A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Monday, May 07, 2007


I had promised myself that I would do two weeks of dancing class at the very least. After the fiasco of the first week, I was ready to call it quits, but then I convinced myself that I had to do it at least twice to know exactly how I felt about it and to be able to say I gave it a good try if it didn't click. So, even though I had misgivings earlier today because of my tiredness and crankypants from having been in Dallas all weekend, where it was humid and everyone said "y'all," there was also the "two times" rule to contend with. Ultimately, I couldn't get around the fact that tonight made more sense than skipping a week and picking it up again next Monday. Assuming that the classes actually are going to build on each other, I'd start next week that much more behind than the rest.

This meant that much of today was spent screwing up my courage for this. I buckled down and finished off a draft of a manhwa that's due this week, knowing that some good, concentrated work often helps make me itchy to get out of the house. Once that was done, I put on some music that would pump me up and did some practicing in my kitchen. I discovered a huge part of my problem was that my triple steps were actually double steps. Once I found the third step, it fixed my propensity to come out of the second triple on the wrong foot. I could actually get a rhythm going.

Getting the hang of the basic swing step made me feel more confident that maybe I could improve and could start to figure the dance thing out. What seemed impossible just seven days ago was suddenly possible. I would go!

Yeah, well, it was easy to be brave in my apartment, but once I stepped outside, it was another matter. Were I a pot of water, the afternoon indoors was spent on the stove while I heated myself up to a boil. Unfortunately, to go out and actually do the thing, I had to take myself off my safe burner and take the bus to the dance studio. The further I got away from the heat of my comfort zone, the less courageous I was. The water was cooling.

I accidentally caught an earlier bus than the one I had planned. I decided to use this to my advantage and go to the bar by the studio. I'd get a little liquid courage to help loosen me up. Not too much, just one whiskey.

I sat down at the bar and order a Bulleit Bourbon neat. The bartender poured a nice glass, and I dropped her a dollar tip from my change. Having done so, I noticed that there was a quarter on the bar, lodged under the drain on the back edge of it, situated behind some containers where she could not see it. Deciding it would be the nice thing to do to dislodge this quarter and put it where she could see it, I reached over and slid the coin out. It wasn't a difficult thing, it wasn't stuck in there hard or anything, I just moved it over with my dollar. It was only after, when I pulled my arm back, that I hit my glass with my wrist, sending it tumbling right over and all the booze splashing off the bar and completely soaking my crotch.

The bartender was very nice about this. She handed me a towel and poured me another. I apologized for being an idiot, and she replied, "Oh, like I've never seen that before."

"Yeah, but this is just my first drink," I said.

"Worry more when it's your third."

"That's when you should give me a sippy cup. Can you believe I'm supposed to be going next door to take dancing lessons?"

She laughed. "The more drunk you get, the more fun it will be."

"Yeah, but I'm supposed to be graceful. Look at me!"

"At least you'll smell nice."

"Or if I'm tripping over everything, they can blame it on the fact that I'm a rummy."

I had actually thought of the smell factor before she mentioned it. How could I go in to swing dance if I smelled like a distillery? Black denim was working in my favor in that you couldn't see the spill, but if they could smell the whiskey, I was in trouble. I exited to the bathroom and bent myself over as far as I could, a pose every guy has been in at least once when he foolishly tried to see if he could actually fellate himself. In this case, I didn't have to get my nose into my crotch to succeed (like I ever could!), I just had to see if you could smell the liquor from a specific distance. As far as I could sense, I could not.

Not that this kept paranoia at bay. Once I was in the studio and sitting on the bench, waiting for the salsa class to end, I faked messing with my air, running my hands back through it as I bent down yet again, seeing if I could smell the bourbon from a sitting position. I was still in the clear. I was chewing Double Mint, too, and that should have hopefully helped mask any alcohol fumes.

Looking around the class, I started to recognize some of the faces. Two of the couples were there, the guy with his shoes in a bag, some single women. One girl was talking to the instructor, and I immediately became convinced they were talking about me. She was telling the teacher who I was and how bad I had been at the first class. There was no other explanation for it. Same thing when I saw two of the other women laughing with each other. I am almost positive that they glanced at me and then exchanged a look, like, "Can you believe he had the balls to come back?" Yes, well, this week they were liquor-soaked balls. How you like me now?

Truth be told, part of me had hoped I could go a little incognito for at least a short while. I had a sort of reverse disguise going. Last week I had a mustache I had been growing for over two weeks, started when I cut my lip and then kept going as a joke. I had shaved that before heading to Texas, and I tried to cling to the illusion that maybe they wouldn't realize I was Gay Johnny Cash. Maybe this week I could be Fetal Alcohol Syndrome James Dean or something.

As we lined up, I began to assess the scene further. The creepy guy who tried to get the girls to "warm up" with him hadn't come back, and neither had the woman who had gotten singled out with me for not being able to spin right. I think at least one other guy had bailed, too, as we were two men short for every woman to have partners this time. If nothing else, this meant I had at least not been the first to drop out. Other guys had run faster. Granted, one of the men remaining had taken classes before and was doing this with his girlfriend, who was a beginner, so the other girls were going to get to dance with him and by his knowing what he was doing, it was going to make me look all the worse. Insult to injury, the shoes-in-a-bag guy turned out to also be a skilled ancer. The teacher kept pulling him out of the mix to demonstrate moves using him as her partner. I was quite easily the guy on the bottom. My only real competition for last place was the guy who took off after half-an-hour claiming he had something important to do. Yeah, something like picking up what was left of his dignity and hauling ass out of there. Smart move! Wish I had thought of it.

Actually, I should probably say right now that the bloodthirsty, voyeuristic types among you are in for some disappointment. There is a vocal portion of my readership that couldn't care less about the damage my humiliation may cause my mental state, they just want me to make with the funny. The lower I get knocked down, the better your entertainment, right? You dirty bastards! Well, things didn't go quite so bad this time, so you're not going to get the kill you've been lusting for. I'm going to fail you here with the comedy. The worst of it was in the preamble.

The class started out fine, as we went over last week's moves solo before moving on to partners. I found I could maintain the pace, and the kitchen practice had paid off. Even joining up with partners had better results. I tried to use communication to maintain a comfort level without going straight for the self-deprecation. I was still honest about my problems, but more in a way that pointed them out so my partner and I could figure out what it was that was tripping me up. This led to them alternately trying to help me and even admitting to what they might not understand. Really, I think a key to getting good at this would be to have a regular partner with whom I could practice with during off hour, working out the various steps and concentrating together to suss out where things go wrong.

Because where I started to have problems over the course of the class was when the teacher kept adding new moves to the routine. Though I started off confident with what I was doing, step by step, that confidence dropped a little. The pace was too much for me. I was lucky to get each movement right once before the teacher moved on to the next part of the lesson. I never had enough time to fully work in one step before she'd throw another step in, and pretty soon I wasn't making just one mistake, I was making two and then three, and by the time I recovered from the first one, I was well into the second one, and they were piling up on each other.

Forget how silly I was feeling for being so bad at the dancing, the bigger embarrassment was feeling like I was wasting the time of the female students I was being paired up with. I was preventing them from getting good at the steps because I wasn't providing anything for them to work with. Getting me on track was taking up too much energy. During some numbers, I found myself checking out of the experience, waiting out the song much like I had thought some of the women had done to me the week before. Once the class was twenty minutes into overtime, I did what the other guy had done and excused myself--though my reasons were true. I really did need to catch the bus.

It's hard to say whether I'll return for week 3. The question is whether or not I can really catch up and get better, and maybe even more important, whether or not I'm really having any fun. I wanted to have a good time with this, and I am not sure that standing and fighting when my flight instinct is being so insistent is really worth the effort. I may just be kidding myself by being stubborn. Is there much point doing something when the entire time you keep wondering if you've made a big mistake?

(And no, your entertainment is not a good enough reason. Not unless you want to start filling my Paypal tip jar to reimburse me for the pleasure! You jackals!)

Current Soundtrack: Erasure, Light at the End of the World

Current Mood: uncomfortable, y'all

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All text (c) 2007 Jamie S. Rich


Anonymous said...

I think you should stick with it. Remember why you wanted to do this in the first place.

Of course you're not perfect right off the bat - that's why you're taking a class. That guy who had taken lessons before was that good because he'd stuck with it the first time. One day you'll be that guy.


robert plastorm said...

I think the ultimate question is, do the ends justify the means...

Do you want to dance like a Roman or dance like a back-up dancer in some Stray Cats video?

Wild abandon or velvet ropes?

And, contrary to the opinion above, someone like me could take such classes from now until doomsday and I still wouldn't have progressed very much. I wouldn't take dance lessons for the same reasons I wouldn't take flight lessons, or play video games with too many buttons: I'm just not that coordinated.

And in true Jackal'esque fashion, the image of a whiskey soaked Jamie nervously stumbling over his dance partner is comedic gold!

Jamie S. Rich said...

Hopefully the Jackals will forgive the good-natured lashing out. It's my own area of confidence in the whole thing. We all know I'd be reading this if it were someone else!

Mike Stern said...

Trying to fellate yourself is NOT foolish!!