Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Dance

I am the first one to admit I don’t know anything about dancing. I mean, after all, I was a tap dance drop out at age seven.

Of course, I watched dancers on the Ed Sullivan show. I loved the costumes and the grace of the dancers, but my knowledge of dance is still pretty basic. I can tell a ballet, from a waltz, and I enjoy watching a good rousing square dance, but the ballroom style of Dancing with the Stars I find fairly dull.

The thing is no one ever told me that relationships are like dances. In the beginning a boy picks a partner from the line of waiting girls. He chooses the dance and the girl follows his lead. He either likes her and wants to continue the dance; or he heads back to the stag line, leaving her to join the line of waiting wallflowers.

I was drinking beer and playing pool the night Tom decided to ask this perennial wallflower to dance. I was so flattered by the attention and the opportunity to get out on the floor that I never realized how truly out of step we were. His family was famous for their graceful waltz learned in the highest levels of society. My family did a rollicking tarantella with a smattering of country two step.

I wanted to learn to waltz but try as I might, I just couldn’t follow the steps. Tom wanted to lead and I couldn’t go backwards into life. I wanted to stand alone to do the twist or the frug. I loved the rhythms of disco and wanted to try the hustle. And around the house I did danced much as I pleased, but when Tom came home, he would take my waist and attempt to lead me more mannerly dances. I always ended up stepping on his toes.

We danced a furious merenge for many years, Tom dancing toward his career and me chasing after him. I found the paso doble of motherhood dull and monotonous. So one day, I started a new dance. I picked a lively two-step, balancing school and motherhood. Tom spent several years trying to continue in his lock step as I danced away in my own direction. Every now and then we would try to come together in the family waltz but the kids kept cutting in with dances of their own.

I thought someday when all the distractions were gone, Tom and I could dance together. I hoped he would loosen up and enjoy a lively jitterbug or jazzy freestyle. But when our daughters danced away into their own lives, my husband and I moved again into a halfhearted waltz, trying to keeping up the appearance of a happy marriage. We went round and round and back and forth in the same four step pattern his parents had danced all of their marriage. Tom didn’t realize I was bored with the music, and he seemed unwilling to change the record. Finally the stifling routine of our steps caused me to dance away again, and this time it was for good.

Two years ago I moved into my own studio. My first night there I put ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” on the CD player. I was sixteen again as I twirled and spun, unselfconscious. I am happy with my solo dance. I am my own choreographer. And if someday I choose another partner, he better be confident enough with his own dance to follow in my lead.