Saturday, June 11, 2011

Are you a Back Row Joe?

I had a moment of self-awareness this week. I suppose it’s something I’ve always known about myself, but I saw it in terms I’d never thought about before.

I am a front row person.

I realized this in a Jazzercise class. My spot is on the front row and has been since the second or third month I started taking classes. I generally don’t look behind me once class starts because I’m focused on my own workout, but Amanda, the instructor, made a comment that caused me to turn around.

“You guys crack me up. Why is there always a huge gap in the middle of the floor?”

When I turned around, I laughed too. Seven or eight of us were at the front of the long narrow studio, followed by an open space, and then 15-20 more people in the back. It almost looked like we were segregated, and in a sense, I guess we were. Except in this case, the segregation was self-imposed and not based on any external trait.

Some people are front row people. You know if you're one of them. Do you hate being a nameless faceless member of the crowd? Do you want to interact with whomever is in the lead? Do you need to feel like you are part of the action? If you answered yes to these questions, then you are a front row person.

Don’t give me this line. “I like the front row just fine, but I’m not very good, so I stay in the back.” Sorry. You are not a front row person.

A true front row person wants the front row even when she’s not the best in the room. I make regular mistakes in the choreography, but I’m not worried about what the people behind me think. I honestly don’t care. I can’t focus on my workout and the writing I’m always doing in my head if I’m looking past people to see the instructor.

There is a gal with whom I frequently share the front row. She’s hilarious, and I love working out with her, but holy cow, she couldn’t find the beat if it bit her on the ass. I say this affectionately because she knows this about herself. When she can’t get the choreography, she makes it up. She has a glorious time working out and doesn’t give a rat’s patoot about the people behind her. She is a front row person.

Given the choice, from Kindergarten through grad school, I always sat in the front row in class. I wanted to hear what the teacher had to say, see the board, be noticed when I raised my hand. And no, I wasn’t that obnoxious kid who always kept asking questions when everyone else wanted to go. I had social skills. I wanted friends. I knew when to shut up, but I felt disengaged in the back. When I chose a back row seat, it was because the class was so boring being disengaged was a natural extension of being in the room.

The front row students in my classes always make themselves known. When the luck of the seating chart puts them in the back, they quietly come to me and ask my permission to sit closer to the front. I try to accommodate them because I understand their frustration. Unless I arrive late and have to sit in the back, I don't. Usually though, showing up late guarantees a front row seat because the world is filled with back row people.

Back row people fall into two general categories: Don’t wanna be noticed or Don’t wanna be caught. When I voluntarily sit in the back row, it’s because I don’t wanna be caught. If I’ve become disengaged enough that I don’t care anymore, I want to daydream, text, write, grade papers, plan lessons, plan blogs, etc., etc. without getting caught. The one place I always sat in the back row as a kid was in church. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Other back row people don’t want to be noticed. These folks are not necessarily disengaged. They just don’t have the confidence to actively participate. The kid who struggles or is simply unprepared sits on the back row as does the kid who would rather eat glass than have the bright light of the class’ attention focused on him. I’ve seen kids in my class and fellow jazzercisers drift closer to the front as they gain confidence in their abilities.

I know I’m not the best at everything I do. In some areas, it’s not even a close thing, but I have always been driven to try. I’m a competitive, self-driven, type A personality. I hate to fail. It just pisses me off and pushes me harder. I’m pretty sure these qualities are what make me a front row person.

So I guess I’ve outed myself to my friends and colleagues. If they see me on the back row, I’m either late or I’m trying to get away with something.


  1. Great post. I'm more of a back row type of girl. I like to observe.

  2. Thanks Leslie! And thanks for the follow!