Friday was my birthday; I turned 45. Now that I am in my “exceptionally late mid-30s” (aw, just give it to me; it’s my birthday), I want to talk about reflection. I’m not talking about the kind of reflection that you do when you get older and think about all the good and bad things you’ve done over your life. I’m talking about an actual, physical reflection.
|Yellow belt board breaking. Bad form.|
When we lived in Massachusetts I took up tae kwon do. I loved it from the very first class and took it for 4 years. As you may know, martial arts are all about rank and hierarchy, and it’s shown by how you line up in class and what belt color you wear. Black belts line up in front, and the rest of the belts line up in descending order. I started like all newbies as a white belt, standing wayyyy in the back of the class. And that was just fine with me. You see, the front wall was entirely mirrored so that you could watch your own form and make sure you were doing stuff right. From the back I couldn’t see my reflection in the mirrors and that’s exactly how I wanted it. I was fat; I didn’t need to spend an hour long class watching a fat girl dressed in white pajamas punch and kick in a very uncoordinated fashion. I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy after he’d gotten some ants down his pants.
|Showing "jump round house", few years later.|
I progressed in tae kwon do. I wouldn’t say I got better. I’ll say I became a bit less uncoordinated and now just looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy trying to swat a fly. Over the years I got different colored belts: yellow, green, blue, red. As I moved up the martial art belt system, I also moved up in where I lined up in class, getting closer and closer to the front. I never really worried too much,though. My class consisted of a few women, a very cool 10 year old kid named Maria who I got paired up with a lot because we were the same height (and who now at age 21 is somewhere along the spectrum of “little sister” and “best friend”), and a bunch of big guys. I could never really see myself in the mirror and that was good. I knew I was getting heavier; I had to get longer belts and at one point had to go up a size in my dobak (uniform).
|Bo-Dan belt. Promising person that I wouldn't hurt him.|
The highest belt I got to in Massachusetts was “Bo-Dan”, which is half red and half black. It is sometimes referred to as a “Junior Black Belt” and ranking-wise it falls just below black (in other words, be nice to me because I could seriously kick your ass). This belt could put me in the front row if there weren’t enough black belts to fill it, but fortunately that never happened for me. I could stayaway from the mirrors.
I didn’t get to train too much as a Bo-Dan because first we moved to New York and then life got in the way and I just didn’t look for a new school. Then I got pregnant with Ben which stopped all desires I had of getting punched in the stomach during class.
Just after Ben was born was when I decided I had to do something about my weight (it’s a cool story about my daughter Olivia, a Fisher Price castle and a toy dragon name “Poopsie”, but I’ll get into that in a different blog someday). Exactly 6 weeks after Benjamin was born I was given the green light to exercise again. That night I attended a tae kwon do class at a new school I had found. Sometimes instructors respect a previous instructor’s opinion and let you come into their school at whatever rank you are, and this Tae Kwon Do master was one of them. So, exactly 6 weeks after I had given birth and about 3 weeks after I had started weight (which at that point meant I had lost about 2 pounds), I had to stand in the front row of a tae kwon do class right in front of the mirror, blocking the view of all the people behind me with my fat ass.
I stayed with tae kwon do for about another year and a half. I chose to switch schools in order to have an instructor who wasn’t – for lack of a better term – insane, and this new instructor told me that he started all students in his school as white belts. I completely respected his policy and spent that year and a half working my way back up the ranks. I got up to “high red belt” (also a red and black belt, but this one has a lot more red than black) and then started a second sport – running. I didn’t have time for both, so running won out in the end.
So what in the world does all of this have to do with my birthday? Well, on Fridays at my gym there is my very favorite class there called “cardio sculpt”, taught by a guy named Bob who is one of the nicest torturers you’ll ever meet. The class takes place in the studio at my gym that has one wall that is entirely mirrored. On Friday I took that class and took a spot at the front of the room. As Bob spent the hour encouraging us all as he tried to kill us with free weights and jumping jacks, I frequently saw my own reflection in the mirror. I didn’t see a fat girl who could barely fit into an oversized tae kwon do uniform. I was looking at a 45 year old with toned arms and legs who had lost 70 pounds and kept off for over 4-1/2 years. If I say so myself, I was making 45 look good.
I still hate mirrors. I don’t have a full length one (which now explains some of my outfits to my coworkers) because I really don’t like to look in them. But on the occasion that I do see myself, I am quite content with the woman in her "exceptionally late mid-30s" looking back at me.