Loose Lips

Tourette’s Woman joined my kick boxing class today. Okay, I admit, it’s an amateur diagnosis, but what else could explain the behavior I witnessed?

“1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8…,” bellowed our motivating black belt leader, courtesy of a wireless headset microphone, over the loud pulsing music in the room. “…8-7-6-FIVE!” A new voice chimed in on “5,” or more accurately, screamed out. “4 – THREE!” – there it was again – “2-1.” I looked around the room. It was the new woman.

“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “She’s feeling inspired. Good for her. It’s a little weird to lend your personal vocalization to the instructor, but whatever.”

Twenty panting women charged onto the next exercise, guided by the shouts of our black belt. The countdown bounced off the walls, and there she was again, ‘Tourette’s Woman,’ hollering out at five and three. My eyes leapt from face to face, searching for reactions from any of the other sweating kick boxers. Was no one else finding this odd?

For a bit of clarity, Tourette’s Woman was not exactly new. She was new to me. From what I could gather when I overheard her chatty pre-class greetings to other students, she was a returning participant after a lengthy break.

I’ve been religiously attending this class for the past two months. Our teacher takes us through a rigid progression of lunges, kicks, and punches. His voice encourages, cajoles, and chastises, and our punching and kicking bodies respond, often against our pained will. Until this day, no one had ever screamed spontaneously mid-class. I’m sure we’ve all wanted to as our lungs were gasping, our arms aching, and our legs quivering, but we’ve shown restraint.

But Tourette’s Woman offered a special treat, a delicious distraction from my own physical pain. It was always the countdown that revved her up, so I eagerly anticipated the numbers five and three, in that order. Then I suppressed a giggle every time she did her thing.

I finished class with a crazy ear-to-ear grin and a hint of guilt for laughing at someone I didn’t even know. On other hand, I figured she’d brought it on herself. But then I thought, “Do I blurt things out in life without any hint of control?”

Don’t we all?

How many times have we said things we wish we could take back? The words spewed from our mouths in the midst of an argument where we’re willing to use anything as ammunition. The premature gushing enthusiasm for a potential new mate. The parental jab at a child that no adult would tolerate for a second. I’m guilty of them all. Damn. Busted.

Someone recently told me that if we all expressed what we felt, we wouldn’t have any friends. I found that kind of sad, that our true feelings would push people away. Instead we learn to function within the rules, schooled from an early age on politeness and proper behavior, the balancing act of honesty and acceptability we navigate our whole lives. When I saw Tourette’s Woman shout out, I imagined it must be very freeing to just let it rip, even when it’s not socially sanctioned. I think a lot of us could learn from her spontaneity, from the freedom to reject the conditioning that at times wrongly silences us. We may lose a few friendships along the way, but we may build a few stronger ones in exchange. I hope Tourette's Woman comes back tomorrow. I think I'd like to get to know her.

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