Respect the Bubble
I love spin class. When I had twin babies, spin class was the thing that got me out of the house and back into shape. Ten years later, it's always the exercise the draws me back. Which brought me here, to this class.
She was a new instructor; well, new to me as this was my sixth class back and I hadn't met her yet. Yoga music played in the background. Not my favorite kind of music to spin to, but I was willing to give it a shot. We were already well past the designated start time. Annoying, but I was trying to withhold judgement. Mostly.
And then she approached me.
"Your seat is too low. Here, let me adjust it." This stranger, without even an introduction, reached underneath my bottom and lifted my seat up.
"Um, that actually hurts," I mumbled, face starting to flush as I noticed everyone around me watching.
"And your tension isn't right. Add more. You should never have it that low. And your elbows are locked."
I tried to protest: "I've actually done this before." She ignored me.
I was humiliated. Here I'd been feeling pretty confident about my return to spin class. I know how to hover, how to sprint. I know the seat needs to be at my hip and my knees shouldn't lock out. But here this woman, who didn't even take the time to ask me my name, was adjusting my positions, telling me I was doing it all wrong.
She was, as my daughter says, popping my bubble -- invading that sacred personal space we all maintain.
I seethed about this moment for days. I chafed (literally and figuratively!) at her intrusion. I have avoided her class.
A week later, I realized something. Maybe I kind of do the same thing to students. How often have I grabbed a piece of writing and started commenting on it without even looking at their faces? How often have I focused on all the things they're doing wrong without once asking them what they think they did well? How often do I pop their bubble?
And that led me to consider two things.
First, maybe that instructor wasn't trying to humiliate me. Maybe, like me, she was feeling crunched for time and that she needed to hurry up and get to the teaching.
But, I also can't forget how I felt as the student: singled out, shamed, stunted. And so, I'm trying to be intentional about the ways I talk to other writers about their writing, whether those writers are 14 or 40.
I want to remember to respect the bubble.