Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tell me how to heal this.

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.


  1. I think there is very little you can do now, other than keep your purses up front where there's more eyes on the prize, so to speak.

    It would be awesome (and in true passive-aggressive Portland spirit) to put up a huge neon yellow poster outside the ballroom that says something like, "Life isn't sunshine and rainbows but stealing makes things worse. HEY KID FROM ZUMBA I'M LOOKING AT YOU." Bonus kudos if you can get a good sketch artist to volunteer their services.

    But on the whole, I think it is a lesson in forgiveness. Be angry for a bit. Then, in spite of the fact that he is undeserving, find a way to let go and forgive. Holding this grudge will only make the negativity fester. Go ahead with your life and don't look back. If a $20 was the only thing lost there is much to be thankful for here.

  2. I agree with K.Crow. I don't think there is really anything you can do now except use it as a lesson in forgiveness. Or a lesson in deciding who you are when faced with stuff like this. It's frustrating and it's maddening and it's hardening, but it happens. And I say try and not let it hurt too much your outlook on your community but yeah, put your purse at the front of the class and now kids have to sign in. You can still be welcoming to the next group that shuffles in but now maybe there are protocols.

    Z and I have had our CD player stolen from our car two times in Portland. The first time we were parked in some random neighborhood, but the second time it was sitting in our driveway. It made us feel foolish and it made me angry. How could something so small make me so angry? And now we take the face plate off each and every damn time we leave the car, especially at night. Now that I have the habit I no longer feel angry. It's just something we folded into our routine.

  3. I was too tired to check FB last night, wish I had. It sucks. Be mad. The natural normal reaction to being treated badly is anger (Dr. Kelly). Kids are vandalizing the library, too, one took the toilet handle!! Teens have little impulse control, not an excuse, just a fact. He'll probably graduate to bigger thievery. I like the previous comments -- put up a big sign, "you suck, pay back the teacher , she WORKS hard for her $$"...
    forgiveness comes later, not for him, for yourself don't worry about that now, too fresh.
    otherwise, kisses to you.sucks to have to be wary of crime all the time. and shit happens. community happens, too.

  4. This may be of no comfort...or maybe it will be. The world is an unfair place, and unprincipled people exploit the largess of open-hearted people. It's the roll of the ocean, the rush of the river. Though the sting of the transgression remains, infecting/irritating your senses, the transgression itself is over. Time heals the sting. Maybe you can reframe the context by pulling back to a broader view - it only cost R. twenty bucks to live her life the way she wants to - open and inviting, knowing that though she could get hurt, it's worth living on her terms. I don't know. I struggle with this all the time, it consumes my thoughts all the time, and it's overwhelming and infuriating how out of control we are. I want to be the warrior king - mighty, righteous, kind, wise, protective, and fearsome and absolute in striking down those that would injure my keep. But that's not the dynamic of this world. Maybe you can hope that this little asshole will revisit in his mind what he did someday, and acknowledge his sin and repent by living in a more elevated state. I don't know if i can. I just have come to accept that the path I walk in this world is pockmarked w/ glass and rocks and pits, and I'm going to get cut and punctured and tripped from time to time, and it's the consequence of living an open, unsheltered life - a life that offers far greater joys. I don't know. I'm just babbling now. Also, I think you should kick that kid in the nuts, if you see him.