I don’t know if this is relatable, but I was once a child. I’m not a child anymore. I’m an incredibly daft woman who signed up for an adult gymnastics class.
Everything was actually going pretty well. I would go along each week, book myself into the beginners lesson, jump off springy things onto soft things and generally feel very smug about how adventurous I was.
Until Thursday at 8pm. Not my usual day, but something came up. Life gets in the way, etc. And I booked myself into a Thursday night class. Now, it didn’t say “beginners” but the little caption assured me that all classes cater to all abilities.
I walked into the Thursday at 8pm class to see a room full of the most terrifyingly gorgeous people I have ever seen. Though they were incredibly attractive, these were not bodies built for vanity, they had purpose. There were hard, strange little muscles popping out of elbows and necks. Little did I know, there seemed to be some sort of unwritten rule – Thursday at 8pm was a class for serious gymnasts.
I approached the instructor and said something charming and irreverent along the lines of “are you pissing joking? I’ll show myself out.” But she just laughed a tinkly, little sound and assured me that all classes cater to all abilities.
I can now quite confidently tell you, that all abilities line was utter bollocks.
My usual class consisted of some cartwheels, handstands and some rather rigorous forward-rolls. And I don’t mean to brag, but I was something of a star pupil.
On Thursday at 8pm, in a gymnastics class aimed at all abilities, I experienced a ‘warm-up’ that was, to this day, one of the most intense forms of exercise I have ever undertaken. Once everyone was slightly pink and I was slick and dripping with sweat, we moved over to a low wall.
“Climb the wall,” said the stunning instructor, as if it was the most normal sentence in the world. I turned to the completely flat, just kind of normal-looking wall and well, sort of pressed my hands to it. Whilst I was trying to work out how on earth I was going to climb this flat wall, a woman next to me did something so impressive, so quickly, that I have thought about her at least twice a day since. She stood with her back, flat against the wall. She took two steps forward and placed her hands on the ground in front of her. She kicked her legs up, but it was so graceful it looked as if there were invisible strings tied around her ankles, lifting her heavenwards. She then walked up the wall, so her hands were on the ground and her feet on the wall. For a split second she made a sort of triangle shape, but then it was over. Because, with what looked like absolutely no effort at all, she flipped over, and was in a standing position.
“Ok, cool.” I thought to myself. I put my hands on the floor in front of me, like she did, and then I kicked up, but, immediately I was back down. How did she stay up? Ok, let’s give this another whirl. After ten of the worst little kicks you’ve ever seen and some of the best crumpling-to-the-floor that’s maybe ever been accomplished by anyone, the instructor allowed me to move to the next exercise. Why? A question I have asked myself a million times, because you see, the next exercise, was a flip!
I’m not exaggerating when I say, as we all queued up and I was being reassured that I would be “held” as I “go over”, it seemed like everyone was suddenly just turning upside down. That’s how it felt. Everyone just started, casually… flipping? We were in the queue, we weren’t even at the flippy bit yet, with the soft mattress thing and the springy whatsit. But here they all were, just flipping.
At this point that I considered that maybe I was dreaming. But no, it was real, and the $40 I’d paid for the privilege, proved it.
So, I’m in the queue, and you know how sometimes you become calm and a little voice says: “hey I guess this is happening to me now”. Yeah, I did not have that.
I actually knew something bad was about happen, because of, well, all the evidence pointing towards an inevitable conclusion.
As we moved up the queue, people continued to say things to me that I truly did not understand, such as:
“When you’re in the middle of your flip, relax”.
“Sorry, what? How do I get to the middle of the flip? And why would I have a little relax there?”
Then someone said “use the balls to help you”.
And I thought I must have misheard that one. But no! As I got closer to the front of the queue of destiny, where I was fated to do my – very relaxing – flip, I saw two enormous exercise balls. They were like exercise balls, except they were taller than me. I’m not exaggerating.
They were my height and I’m 4ft 11. Two huge, grey, exercise balls, standing at, around 5ft each.
And then I saw people were flipping, over, and then sort of between, and then over again, the balls. I’m sorry if this isn’t clear, but it wasn’t incredibly clear to my eyes either.
There were two instructors, but they didn’t seem to be holding people as they went over.
So finally, I’m at the front of this queue and everyone is saying “just go!”
I hear someone say “have fun!”
I hear another person say “relax!”
I just go.
I try to have fun.
And, I relax.
I run towards the balls, with my arms straight up in the air. I don’t know why.
I get to the first ball and I go into a half decent handstand. And then, I can kind of feel that I’m just leaning against the ball. So, I’ve just run up, done a handstand and am now being supported by the ball.
It’s pretty nice! It’s not a flip. But it’s pretty good.
Am I having fun? No.
Am I relaxed? Also no.
But it was definitely better than what came next. I imagine they thought they were trying to help me. Or maybe they just wanted to move the queue along.
The instructors, who have been little more than passive onlookers to this point, both grab me and essentially try to lift me over the ball. I think they were expecting that I would maybe do something, anything. But I had really taken to heart that when I was in the middle of my flip, I was supposed to “relax”.
In a handstand position, with my arms straight up and my legs straight out, but my tummy completely relaxed and flabby, I soar over the exercise ball, entirely thanks to two instructors lifting me. They then say “ok and now! Flip!”
And they drop me in the middle of the two balls. Shockingly, I do not flip. I keep the shape of my handstand for about two seconds, before flubbing to the floor, doing an absolutely bang on impression of human custard.
My being in the middle of the exercise balls, does not deter the other gymnasts, who quite literally flip around me.
It’s not a backward-roll, it’s not a forward-roll, it’s a sideways-roll that helps me escape the exercise balls. And then, I sit, fascinated, watching all the flipping gods until the lesson ends.
With all the blood that’s rushed to my head, I actually feel quite pleasant and in a dreamlike state. One of the flipping gods sits down next to me.
He says silkily “I know why you couldn’t do a flip today.”
I said “Yes, so do I. It’s because I don’t know how to do a flip.”
He says “No, it’s because you were embarrassed.”
I’ve been embarrassed about a lot of things.
And I was embarrassed during that class, but mainly because I was worried my bum looked like a bag of walnuts next to everyone else’s firm peach bottoms.
I will tell you right now, I am not embarrassed about the fact that I can’t do a flip!
Ah yes, the cure for cancer, I would tell you, but I’m simply too embarrassed. E=MC² sure whatever, I’ve thought up similar stuff but I’m too embarrassed to share with you.
A flip? Why of course I would do one, I’m just too embarrassed.
I don’t know why I find it so hilarious. That’s why he thought I wasn’t flipping all over the place.
If you would like to hear about some other things I am embarrassed about, please come and watch me do comedy. I can promise you a good time. I can also promise you that I will not do a flip in the middle of the show. Because I can’t. I’m just too embarrassed.
Robyn’s show Mermaid is on at the Sydney Comedy Festival 19th-22nd May. We have a double pass to giveaway to attend the show to the first person who emails us at firstname.lastname@example.org