Dancing my Life Away

A newish girlfriend asked me the other night how I learned to partner dance. It got me thinking about how my fancy footwork has gotten me to where I am today.

  1.  As a child, my older sis got to take tap dancing. When I asked if I could, too, the answer was no. “Here are some tap shoes. Play in the basement.” I think I was five.
  2. We did square dancing in elementary PE classes. I was in love!
  3. In 8th grade, I went to my first boy-girl dance. Mom made me an orange jumper with an orange and white dotted Swiss blouse (I didn’t know yet that orange is a color if you are an autumn and that I’m a summer).  The girls stood on one side of the gym. The boys stood on the other. Somebody pulled off Becky Tate’s wig. No one danced.
  4. In 9th grade, I found out about ballroom dancing lessons and convinced my mom to drive me to Windsor Heights once a week to take lessons.
  5. Also in 9th grade, we had a dance unit in PE. There were too many girls in the class, so the three tallest girls had to be boys. Guess who?  No sweaty palms and stolen glances for me. I was dancing with girls.
  6. In 10th grade, a teen dance club opened up in West Des Moines on Friday nights called the Nowhere. We went every week and danced with glowing white bras under black lights. My friends sneaked in alcohol and drank it in the bathroom. I think they shared it with me, can’t remember.
  7. In 11th grade, I went to my boyfriend’s senior prom with him, and we danced.
  8. In 12th grade, I went stag to my senior prom with a bunch of girlfriends. We danced.
  9. In college, I danced in bars, in fraternities, and on dorm floors. The reigning sound was Elton John, the Doobie Brothers, and James Taylor. Some sorority friends got married, and we danced.
  10. After college, I moved to rural Nebraska to teach and drove to Omaha on the weekends to boogie in bars under mirrored disco balls. I went to lots more weddings and danced.
  11. I moved to Omaha after falling asleep at the wheel one night and missing my exit to my rural town. It scared the heck out of me. Rolled down the windows and sang my way home. Kept going to bars and weddings and dancing. Also took aerobics classes (dancing).
  12. Dated a lot of Omaha guys. The first date was usually dinner and dancing (I fell/fall asleep at movies).
  13. Somebody in Omaha taught me how to polka (don’t remember).
  14. Moved into a Three’s Company apartment with a fellow teacher and a med student. Med student taught me to swing dance in the kitchen. I still remember twirling past the sink filled with dirty dishes.
  15. Met the love of my life at his cousin’s wedding (my best friend). I was dancing. He wasn’t. Dated long distance, went to Europe together, broke up in Paris. I know, right?
  16. Got married to a non dancer. Took up Jazzercise.
  17. Got divorced, started dancing again. Dated a west coast swing guy for 5 years – yup, five.
  18. Dated another good dancer who turned out to be homeless – oops.
  19. Then a drought, a combo of no boyfriend and the pandemic. I was thirsty for a drink.
  20. Went to a Michael Jackson tribute band concert the other night. Saw a guy I’d danced with once, four years ago. Remembered he could really cut a rug. Offered him a seat next to me that I’d been saving for whomever.  Danced a few awkward songs with him after he told me he had a girlfriend in Marin who was at work. Went off to solo boogie with girlfriends.
  21. Rock With You came up on the set list.  Pushed my way through the single women and grabbed him. Danced the entire three minutes and twenty-two seconds, me following his every spin and turn. Thanked him afterward. Single women – “How long have you guys known each other? You dance so well together.” Me —“Uh, not long, but I knew he was a good dancer. That’s why I went over there.”

Gary, if you and your girlfriend ever break up, give me a call.

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