I Survived Pure Barre

Jennifer Scharf
Written by Jennifer Scharf

I’m a mid-life, out-of-shape housewife pretending to be a ballerina when my kid is at school. Why? Maybe it’s because I was deprived of ballet lessons growing up, or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to wear trendy athleisure wear—I’ll let a shrink answer that one. In the meantime, this is my time to shine motherfuckers and I’m going to own that barre like it’s my goddman bitch!

Just like back in the day, it all begins with the outfit. You’ve never seen a ballerina look disheveled or cheap, have you? No. So, I wasn’t going to dick around at T.J. Maxx sifting through the clearance rack for good-enough yoga pants. I went balls to the wall for this one. I’m talking full-price designer labels from one of those upscale shops at an outdoor mall. You know, the one that sells mesh-paneled stirrup leggings and gives you a fabulous reusable tote bag with your purchase.

After dropping a near fortune on sexy sports bras, backless tank tops and Flashdance-style leg warmers, I was bursting with confidence. Until I saw myself in the mirror… and then saw those tight asses walking into the Pure Barre center. This was the moment when I wanted to turn the car around and head for a Caramel Cocoa Cluster-Frapp—definitely via the drive-through so no one would see me in my Jane Fonda outfit.

But nobody backs baby into a Starbucks.

So I pushed my way into the crowd… and proceeded to have a panic attack of the WTF-do-I-do-now variety. Should I check in? Should put on my sticky socks? Should I return those not-as-cool-as-I-thought leg warmers? Squeeze coconut water into a Mason jar with a glass straw? Buy an overpriced “inspirational” bracelet with a saying like “Pain is just weakness leaving your body”?

Staring at that mantra on my wrist—yup, I bought one—and taking some “ocean breaths” (I learned that one from my daughter’s preschool teacher), I felt my confidence raising back to the level of, let’s say, a gnat… only to have it trampled down by the bitches who didn’t tell me there would be a mad fire drill to grab all the balls, weights, bands, and shit and claim all the spots at the barre and a mat, pronto. I decided that blending into the back wall (where no one could see my ass quivering) was the best strategy for me anyway. And then, just when I thought I was safe, what I thought was the back of the room was apparently the front of the room. I tell you, there’s no hiding in Pure Barre.

Those weirdos who do this self-inflicted torture all the time started stretching their legs up over their heads like they were pretzels. I sat on my mat and went ahead and fake stretched, letting out a few exaggerated moans and groans. Having exhausted my stretch ideas, I reached for that Mason jar of coconut water. Ack! Cow sperm! I attempted to hide my distaste as the instructor skipped into the room all happy-go-lucky in a unitard with a Janet Jackson rock star headset on. Screw her and her zero-fat, uber-toned, young, beautiful body. She hasn’t had any babies yet.

When the music started pumping, I took that as my cue to shake my arms and legs out like I was getting ready to run a marathon. But, before I knew it, silent tears of pain were rolling down my cheeks as I hung onto the barre for dear life. My entire body was trembling like I thought only possible during orgasm. When the instructor urged “don’t stop” I wanted to scream on the top of my lungs, “Just you wait tiny little fucking dancer, someday you’ll reproduce, and these rolls and folds are coming for you!”

“Up an inch,” she cooed, “down an inch, up an inch down an inch, hold, hold, squeeze, hold, hold and squeeze.”

I looked around the room to see if anybody else was convulsing or crying. No tears, everybody appeared to be Botox strong.

Ms. Janet Jackson came up to me to correct whatever the hell I was doing wrong. She turned off her mic and quietly whispered in my ear, “Release your spine.” I just ignored that because I doubt I have a spine anymore.

She turned her mic back on and cooed, “Tuck, Tuck, Tuck.”

We all know what that rhymes with.

I let my mind escape the pain by comparing my body with other women’s and imagining we were in the Rubenesque period of classical art when curves and bulges were so hot and washboard stomachs and protruding pelvic bones were so not.

Then I scanned the room for tattoos, deeply analyzing their meanings and imagining getting one of my own. I imagined it hurt so much, for a split-second, I forgot about my searing inner thighs.

And just when I thought I was going to collapse, we moved on to floor work. The perfect time to rest in child’s pose. To roll my ankles and wrists. To take that little ball and put it behind my back for half-assed sit ups. To fake a back injury to just lay face down on my mat. You know, to play dead.

It’s not like I was going to be able to look anybody in the eyes on my way out, anyway. No, I hobbled to my car and poured myself inside. My hands trembled on the steering wheel. I was starving. I was weak. I wasn’t going to make it home. I was going to die in the parking lot of Pure Barre in my mesh-panel stirrup leggings.

But, just before I actually succumbed, I realized what the mesh is for. It’s so my legs could breathe. Air vents! Those fashionable mesh vents were saving my life.

I told you, it’s all in the outfit.

About the author

Jennifer Scharf

Jennifer Scharf

Jennifer Scharf is a freelance writer with essays featured in McSweeney’s, Scary Mommy, Mamalode, The Mid, BLUNTmoms and more. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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