Saturday, 20 August 2011

Gym teachers I have known and loved

In my many and various years of going to gyms, dance classes and yoga lessons, I have discovered that gym teachers are, for me, the living, breathing equivalent of the hype on Marmite. I either hate them – and I use that word lightly all the time, but I think I actually hate the gym teachers I hate, poor souls... there's just something about someone forcing you into phsyical exercise that I don't want to do, in the way I don't want to do it, that seems to inspire VERY strong negative feelings in me – or I am 100%, giddy as a teenager, head over heels in love with them. There is no middle ground. Fortunately, I’ve felt the latter way about way more of them than the former way, and that, fair readers, is the topic of today’s blog. The teachers I have hankered after.

As so often is in the way in life, the first cut was the deepest. Patrick, the street dance teacher. Oh, Patrick – how did I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Let’s have a little background info. Many moon ago, having watched a few videos of David Elsewhere online and been agog at the famous Mint Royale car advert, I decided, in my most wisdomous way, that the only thing missing from the Twisted Kitten experience was not, as one might think, an ability to mix, knowledge of how to wire up speakers properly, or even the nous to check sound levels – no, no, no, how VERY passé, all the DJs know how to do that boring stuff. What we needed, I decided, was to learn how to body pop. I laugh at myself now, but in truth I’m still pretty sad that that dream didn’t come to fruition.

We tried to make it so, though! We found a street dance class in a Stockwell YMCA, and along we trotted to learn the basics of popping, locking and breaking. Or to try at least… a word to the wise – NEVER try to learn breakdancing unless you’re *really* fucking strong. Otherwise it is just a lesson in feeling foolish. Fortunately, we mostly learnt the kind of dancing you see people doing in big triangles behind Will Smith, which I now know is called locking, and is loads of fun. Even more fun than DJing itself – or was that just because of Patrick?

Oh my goodness, I could have spread him on a cracker. Do you remember - those of you out of my talented and tasteful readership who fancy men - Theirry Henry in those va-va-voom car adverts? The way he drove past you, tipping you that cheeky sideways glance for which I’m sure many saner women than I have downed their knickers, knocked back their drinks and ran into the breach screaming yippee. Well, that was what Patrick looked like. Only better. He was big, black, muscled and French. And he liked hip hop! And he could dance! He would teach us steps, and say to us ‘lower, lower’ (which, in his lovely French accent, sounded like ‘low-air! low-air!’) and made us both quite afluster.

Elaine and I would chat about being in love with him while we weren’t actually in the classes, and it all felt like a jolly joke, nothing too serious – but every week, once we were back in that sweaty Stockwell basement (oh, the romance) and he was fixing me with his big eyes and playing the Notorious BIG and commanding me to go ‘low-air, low-air!’ I realised this was actual, real, genuine bone fida love and that I wanted to marry him. Elaine saw him on the bus once and didn’t pounce on him and ask him out, and I nearly died of jealousy.

Sadly, the class was drastically under-subscribed (many weeks, we were the only two people there, which pleased us just FINE) and got cancelled. Without even as much as a warning, Patrick was whisked away from under our noses, never to be seen again. This is, I’ve noted, the way with gym teachers. I don’t think my poor little heart has ever been quite right since.

The next healthy hottie to be the apple of my eye was my belly dancing teacher, Fleur. Do you think that was her real name? It’s a name that screams belly dancing, isn’t it – or at the very least, a gymnastic ribbon. I can’t imagine a bus driver called Fleur, or a sub-editor somehow. Which came first, I wonder – the flowery name, or the flowery job? Who knows? I could never have concentrated long enough to actually ask, such was my adoration.

(An aside: I consider myself to be straight, most of the time. Being a metrosexual woman of the world and all that bullshit, I, like Katy Perry, have kissed a girl, and I’ve liked it. I don’t really think it’s anything to write a bragging, look-at-me, aren’t I ker-razy little song about, personally, as let’s face it, which of us hasn’t kissed a girl? It doesn’t make you special, you know! However, it’s rare that I really fancy women. It happens very occasionally in my day to day life, but seems to happen all the time at the gym. I guess it’s no massive mystery, really. If I’m going to fancy a girl, it helps if she’s really fit and bendy. Shocking.)

At first, I wasn’t sure I was so keen on Fleur. She was undoubtedly beautiful, but I wasn’t totally sure that she didn’t just spend more time admiring herself in the mirror than actually teaching anyone. Not that I could blame her. If I looked like that – tiny frame, hip bones jutting like mini mountain ranges, waist length hair as black as a tar barrel, cat-like eyes, smooth caramel skin - I'd be gazing at myself in the mirror all day as well. Plus, not unsurprisingly, she could dance bewitchingly, twitching her little hips in a way that, frankly, made me drool.

I don’t know if she was a better teacher than I first thought, or if I just gave up caring and let the lust take over, but I quickly changed my mind and decided she was the best thing since crunchy peanut butter on fat, golden toast. I think, as much as anything else, I just really wanted to be her. I had to stop going to her classes after two terms (and she clearly IS a good teacher, I learnt a lot from her which I still use when I’m dancing now, three years later) because I couldn’t afford to keep going, and again, another little piece of my innocent heart was chipped away.

There was a long, dry spell until my next love came along but again, this was a big one. My yoga teacher, Rebecca. Clearly, I have a type when it comes to the ladies, as she was not a million miles away from Fleur in terms of looks. Tiny, hip bones, smooth skin, dark hair, so beautiful I could eat her. Plus, she managed to strike the perfect yoga teacher balance between too much hippie nonsense and not enough. You might think it wouldn’t be possible to go to a yoga class with too little hippie bollocks, but I used to go to an Inyengar class taught in a slightly smelly school hall by a woman who talked exactly like Marsha from Spaced, and it was oddly disconcerting. You need a bit of plinky plonky music and the odd reference to ‘letting yourself find downward dog’ or it feels like a swizz. Rebecca was perfect at slipping the odd hippie phrase in while retaining a sense of humour and – there’s no other word for it – spunk that I greatly admired. And the crazy shapes she could twist that edible snack of her body into… people who are good at yoga are gods. See Madonna for reference, if you’re having a doubt.

Rebecca winked at me once during a class and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in my life before or since. My friend who comes to classes with me sometimes called her a ‘beautiful angel of perfection’ and she wasn’t wrong.

I had slightly more warning that she was going to be taken away from me than I did with Patrick, but not much. I used to have two classes a week with her, on Mondays and Wednesdays – and she announced on a Monday that that Wednesday – two days hence – would be her last day. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Devastated, so I was! I took her a card to say goodbye and thank you on the Wednesday class, like the bum-licker I am (or at least, wanted to be, ha ha) and tried to make my peace with being taught by lesser teachers. It felt like I’d been dumped, though, and suddenly found myself going out with my ex’s way less good best mate.

So all the while that I was being taught twice a week by Rebecca, I was having a third lesson, on Fridays, from Tammy. It took me a while to warm to Tammy simply because, poor girl, she wasn’t Rebecca. And she doesn’t look like my apparent blue-print of girl perfection (tiny and dark haired). Don’t get me wrong, she still had a body I’d cheerfully claw my aunty’s eyes out for, but she was taller than Rebecca and Fleur and therefore not quite so titchy. She also had a lot more attitude than the previous too ladies. Somehow, when I thought about her, she always seemed to be wearing a baseball cap, chewing gum and getting ready to smash a home run out of the park, even though she sounded like she was from South London. She was ballsy and out doorsy and tough.

As I said, I spent my first few classes with her huffing and puffing (in an ujjai manner of course, ho ho) in resentment at the simple fact that I was in a class that wasn’t taught by Rebecca, but I soon cottoned on that actually Tammy was every bit as good as Rebecca, and a girl-crush was of course around the corner. This was a crush, rather than full blown love, but I still found myself going a bit shy and giggly when she spoke to me, and I was still pretty crushed, if you'll pardon the pun, when I got back from holiday to find that she’d left while I was away, never to be seen again.

I was on the brink of giving yoga up – one of the only remaining teachers at my gym is definitely on the other side of the Marmite gym teacher division and actually made me cry during a class once (not that hard, I will cry if you prod me too hard with your toe, but still) – when salvation arrived in the form of muscular, tattooed, barely-legal gym treat Sam (male), who taught me on Friday.

You know how Justin Timberlake looks a bit like Tumnus the Fawn but is somehow still sexy? Sam the yoga teacher is rocking this same look. I’m gonna guess he’s 23, but that’s probably unfairly ageing him to make me feel like less of a pervert. He’s all buff and muscled, but in that understated way that means he still has a tiny waist. His shoulder blades have cut my heart in two. He has curly hair, clear eyes and a smile that I swear to god he only shows to me. He couldn’t go around smiling like that at everyone he meets – it would be criminal!

I’ve only had one lesson from him so far, but I will be having more. You may all need to buy a hat, readers… watch this space.

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