I crawled into work this morning from a late night of dancing. I don't think I've ever said that before in my life. But nevertheless, I went to Cajun Dance Night at Tipitina's and danced with a half dozen old guys, all who have more energy than most of the young men I know. This is probably because most of my guy friends are fathers of young children and it takes more energy to chase and potty train a two year old than it does to dance for three hours straight.
I went with a few friends, only one of which had been there before. That's Sarah. Sarah's been inviting me to go for a while and I've been hesitant. When Sarah dances she feels alive, graceful, and beautiful. When I dance I feel as graceful as a gorilla riding a bike. But I would like for that to change. There have been times in the past and I've really been able to cut loose and have a great time. If my friend Danielle is reading this, she is probably thinking of some blackmail footage she has of me dancing at her wedding reception. That night I was drrrrrrrrunk. And they played "Highway to Hell!" At a wedding! Who WOULDN'T dance to that? Anyway, when I look back I think that every time I've been comfortable enough to dance, there's been gin & tonic involved. Or vodka. Or Maker's Mark on the rocks.
I'm not drinking now, though. So how was I supposed to get up and dance last night if I wasn't able to drink my embarrassment away? Easy. The guys there won't let you stand still. If you stand there against the wall, they'll come up, grab your hand and pull you on the dance floor.
"I don't know how to dance," I told the old guy who took my hand. He had no hair, a long gray mustache, knee high socks and sparkling eyes.
"That don't matter, sugar," he said. "I'll show you."
Turns out that a lot of the dancers there love beginners because they get to teach. And I suspect that the old dudes jump at the opportunity to lead women around the dance floor, twirl them around, and show them how to waltz.
Sarah took to the floor like a pro, but me, Jan, and Lisa had to be pulled out there. After a dance we'd compare notes.
Jan fanned herself after a dancer kissed her hand. "That was fun, but I'm too dizzy. He twirled me constantly!"
"Mine kept giving me pointers but I couldn't hear him," I said.
"My mom's neighbor dragged me out there," Lisa said, looking grossed out. "I grew up with that guy, I babysat his kids! He's Mr. Frank, but he said to call him Frank on the dance floor! I danced with Mr. Frank! Blech!"
I only had one weird experience with this guy who did not like to talk or smile. He had solid white hair and Harry Potter glasses. The only time he spoke was to order me not to look at his feet.
"Don't look at my feet," he barked.
"Sorry," I said, eyes darting up, looking over his shoulder.
"It'll mess us up," he explained.
"Gotcha," I said.
Two minutes later..."Don't look at my feet!"
My eyes popped up again. "Yes, sir."
"Look over my shoulder!"
"Got it. I'm looking over your shoulder, not at your feet."
There were all sorts of people there, not just crazy old dudes. Couples - young, middle aged and elderly but still spry enough to two-step. There were single men and women cruising for dance partners, moms and dads dragging pouty faced teenagers, kids who looked about ten, tourists who were just there to watch and take pictures. On either side of the dance floor there was a man and a woman playing a washboard on their chests. They seemed to be part of the band, but were in the crowd instead of on stage. Sometimes they took a break and grabbed a dance partner.
Then there was a lady that my friend Jan and I met, the one who was on a date with a guy she met on match.com. Originally I started talking to her because she was a few inches taller than me, and I meet women who I have to look up to maybe once a year.
"Shit," I said, tilting my head to make eye contact with this Greek statue of a woman in a white dress. "You're taller than me."
She smiled and shook her head in a way that I was familiar with. It's that, "Yes, I know. I'm tall. Thank you for pointing it out," kind of response.
"That doesn't happen often," I told her. "What are you, about 6'2"?"
"Yeah, around there."
"Well, all right!" I said, and we toasted to her height, my water to her whiskey cocktail.
My friend Jan asked her where she was from because her accent was different. She was from Florida and she was just in for the weekend to meet a guy she'd hooked up with on match.com.
She looked over at him across the room. He was talking to two other women. Then she looked back at me and Jan.
"I don't think it's going well," she said. "That's his sister and her friend, and I just kinda feel...I don't know. Out of place. I mean, what am I supposed to do go over there with him? Follow him around?"
"Doesn't seem cool, him not making sure you're not over here by yourself when you don't know anybody," I told her.
"Well, he's a nice guy. We went out last night and had a great time, but today it's weird. I don't know what I'm doing," she sipped her drink and looked at him anxiously.
So she, Jan, and I talked it out and we voted that she go over there with her date, and make the best of it. If it was an awkward night all around, then it would be just that, and she could go home to Florida and not have to dread bumping into him at the grocery store.
"God, I hate dating," I thought watching her walk over to him.
I do. I hate it and I'm not even dating yet. I even hate watching other people do it. Folk dancing with the strangers is good for me right now.
You know, Taller-than-me-lady should have danced with Smitty. He would have cheered her up. Smitty was my favorite dance partner, and though I have a hard time remembering names his stuck with me because he said it a few times.
He placed his hand on the small of my back and stood up straight.
"My name is Smitty," he declared. "What's your name, honey?"
"Well, Miss Genevieve, I'm gonna show you how to waltz."
Smitty had white hair under his cowboy hat, a red bandanna around his neck, boots, blue jeans and a volunteer firefighter T-shirt on. I did my best at following his steps without looking at his feet. I let my arms go loose so that he could guide them in whatever spin or twist that the dance called for.
"We dance every Thursday at Rock n' Bowl, and every Sunday right here," he told me, while he twist me around. "My name is Smitty, and you can always dance with me."
What's funny is that Smitty hadn't asked me to dance with him. He'd told me he was. He waltzed passed me with another lady around his age, and as he spun around he pointed at me and said, "I'm coming for you next."
Ordinarily a statement like that would have me digging for my pepper spray. But this was Smitty, so I took it in stride.
At the end of the dance before he bowed he said, "I hope whatever man you fall in love with is a dancer and I hope you never stop dancing." Then he bowed and kissed my hand. "Come on back, I'll give you another lesson some time. My name is Smitty."
Am I at the point where I need validation from old men I don't know? Old men who dance like Gene Kelly, but can't remember what they said three minutes ago so they repeat themselves? Yes. I do. My name is Genevieve. And dance lessons from harmless old boys who like to flatter young women was just what I needed. I'm not ready for match.com. Just beginner dance steps.