At Zumba class tonight, 4 kids showed up a bit after it began, and stood in the back of the room. One was little, 7 or 8, with her older sister, maybe 14. They were tapping their toes. The teacher invited them in to be in the ballroom with us.
The older sister seemed to have a very sweet boy with her, who was crushing on her enough to dance Zumba with us! And the 4th one - maybe 13?, maybe 14? hard to say with boys that age - sat in the back, in the lone chair in the ballroom. Which is right behind the computer where the music is played from.
He watched, he laughed when we tried to get him come dance. I admit, my inner control freak wanted to give them the boot - what if they got hurt and hadn't signed a waiver? What about how they didn't pay, which is a loss to our amazing teacher? But I let the part of me win who respects authority - and I let the teacher, or more senior folks in the class, make the decision.
They left as we did our cool-down stretches.
I got a round of high-five's from my classmates on the 15-pound weight loss I'm now up to, combining Weight Watchers and Zumba.
And then I walked out, and picked up a water bottle that had fallen on the ground.
And another woman picked up a wallet that had fallen on the ground. She flipped it open, "Whose is this?"
And I looked at the ID. "That's R's. That's our teacher's wallet."
Sure enough, the kid in the back kept his eyes on us while he fished out her wallet and stole $20. He left her ID, her credit cards, her health insurance card - which is pretty important for a cancer survivor turned Zumba instructor.
I am enraged. This foments distrust in my neighborhood. This foments fear of teenagers, roamin' around in packs like they do. This encourages a really nice teacher, who was embracing the experience of letting some kids come dance with us - one of whom could certainly benefit from a good cardio class even at a young age, as she was rather heavy, and see that working out can be fun - to become hardened and wary.
Look, I don't care if he needed the money (and I don't believe for a second he did). I don't care if he has parents at home who ignore him or no parents at all. I don't care if he is teased for being a slow reader, a bad football player or too feminine. He came into our little fun workout world and stole money. And for the cost of $20, he sent home a room full of women with negative feelings, increased distrust and a reminder to not be kind, open, loving, or soft with the rules once in a goddamn while.
And don't you dare tell me our teacher could have made a better decision and not let them in, or made them sign their names, or not let him sit in the chair. She could have. But that comes awfully, awfully close to victim-blaming. And to use a more typical victim-blaming line: a short skirt did not a rape create. This kid stole. End of story.
So tell me. How do I heal that hurt? Sure, we students could pay our teacher back - but that's not the real loss, that's not her real pain, and if I come across that kid in my neighborhood, he better be fucking ready.