I’m trying to make a pie crust, which isn’t easy to do when you’re also trying to write a column. It’s not that I’m a terrible baker or a terrible writer. I’m pretty good at both tasks (although my presentation of words is much prettier than my presentation of pie).
No, my problem is that I’m a terrible multitasker.
When I was a kid, the running joke was that I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. I probably couldn’t run and tell a joke at the same time either, but we’ll never know. When I was in kindergarten, I got run over by a classmate doing laps in the gym. That pretty much put me off running for the rest of my life.
I used to feel inadequate because of my lack of multitasking abilities, until I learned that multitasking isn’t the ability to do two things at the same time. It’s the ability to quickly switch back and forth between two tasks. That’s a little better, but not much help when the tasks you’re doing need to appear as if they’re simultaneous.
Like when you’re belly dancing.
As part of my “I’m 50 and trying new things” mentality, I signed up for a one night belly dancing class at our local Brainery. The idea of the Brainery is that you can try new things without making a commitment to an expensive series of classes that you’ll never actually finish. It’s great for people like me, who can’t commit to a grocery list.
I almost backed out at the last minute because of pain in my hips. But I’m also learning that in order to stay out of pain I need to move when I’m in pain, which I guess is actually doing two things at the same time.
The goal of the hour-long class was to master a short routine consisting of simple steps and hand movements. The instructor brought some of her own brightly colored jingly scarfs for us to wear around our waists, so that when we shook our hips we could hear the jingles jangle. Apparently jingling while you dance is very important. I think it hides the sound of joints cracking.
We started by learning some hand movements, which, the instructor said, basically meant doing whatever we wanted as long as we felt pretty. We could flutter our fingers, wiggle our wrists or make bird wings with our arms.
Flap, flap. Look at me! I’m dancing! Who’s a pretty bird?
The next part of the lesson involved a series of dance steps coupled with hip shakes. Step forward with your right foot, shake your right hip, jangle your jingle scarf. Step forward with our left foot, shake your left hip, jangle your jingle scarf. Step, shake, jangle. Step, shake, jangle.
We repeated the steps, moving forward and backwards, to our left and right. So far, so good, although the pain in my hips was starting to amp up. In fact, after just one round of steps I wasn’t able to actually shake my hips to jangle my jingle scarf. Instead, I just grabbed the ends of the scarf and jangled by hand. Who’s a saucy bird?
Things got a little more difficult when we learned to turn. Not only did I have to pay attention to my own steps, hip shakes and scarf jangles, I had to watch out for another woman in the class, whose turns took up the entire dance floor. She started at one end of the room and wound up clear on the other side, usually pinning me to the wall with her wild hand and hip movements.
I cut her a break. Obviously she was unable to think and spin at the same time. We multitasking failures need to stick together.
Once we got down the basic steps, we set them to music. And that’s when the trouble really started. The steps that I could manage one at a time were now sped up to happen in the same beat. Add in the hand movements and the rogue spinner, and I was in over my head.
While everyone else was doing stepshakejangle, I was still on step. By the time I got to shaking my hip, the rest of the class was spinning. When I was ready to spin, everyone else was finished. During our second run through of the routine, all I could do is stand in place and tap my foot. The only hand movement I could manage was to jangle my jingle scarf. Who’s a flightless bird?
Fortunately, our instructor told us that in belly dancing, you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you feel good and are having fun. I guess the class was a success then, because I really had fun with the jingle scarf.
In fact, I might get one to wear when I’m writing a column. Fortunately, I can think and jingle at the same time.
This piece appeared in a slightly different form in Refreshed Magazine in 2014.