What Not To Say When Everyone In The Room Shouts The N Word, Then Suddenly Realizes You’re Also In The Room

Zumba. I love it. Especially on nights like tonight.

Zumba is actually tricky for an Oreo. During the dance-style group exercise class, some of the moves can come dangerously close to looking like popping and/or locking. So as a good Oreo, I always try to stiffen up a little on some of the hippier moves so as not to frighten the other dancers or myself.

What I feel like when I work out

And then tonight, something wonderful happened. I don’t know what the song was (Sondheim didn’t write it, so I was at a loss), but everyone else in the room did. As we danced, they sang along and sang along and sang along. Suddenly, a group n-word was dropped.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Usually, when there’s an RBP in the room, people would shy away from one of the most offensive words in the English language. They’d think twice about shouting out in unison a word that has probably gotten people killed. At the very least, it’s gotten people into debates on Oprah’s couch–which for an Oreo might be a scarier place than the business end of a revolver. Normally, if an RBP was in a room, people would maybe try to be polite.

But not with me there. It was like they didn’t think I was black at all!!

Unfortunately, as quickly as my happiness was upon me, it disappeared. For seconds after they said the word, they caught sight of my reflection in the mirror and everyone looked embarrassed. No one sang along for the rest of class.

What I look like when I work out

My apologies, ladies (and you, one rockin’ gent) for sullying tonight’s good time. I will work on my pointe and hopefully blend in much better next time.

Granted, some of the following did go through my head, but thanks to my Oreo training, they stayed inside and my outside voice never took control:

  • What the effing eff??! Why do you all know this song???!
  • What the effing eff???! Why did you include this song in your playlist??!
  • I might need to speak to management about this.
  • I’m concerned you might not understand some basic points of everyday etiquette
  • You’re right, it is ~just~ a word after all, you stupid whale cunt.
  • *sobs*

Any of those responses would have seemed really RBP-like. Sure, the growing ulcer in my stomach might one day take over my entire digestion system. But I’ll look darn good while I’m convalescing. Yay, Zumba!

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How to Take a Compliment

Yesterday at Zumba, I ended up chatting with a girl before class. It was her first time and she was excited, but nervous about not being able to keep up. I told her it was super fun and would be totally fine.

I mean, look at it! How can that not be fun!! Oh, because it's in public and people can judge you? Okay, there is that.

I understood her concern. I was, myself, initially worried about taking Zumba. One one hand, it’s a great, fun way to exercise. On the other, it’s dancing and it’s trendy, so the risk is having to do something hip-hoppy is always there. But when the moves lean a little to far toward popping or locking, I feign confusion, pull out something from swing dancing and generally feel much better.

Yesterday, however, something happened that always sends shivvers down my spine. Something that makes me want to run away and hide. Something that brings a quivver to my lip and a tear to my eye. The girl complimented me.

“That was fun!” she said. “And you look great out there, you really know what you’re doing.”

Oh crap.

Like everyone else on the cusps of Gens X and Y, who chose the arts as a profession and whose parents had more than a few unrealized dreams, I am pretty sure that everything I touch turns to poo. Like I”m always wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes. I can’t help it. Thinking of myself in glowing terms feels as off as thinking of myself as a dude. It’s not that I don’t enjoy life and things, I’m just a writer. We’re always kind of melancholy.

Plus, I never know how to respond to compliments. Be in agreement with the person talking to you and you’re an arrogant ass. Blow off what they say and you’re ungrateful and rude. It’s like hugging a tall person. Do you go up around their neck like you’re a child or a baby monkey? Or do you hug them around their waist like you’re their lover.

Or high-fiving?!? Geez! Could there be a more awkward social interaction? I think I’d rather make out with a stranger than high-five them. I mean, in the H5, how hard do you hit, how hard do you receive? How do you know they’re going for a high-five and not just swatting a bug out of the air?

Look at that! It's so vague. That could mean "I'm here," or "Stop!" or "Taxi!" or "Throw it to me." How are you supposed to know??

Pretty much all of those thoughts went through my head after class and my new friend probably wondered why I was staring quite so hard into the middle distance when all she tried to do was be nice to me.

Here’s what I can ascertain is the proper procedure for receiving a compliment. What do you think?

Step 1: Do something to the best of your ability while telling yourself that even though you’re doing it all all wrong, you’re a better person for tackling the intellectual exercise of doing something that makes you want to crap your pants.

Step 2: Try to escape the location as quickly as possible without making eye contact with any person, place or thing. But, when someone inevitably stops you and tells you they enjoyed whatever you internally sobbed your way through…

Step 3: Say “thank you,” but assume that any of the following is more likely than that person meaning whatever they just told you.

  • An alien has temporarily possessed your body and has abilities far beyond yours. This alien will leave your body soon and people will continue to expect great things of you, that because you are alien-less, you will be unable to perform.
  • An alien has temporarily possessed the body of your complimentor and has tastes and expectations that are far below the average human. This alien will soon leave your complimentor’s body and that person, because they are alien-less, will forever wonder why the hell you keep chatting to them on facebook.
  • The person is drunk and high, or otherwise addled and has no idea what they’re saying.
  • The person is saying something nice because you were so terrifically terrifying that they’re worried that if they don’t say something nice, you’ll kill everyone.
  • The person meant to be complimenting someone else.
  • The person IS complimenting someone else, but you are so delusional that you think they’re talking to you.
  • The person actually only asked you what time it was.
  • The person actually did mean to compliment you, but you are suddenly stinkier than any person has ever been ever and they regret the moment they came within fifty yards of you.
  • You are in the middle of a waking dream.

Pretty standard checklist, right?


To see more journeys through dance, check out these links…

I started here, freaking out in the castle with WhitePal. That’s right. I said “castle”….Then, I got back into the swing of things…took a chance at real dance in this video…and developed a handy survival guide  in case Zumba is canceled and another dance class takes its place.


For Mor-eo Oreo: Follow The Oreo Experience on Twitter (@oreoexperience)
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