My wife raised her sunglasses, slowly surveying the scene around her. When I was bumming around Central America 15 years ago, I said Id never vacation at a Club Med. And I said that no matter where I went, I would never just lie around the pool. She took a sip of her mojito, lowered her sunglasses and leaned back.

The scene my wife had surveyed was the pool at the Club Med in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and she did not seem bothered in the least by her betrayal of her younger self. In fact, earlier that day she had said this was one of her favorite spring break vacations.

Did she change, or did Club Med? In truth, I think they met halfway: 15 years ago, she could not have realized what would appeal to a parent with three children, and 15 years ago, Club Med was perhaps dogged by a Eurotrash singles-bar reputation.

My wifes change of attitude was probably noticed only by herself, but the list of things Ive said Id never do, and then did, is as ignominious as it is long. An off-key (but heartfelt) karaoke performance of Oops, I Did It Again is the least of my betrayals of my own dignity.

I didnt realize it at the time, but I was to have some opportunities to lengthen the list while at Club Med. The resorts kids programs are excellent, and we were so reassured of our childrens well-being that we actually found ourselves able to relax and take advantage of the activities.

Look, 11 a.m. salsa dancing lessons, my wife said. I hoped she couldnt see the fear in my eyes. Early in our marriage, we had taken a salsa lesson that I remember as a toe-stomping, graceless, arrhythmic disaster. It was territory I had sworn never to visit again.

My wife, however, was apparently willing to put her pedicure and my dignity on the line once more. Perhaps it was the charm of our trilingual instructor, Jhonny (one and two and three and cuatro y cinco y seis et sept et huit et filles, turn!) or -- peut-etre -- maybe Ive developed una poca de gracia along the way. Whatever the reason, we went every morning for six consecutive days and did just fine.

The village also featured the chance to learn circus arts, most dramatically on a flying trapeze. My wife wanted to try it. I wished her well and went off to snorkel.

That night at dinner, it turned out that not only had my wife been up on the trapeze that day, but so had my 13-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.

After dessert, my daughter asked me to go with her to check out what else was going on in the village. In actuality, she knew what was going on: The trapeze was open, and she wanted me to try it.

I told her no, but she persisted. I reconsidered. I asked the people manning the trapeze if it would be OK if I swung by my arms and dropped, rather than hanging by my knees as everyone else was doing. No problem, they said. I joined about a dozen children in line.

Once on the platform, holding onto the trapeze, I reconsidered. Go! said the assistant on the platform, for the second time. I pushed off and started swinging. Go, Dad! I heard my daughters voice.

Her encouragement gave me an unwarranted surge of confidence, and I decided to try to get my knees up and over the bar. I tried. And tried. The arc of the trapeze kept getting shorter and shorter, and slower and slower. I heard the voice of a little boy come clearly through the night: He cant do it.

I felt an urge to respond to the boy, but the response I had in mind would have meant taking one hand off the trapeze. Instead I redoubled my efforts to raise my legs above the now-motionless bar. And finally, I succeeded. As for the backflip dismount I then attempted, the less said the better.

I expected my daughter to be embarrassed -- did I mention shes 13? -- but she seemed pleased with my effort. And for the rest of our stay, parents congratulated me in three languages.

Ill admit that I, too, felt that a Club Med vacation might not be for me -- when on vacation, I tend to focus on culture and nature rather than packaged activities. In the end, it was the activities I was most sure Id never do that made the trip memorable. Im impressed with Club Med. Its one thing to meet me halfway; its quite another to know that the things I would never dream of doing are the things that would make me the happiest.


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