Sheila arrived at Zumba a bit late, but there was still a spot in the front row. It wasn’t her spot. Her spot was on the end of the front row. The far right end to be exact. But at least this spot, this other spot, was up front.
Sheila loved Zumba class, and she had to be in the front. Not only to see Sandy the instructor, but also to have an unobstructed view of herself in the mirror. She loved to watch her feet do the cucarachas, the chassés, the cumbias. She loved to see her body gyrate, her torso do belly pumps and body rolls. And … oh! that arm styling!
The first dance had already begun, but Sheila was able to fall right in step — until someone Tap, Tap, Tapped on her shoulder.
It was Belinda in the spot just behind her. “I can’t see.”
Even though it galled her, Sheila offered to switch places. Belinda shook her head.
The percussive música was throbbing. The Zumba-ers were Zumba-ing. To avoid a scene, Sheila moved to the back.
WTF! She hated being in the back. It wasn’t so much that she couldn’t see the instructor. She couldn’t see herself!
After class she approached Belinda: “So tell me. What was the prob? You couldn’t see Sandy?”
“I could see her, but I couldn’t see in the mirror.”
“So get in the front!”
“I’m not comfortable being in the front.”
“But you were taking up two spots. Yours and the empty one in front of you.”
Belinda shrugged. “You shouldn’t be in the front.”
“Huh?” Had Sheila heard her right?
“You’re too tall. You should be in the back.” Belinda walked off.
Too tall? Sheila was crushed. It all came back to her. Elementary School. Being last in line to assembly. Having to be at the end of the May Day procession. Having to stand in the back row for the class picture. Worst of all, going to a school dance and towering over the boys.
“But I’m only five nine!” she called to Belinda’s sweaty back. “Five eight and a half since my osteopenia diagnosis!”
Belinda kept walking.
Sheila refused to accept it. She wanted to be up front. She had to be up front. How else would she know if she were getting it? How else could she perfect her moves? How else could she retain her title of Queen of Zumba? — a title known only to herself.
This is discrimination. Heightism. The height of bigotry.
“I refuse to go to the back!” she yelled, but no one heard her. She was in the shower.
The next day Sheila got there early. Several spots were open in the front row, including hers. When she grabbed it, short little Diane came up behind her.
“Could you please move? I can’t see in the mirror.” Diane looked up at Sheila with a weird toothy grin.
“So move up!” Sheila pointed to the open spots in the front row.
“I don’t want to be in the front. I like it where I am.”
Sheila was fed up. “Well, I’m not moving!” She revolved her hips in a perfect Zumba core rotation for emphasis.
“You’re too tall to be in the front.”
The words stung. “You’re judging me by the length of my legs rather than the content of my character.” Sheila had tears in her eyes, but she wasn’t budging.
“What’s going on?” It was Sandy, the instructor.
Diane looked up at Sandy. “I can’t see in the mirror when Sheila’s in front of me.”
“Sheila, would you mind going to the back?” asked Sandy.
“You bet I mind!” Sheila planted her Zumba dance shoes firmly on the hardwood floor. “Try and make me!”
Sandy nodded to two other women. The four of them picked up Sheila and carried her to the back of the room. She was yelling, kicking and flailing the whole time. The rest of the class just watched.
The music started. Sheila danced her heart out in the back. During each dance, she moved up a bit. The spot in front of Diane was still empty. By the end of the class, Sheila had claimed it in triumph.
“Let freedom ring!” she yelled. A couple of women clapped.
But what about tomorrow?
The next day she got there early. Her spot on the end was waiting for her, but every other spot in the front row was occupied. By women over five feet seven!
“We shall overcome!” shouted Sheila.