Contact Improv

As some of you know, I started a round of P90X on Memorial Day this year. I decided that a good reward for finishing would be a dance class. At the time, I thought modern dance was where it’s at, and I enrolled in a beginners modern dance class at Zenon Dance Studio. I have nothing bad to say about that class, except that it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I missed a few classes because of my crazy weekend plans (and one surprise visit from my parents), and the studio lets me make up missed classes with any other class they offer. I decided to try contact improv. Here’s an example I found on youtube. The people in this video are way, way, way out of my league, but it’ll give you an idea of the form.

I’d experienced contact improv once before at Zenon’s open house at the beginning of the season. It was intriguing, to say the least. I’m a little scared of how much I like it. It’s just what I was hoping for from a dance class. A chance to really engage with my physicality, to explore senses that aren’t processed intellectually, and to be surprised at what my new fit body can do. I can do handstands, as it turns out. And cartwheels. I can lift another person’s whole weight with my back or legs. It’s a new space I’m discovering, with new kinds of touch and movement, dimension and gravity. I’m excited to see how this new experience manifests itself in my work.

P90X is Making Me A Better Feminist

Despite my belief in the power of woman, there have been times when I wished some obliging young man would give up his seat for me, open the door, or offer to carry a heavy bag for me.  I don’t think this is because I really want arbitrary rights assigned to me by gender stereotypes, I think it’s because the bags are really heavy.  If I am engaging with sexism in this scenario, it’s that I assume the men around me are stronger/more capable than me, ergo, it would be easier for them to carry the bag.  The idea that assumes it is inherently harder for me to do something than it would be for a man to do it for me, I do consider internalized sexism.

So I’m on day 52 of  90 day fitness program that’s kind of insane, and here is what’s great about it.  I have no problem carrying bags.  I don’t think about it, because it’s not hard.  A few weeks ago I flew to California for a week and packed everything in my carry-on bag.  Not only did I carry that tightly packed bag through the whole airport, but I very easily lifted it into the overhead compartment.  It was so easy to do that I thought about offering to help the people around me with their bags.  Similarly, the other day I was trying to get a stroller with a 14-16 pound child in it down some stairs.  While I was trying to figure how to keep everything level while rolling it down the stairs, I decided it’d be easier to just pick the thing up.  So that’s what I did, scooped up the stroller with the kid inside and carried it down the stairs.  When we went home, I carried it right back up those stairs.

What I’m noticing here is a mental shift.  I now assume that I can do things that are physically challenging, whereas before I assumed that I could not or that they would be very difficult.  And sometimes, they really were very difficult, where now they are not.  Also, now if something is difficult I say to myself, “is this harder than a Dreya roll?  A dive bomber push-up?  Is this going to take me longer than I spend doing those things?”  If the answer to the first two questions is yes, the third one is usually no.  So I assume I can do stuff, and if it’s hard, I assume that I can push through it.  I don’t look around for obliging young men anymore.  Now I can be an obliging young woman, and that is a really good feeling.

So the feminist theory question here is, am I only able to do this because I’m completing insane workouts every day?  And if that’s true, doesn’t that mean that the young men who could lift the bags without doing the insane workouts really are stronger/more capable than me?  I have two responses to this straw man.  First, in my opinion the attitude change is really the important point.  It makes me sad for myself and for other women who assume that they need help to complete basic and necessary tasks.  It is okay for people (male and female) to need help with stuff, but the idea that any male present would be more well suited to a task than I is a sad one indeed.  Second, if I have to exercise to make this shift, so what?  If exercising and building some muscle takes some work on my part, fine.  There are so many less worthwhile things I spend time on.  For my own health, happiness, and empowerment, I am willing to work.

I Am Woman

Today I completed my second week of P90X (only mostly, because tomorrow is a rest day and that will REALLY make the week complete), and as always the last workout of the week is Kenpo.  I’d never heard of Kenpo before, but it is pretty similar to Tae Bo, which I’ve done for years.  All that to say, I love Kenpo because it makes me feel like I can kick some serious ass.  I leave that workout feeling invincible, which is awesome.  Today, I followed it with a nice hot shower and grooved to Matisyahu while I’m got dressed and brushed my teeth.  Since I’ve worked hard this week, I gave myself a little pedicure before heading off to see Sex and the City 2 with my friend Amanda.  And this chain of events brought up an interesting thought.

How happy am I that I can feel powerful and unstoppable in a very physical sense, rock out to a fantastic hip hop artist, and then paint my toenails and watch an extremely silly (although very fun) girly movie?  I feel the like new face of feminism here, which makes me feel pretty darn special today.  It made me think of a quote from one of the wonderful Geek Girls at Clockwork when she addressed the new Computer Programmer Barbie.  She said (my paraphrase) that that doll doesn’t say that you have to like pink to be a girl, it says you can be a computer programmer and still like pink.  In view of this realization, I would like to take this moment to thank everyone who has fought long and hard so those two sides can come together in one person.  Even better, so that one person (me!) can enjoy a sense of pride instead of being stung with a sense of shame.

Oh, and a shout out to my friend Amanda, who isn’t afraid to laugh in movie theaters.

At Least It’s Tidy

I have recently started a ridiculously hard fitness program in an attempt to get out of my funk and generally feel like a badass.  It is called P90X, and I’m on day 9 of 90, so I really have no useful commentary on the program.  However, working out this much, getting up at  5am, and eating more protein in a day that I usually eat in a week has had an interesting effect on my normal creative practices.

My brain is one big whiteout.  I have trouble coming up with normal vocabulary in everyday conversations.  My misnoming adjectives (an essential tool for the stylized vibe I’m going for in my current novel) have left me completely.  And while it really bothered me for two weeks that I didn’t have anything to say about anything, now I have even less to say, but I’m kind of okay with it.  What’s up with that?  This is starting to make me wonder if there’s an entirely different explanation behind the stereotype of people who work in physically demanding jobs being strong, silent, and not too bright.  Maybe they’re just tired.  I know from my time in college, my tenure in a cubicle, and my current vocation that using your brain all day can actually make your body tired at night.  Does making your body tired early in the morning make your brain tired all day?

The silver lining to a run of really bad writer’s block?  I clean when I’m agitated.  My house is going to be gorgeous.