I’ll Zumba if I want to


When I first discovered Zumba, a magical world of dancing and burning calories opened up to me, and I was hooked. Every Monday and Wednesday night I would put on my running shoes and get ready to enjoy a workout of fun-filled excitement. I didn’t care if I looked incredibly awkward and uncoordinated as I tried to match the teacher’s dance moves; I was lost in the music, and nothing else mattered.

One night, though, my magical world of Zumba was shattered. As I was dancing with an increasing amount of enthusiasm, I felt a cold breeze on my shoulder and slowly turned to see a group of guys laughing, mocking and mimicking our dance moves. They stood there for an uncomfortably long time, some taking pictures with their iPhones, and others trying to push each other into the gym and make them dance. As I listened to their mocking, I heard them express how they couldn’t believe anyone would ever dance like this. I thought to myself, “Don’t they see that I’m right here? Can’t they tell that I hear every word they are saying?”

My initial anger and annoyance quickly turned to embarrassment, and my face turned bright red. All I could hear was the mocking and laughing, which completely drowned out the music. I began to wonder what I was doing there and why I was subjecting myself to such ridicule. My normally enthusiastic dance moves turned limp and dull, and I couldn’t have felt more stupid.

I will, however, admit that it’s true; we do look funny, and it is probably comical to people who have never done Zumba themselves.

But if the men had to make fun of us, it is beyond me as to why they chose to stop right in front of the door and face us as they did so. Why couldn’t they have at least waited until they passed the gym or were out of earshot?

The longer I participated in Zumba each week, the more I realized that this kind of behavior from onlookers happened frequently. Sometimes people would run in the gym and actually start dancing with us as their friends looked on and laughed. Sometimes they would just stare and take pictures, which never failed to make me feel like a circus attraction. I was shocked, and still am shocked, at the people who think it is all right to openly ridicule others for their own entertainment and amusement.

This story brings me to another, more serious, situation. A few months ago I received an anonymous email from a BYU professor, describing to me an instance she had faced in one of her classes. In that class there was a student who was learning to speak English and was still struggling. One day the student raised his hand to make a comment, and in his attempt to express his thoughts accidentally made a mistake. Once he was done speaking, another student mocked a word he had said incorrectly and the rest of the class burst out in laughter. Embarrassed and discouraged, the student approached his professor after class because he did not know how to handle the situation, nor was he sure that his efforts at learning English were worthwhile. Like me, the professor was shocked that students at BYU would openly ridicule someone else in such a cruel manner.

Though it may have been funny to those students that their classmate could not speak English very well, there is no excuse to act in the manner that they did. Why is it OK to mock someone who is sincerely trying his hardest to learn English, even if it does sound funny? I know it might be cliché, but I would expect more of BYU students. I would expect them to be mature enough to know that not everyone is the same as them, and that is OK. I would expect them to know that even if something is funny, it is still inappropriate to ridicule and mock people, and even more so when those people are right in front of you. Even if something seems hilarious, it is important to factor in the feelings of others that you might be damaging in the process.

Through my experience with Zumba, I have decided not to let it get me down. I’ve picked up the pieces from my once-shattered night, and I continue to attend each week. Even if someone is standing in the doorway gawking and giggling, I keep my head up and dance like no one is watching. After all, I’d much rather be the person getting laughed at while working hard to stay fit, or the person getting mocked while attempting to learn a new a language, than the person trying to impress his or her friends at someone else’s expense.

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