirts now had sayings like "Sweat, betches" on them. They were always looking over their shoulder to see whether an agent was taking the class. Under each water bottle was a headshot.
Eventually, I swore off bodily movement altogether.
This past week, I thought I'd try again. Working from home has its perks, but having a social life is not one of them. I needed a place to meet folks, so I joined the Y.
There have been a lot of wonderful discoveries I've made since leaving Los Angeles to live in the wild, but these aerobics classes may be the most surprising one. Men and women of all ages, not a designer shirt in sight, nearly all of them bright red angry loud-breathers.
As the instructor counted down the last seconds of a pose we had to hold or a swift move we had to keep pushing through, one lady yelled out, "This is worse than having to watch 'Showgirls' on repeat." The class laughed. In Pilates, a particularly flatulent lady kept complimenting our instructor by yelling out at each pose, "I'm makin' noises!" Yes, she most certainly was — loud and unashamedly.
And I loved it. Nothing was being taken seriously in class, and there was a collective disdain for everything we were suffering through. All this time I thought I hated exercise classes, perhaps I was just taking them in the wrong places.
At the end of the group cycling class, an older woman squeezed my shoulder and said, "That was hell, eh? See you next week."
I think I will.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.