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Nerds Need Aerobics As Well as Academics

Ironically enough, the only aerobics class I'd ever been to, before taking aerobics for physical education, was in Iran. With eight PE credits to fill my senior year, I landed in MIT aerobics.

This form of exercise itself is quite interesting, with all of its fast movements and complicated steps. I found myself often wondering about the stereotype of the stupid aerobics in cop shows like T.J. Hooker. How stupid can a woman be if she can not only do these steps, but know why she's doing them, and keep track of everyone and everything else in the classroom (including her hair)?

As the class progressed, and we moved rhythmically to the same songs over and over again, I found myself wondering about everything and anything, just to keep my sanity from hearing these same songs three days a week. I actually started drawing analogies between aerobics classes and Nazi training camps. In a way, both are striving for the perfect person. Many women in these classes strive for the perfect body, many people, many people in those camps strove for the ultimate citizenship, the ultimate statehood. Now, I've never actually been to a Nazi training camp (though Hitler did announce us Iranians as Aryans), and no, we don't shout and salute to our instructor every morning, but there's something about this mindless imitation and search for an artificial perfection that I find fascinating.

But, I really didn't quit class and rush to the computer to give my views on Hitler. This morning, class seemed exceptionally funny. The crowd was all beginners. the music loud, and one had the feeling of absolute chaos. I felt like I was free-floating, my movements losing their constraint of an orderly exercise, and believe me, if I was any less uptight, I'd have started jitterbugging in the middle of the room. Instead, I started watching other people in class to see if this feeling of chaos is contagious. My eyes lingered on this person I'd seen from freshman year, a person who used to sit in front of class and answer the professor's rhetorical questions. To my surprise, this apparently smart person could not do a single step. When we were to move our hands to the sides, he'd move them to the front, when we moved to the front, he moved to the side. His movements were out of control; his body was out of control.

Four years at MIT, and I'm sure he's done well, extremely well. I don't know if he's going to graduate school, or getting a job at wherever smart engineers get jobs these days, but four years at MIT and the guy had no control over the one aspect of his self that is the most tangible: his body. Four years of "tooling," "all nighters" (terms MIT people are proud of), problem sets, and projects. Four years of occupying every single moment of the day with a mental problem (pun intended), and now an adult thrown into society, and what have we to show? No coordination. No sense of our physical self. I may be making a fuss about nothing, but I must confess, I'm angry at MIT (whatever MIT is) for priding itself in an education that ends with a person who has discovered every corner of the Athena system, but has no concept of his own body (self), or any one else's for that matter. (Is that why some MIT men whistle so desperately when they see a sexy woman on the Lecture Series Committee screen?)

For some reason, as I'm getting ready to graduate from the 'Tute, I feel cheated. Cheated out of an environment conducive to a complete exploration of me as a whole individual and of others. I am outraged at the irresponsibility of an institution that takes in people for four years and more, and turns them into people, who like the guy in my class, is not only out of touch with his own body, but with every body else.

Naghmeh Sohrabi '94