Why I Still Love Jane Fonda

by Julia Mace
Originally Published: 

I first started doing aerobics when I got the Jane Fonda record at 13 or 14. How I admired Jane, her tights, and her legwarmers. I didn’t understand why my babysitter’s mom hated her. Something to do with Vietnam, my mom explained.

I would put the record on in my mauve room with Laura Ashley wallpaper and wall-to-wall carpeting. I would put on the record and jump up and down in front of Ginger and Fred, my goldfish. I swear they would wag back and forth to the beat. Poor Ginger and Fred. Four years later when I went to college, they didn’t make it very long; my family forgot about them.

I graduated to a local studio called “Suzycise” that I could walk to. I had the leotard. Oh yes. My mom took me to the Cincinnati department store Shillito’s, and I bought a purple one. I would complement the leotard with Reebok high tops, shiny soccer shorts, blue eyeliner, and Revlon’s Silver City Pink lipstick.

My love affair with aerobics continued for many years. I was never an athletic kid. I could swim well but was too nervous to compete. Aerobics made me feel athletic.

In college I would arrange classes around IU Fit, the exercise program at the student center. During the summer, my parents refused to understand that I was upset when I couldn’t attend aerobics. They wanted me to work. My brother and I shared a car and a daily 30-minute commute. He worked later than I did, so I had to wait for him, thereby missing aerobics. This was an outrage! Sometimes I would convince a coworker from my high school to drive me home, even thought it was 15 minutes out of his way. If I got home in time, I could use my mom’s car to get to class.

Sometime in my late 20s or early 30s, life got too real and aerobics and I broke up. I think we just drifted apart. Who knows what happened to the purple leotard. By then, Jane was a long-ago memory, as were Ginger and Fred. I was now navigating divorce, real affairs, and rebuilding my life.

This summer a friend persuaded me to attend a Jazzercise class with her. I arrived at a studio that reminded me of days of yore. Some things were familiar: the studio set-up, the peppy instructor—the majority of participants were women. The music pumped and the instructor made inspirational comments.

Some things were different.

Mostly me.

There’s a little more weight on these bones; the pinched nerve in my foot hurts, as do my knees. There is no way I’m putting this body in a leotard. I had twin babies at 40. My outfits consist of old yoga pants and a T-shirt I won at my family reunion that boasts “Proud to Be Italian!” (No one ever believes that I’m Italian.)

There is something to be said about first loves. When I’m in class, I feel like I’ve come home. I may not look pretty Jazzercising, but I feel awesome. I can still funk it up with the best of them. I’m less manic about attending, I’m just happy when I can carve time out from my family and work to be there. And when I’m not, I dance around the kitchen using my new moves. My family is so lucky.

Aerobics and I are back together. I quit the gym that I never attended and bought myself a Jazzercise pass. I’m even thinking about buying some new exercise clothes—maybe even some new blue eyeliner!

I heard that Jane just rereleased her exercise video on DVD. I need to look into that.

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