Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Countdown To A Wedding - It Begins (Slightly Earlier)"

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.

Good start.

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

Gliding awkwardness.

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.


Becker Friceder said...

When terpsichorean turned up on the Word-A-Day site a long while back, I thought, oh yes, yet another archaic word I'll never see in print. Initially, I thought it must have something to do with turtles, but apparently, not unless they're dancing.

An enjoyable episode with about 5 more to go, if you're going to continue with your Dance Fever series. Best of luck!

Mac said...

Well, good for you. I got hauled along to dance lessons once and I'd sooner book a colonoscopy than do that again.
The trick, it seemed to me, was not to be
self-conscious; which is difficult if you dance like a man on fire. But I'm sure it's wonderful if you get the hang of it (and a lovely way to keep fit) so good luck!

allan said...

Loved that picture of you being glided around the basketball court. Made the wedding real to me too. Guess I've got to get loose as well. I'm hearing the music and working up to getting out there. Looking forward to hearing about future lessons with less shvitzin'.