Yesterday, I did not entirely tell you the truth. And yet I did. (Which is pretty much my whole blog in a nutshell.)
It is true that the night after committing to speaking at Anna and Colby’s wedding, I woke up at two-thirty in the morning, wracked with fear and trepidation (which may be the same thing) concerning what I would say. This anxiety attack signaled, for me, the beginning of my acknowledgement that this wedding would actually be taking place. Before that, I was an outsider, watching a flurry of plans being arranged for some event that I was, literally, no part of and, as a result, I could pretend it was not actually real. With my agreement to participate, however, I now had, as they say, skin in the game.
The wedding was definitely happening. And I was unquestionably involved.
But there was an event before my nighttime heebie-jeebies that precursored my awareness that a gala celebration was about to take place. Two days earlier, on a Saturday afternoon, I found myself stepping into a dance studio, and signing up for lessons.
Nobody told me to. I just knew it had to be done. That’s the sign of being a grownup. You make your own colonoscopy appointments, and you volunteer for dance lessons.
Enrolling for dance lessons. That was the first indication that I knew it was real.
(I view my behavior as a magnificent act of courage – walking into a place that specializes in something I absolutely stink at. For me, submitting to dance lessons comes second only to surrendering to an eye test. Though necessary, I find the experience excruciating and bizarre. I put my greatest weakness on display. And when it’s over, I write them a check.)
I am in the place thirty seconds, and I make a mistake. Noticing a “Sign-up” sheet at the Front Desk, I neatly print my name under half a dozen others. The man behind the desk informs me that the “Sign-up” sheet is an attendance record, required for people who have signed up for packages of lessons. I was only enrolled for one. I immediately cross out my name.
I move to the other end of the basketball court-sized dance floor, where I sit on a hard metal chair, and I fill out a questionnaire. I am familiar with this procedure from the forms I am required to fill out at doctors’ offices. The process here is comparatively painless. There are no questions concerning rectal bleeding.
I deliberately sit tall in my chair, signaling that, “You’re not dealing with some Yahoo here. I may know crap about dancing, but make no mistake: I have a serious understanding of posture.”
I have always had this quasi-religious belief that whoever arranges the events of my life will send me exactly what I need. I believed such would be the case here. Though there was no selection process involved, I felt confident I would get the right dance teacher for me.
And up marches Sarah.
English, seemingly of an elevated station, and “No nonsense”, in the traditional Mary Poppins mold. I feel reassured by the deepening lines under her eyes, which, to me, indicate, “I’ve seen it all.” Sarah’s reverberating “I’ve been here a little too long” vibe gives me confidence that I would not be the worst dance student she had ever encountered, though perhaps the worst without neurological deficiencies.
It’s a funny thing about dancing. There are reasons to think I shouldn’t be bad at it. I know music. I know pace – slow and fast. I know rhythm – one-two-three, one two three. I know the rudimentary steps. But when I am asked to put it all together into dancing, my body responds with a ruffled irritation that says,
“What do you want?”
In an effort to explain why I’m there – beyond the practical exigency of the upcoming nuptials – I tell Sarah I find dancing to be fundamentally boring. What a delightful introduction. Telling a person that the activity they’ve devoted their life to is a monumental waste of time. I’m a real charmer, I am.
In Drill Instructor fashion, Sarah puts me through my terpsichordial paces, starting with the basic waltz steps. She moves from instruction to instruction without let-up, barking “Again!” till I finally get it right. I tell her she’s strict. She takes it as a compliment.
“I had one student from Berlin tell me, “You’re almost German”, she says proudly.
“There’s not that much difference between the two,” I opine to my English instructor, “except that one of them drinks tea.”
Cool. Comparing her people to the guys who bombed the heck out of her country. This was a clear example of veiled hostility, a telltale indication of embarrassment and shame.
Twenty minutes in, and I’m sweating like one of those shirtless workmen building the Transcontinental Railroad. I am not normally a prominent perspirer, but today, I’m a man-made lake! If our bodies are eighty per cent water, I’d be walking out of that place with only the other twenty percent. I’m tellin’ ya, I was shvitzin’!
“Would you like a tissue?” Sarah inquired.
“I’d like a shower!” I replied.
But, somehow, I was learning. With expert guidance, and what passes for patience in a person brought up in the British educational system, I was starting to relax and actually enjoy the erstwhile dreaded torture known as dancing.
It was just one lesson, but already, I could see myself getting noticeably better, “see myself”, because I was dancing in front of a mirror. Under Sarah’s watchful tutelage, my mechanical, “Tin Man” from The Wizard of Oz spasticity had transformed into a, how can I put it? A never-before experienced
I was unquestionably making progress.
When it was over, Sarah led me to the boss’s office, where I enthusiastically purchased a five-lesson package.
I was very excited.
Next time, I thought happily,
It was the “Sign-up” sheet for me.