I don't knit. I'm not retired. And I have no interest in bridge. But I do like to dance. So, a few months ago, I started attending line dancing classes at a local senior citizens center every Monday morning.
"The senior center! You're not old!" my 23-year-old daughter said when I told her. She wouldn't stop laughing until I gave her the stink eye and poured us both another glass of pinot noir.
I'd reacted in much the same way several years earlier, when a much- older neighbor first suggested I join. Senior citizen centers were for old people, like my mother and grandmothers, rest their souls.
"You should come to the senior center," my neighbor said, handing me a brochure. "They have line dancing. Do you like to dance?"
Duh! Growing up Baptist, I wasn't supposed to dance. And though I was a goody-two-shoes when it came to most everything else, I religiously ignored the commandment against dancing.
Unlike my daughters, I didn't have the opportunity for ballet and tap dancing lessons as a child. But I never missed a middle school or high school dance, and there were plenty. In law school, I was the disco queen. During my first summer in New York City, my friends and I worked at a Wall Street firm by day and went clubbing by night. I wore fake lilac eyelashes and glitter on my eyelids, and danced at Danceteria and Limelight until the sun came up.
I got married two years later, however, and my dancing days went on hiatus for several decades; my husband didn't like to dance. After we split, I was free to dance again. But I lacked the time and opportunity. So, I pranced to music in my living room instead. Last winter, I even bought a light fixture I didn't realize resembled a disco ball until after I brought it home.
Still, no way I'd ever join a senior center. How old did my neighbor think I was anyway? I don't even collect Social Security or Medicare yet. Besides, boomers don't get old.
"I belong to the Y," I said, dodging my neighbor's question. Once home, I threw the brochure in the garbage. She tried enticing me twice more, and each time I politely turned her down and tossed her flyers.
The Y had a Zumba class, so I tried that. But there was no instruction and with six knee surgeries under my belt, I couldn't keep up. Even though I kept to the back corner, I got the stink eye myself whenever I got in a younger gal's way.
Eventually, the Y hired a line-dancing instructor, a woman a decade or so older than me, but in far better shape. She was marvelous and her joy was infectious. I left every class drenched in sweat but renewed, and sang in my car all the way home. Although the music in class was heavily country and western, Elender also threw in some rock 'n' roll and choreographed a dance for us—my personal favorite routine—to Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk." And then Elender moved, class ended and I was in a funk. Because, well, I love to dance.
I mentioned my disappointment about the class ending to someone at a party. "There's line dancing at the senior center," she said. "You should come. It's lots of fun."
You can't pray to me for answers and then keep ignoring my signs, I thought I heard God say.
So, I googled the place. Anyone 50 and older could join, so I paid my $15 yearly membership fee and started dancing again—like I could have been doing for years, but for fear of embarrassment that someone in town would see me enter the building.
Monday mornings, I usually rush in late, wearing athletic shoes, gym sweats and a scrunchie or sweatband. Most of the women have obviously already showered. Most wear street clothes, makeup and jewelry, and some even dance in sandals with heels. Lots of members are boomers; others come from the even older Silent Generation. I'm one of the youngest, but still have a way to go before catching up with the skill of many others.
Aside from the Advil I pop before and after, at the end of the hour I leave feeling younger than when I came in. Because what is a senior citizen anyway, other than a person that has reached a certain chronological age? If you judge my age by what's in my head and not the years accrued on my body, I'm still the disco queen whirling to Donna Summer.
"How much does the membership cost?" my daughter asked when she got through laughing.
"It's basically free," I told her.
Lucky for me, the center offers mah-jong lessons too. I've always wanted to learn how to play, and years ago bought an antique set merely because I thought the game pieces were beautiful. Who knows, one day I might even decide to learn bridge.