14 August, 2009

Oh, snap. Here comes a personal story.

It's almost the last day of camp. Wahhh! But that's not what I want to get off my chest today-- this post is intended to vent about something that happened yesterday at the dance.

Now I'm not going to waste precious sleeping time (it's 10:10pm already!) explaining how much I love the Old Farmer's Ball (OFB). Why would you be reading this if you didn't know me, right, and if you know me then you certainly know more than enough about why I love to contra dance. But I needed to preface this story by illustrating how certain elements of the dance set the scene.

I'm a good dancer. I like it. The OFB can be a safe place to get down, to experiment with new moves, and most of all, to create instantaneous connections with the other dancers, from eight years old to eighty. And when you come across someone who dances well with you, it can be fun. FUN. But that's it. (I mean, obviously that's not just it, as plenty of people meet their significant others at the dances... myself included. But if you're not looking for that, it can still be super, super fun). For me, personally, I really love the chance to stop connecting with others by talkingtalkingtalking like I do all day long and to connect by moving together. Yep, it can get, well, close. I've heard plenty of callers explain to newbies that we're sort of a flirtatious community and if someone seems like they're taking it too far, you can just say stop. I have had to put out some "stay farther away from me" vibes in the past, but not for years now-- despite the younger set's insistence that there are way too many "creepers" dancing these days. Maybe it's cause I'm older now, that i don't think of the adult males as creepy, maybe it's because I have an engagement ring on my hand. Who knows.

So, I'd been enjoying a really fun dance partner for a few weeks, who I felt sure could not only feel but SEE the ring on my left hand. I guess you can guess where this is going... last night my fun dance partner looked just as glad to see me there as I'm sure I looked, given that his presence meant I could expect to learn a few new spins during the waltzes, enjoy some harmless batting of the eyelashes, and his warm smile. There are several friends I look forward to dancing with at the OFB, all because they're fun, plain and simple. I danced a few with the partner this story is about, a few dances with other familiar faces, one with the Australian friend I'd dragged there with me, and then asked the first partner to dance again.

So, during that dance, this fun dance partner of mine asked me to go for a walk with him. "I'd rather keep it on the dance floor," I said with what I thought was a meaningful tone. He didn't seem particularly put out, and we got in line to dance again. And then, after that dance, he asked boldly for quite more than a walk. I looked surprised and wiggled my ring finger up at him, stating the obvious. And then his entire face changed and he got MAD. Cold. Mean. Dropped me like a hot pocket right then and there and left me slack-jawed at his unspoken accusations. I gave him some space and danced with a few others and at the set break, went to go clear the air.

"I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings," I began.
"Yeah." He said, staring blamingly into my eyes.
"Um, well, I guess I thought that we'd get to a point where we needed to tell each other where we were at with our lives, and, so, I just told you."
"Yeah." Again, cold.
"Um... well, you know... this dance community..." I babbled about the okay-ness of flirtatious dancing, sounding silly, trying to defend my honor. It's been a really long time since someone accused me, silently or otherwise, of leading them on.
At that point I ran out of words, not believing the unchangeably harsh look in his eyes. And then he said something along the lines of, "When a girl opens herself up in that way..." and I totally stopped listening. I was all of a sudden grossed out. He clapped a hand roughly on my shoulder. "Good luck in all your future endeavors." Turned away and stalked off.

Huh. There goes my dance partner, I guess. Part of me feels defensive. I hid nothing. My ring was there. We hadn't talked about our lives, he hadn't asked me if I was available. The other part of me, though, feels guilty and unsure. At what point do you need to preface yourself, to say, "Man, that was a great dance, by the way, I'm engaged/married/uninterested/asexual/whatever"? Should I have limited my enjoyment of the dance? Is there something wrong with the way I dance? Is it his fault? Is it mine?

And then, another part of me, the part that is sitting here cozily surrounded by funny friends and the soothing sounds of the camp that I love, knows it's not really the biggest of deals. So, I misjudged a man's interest. I should have mentioned my unavailability earlier. He should have expressed his disappointment/embarrassment is a more mature fashion. Now we know.

Anyone else have any experiences charting these awkward waters?


chris michel said...

There's not much time to chat on the dance floor, as you said, and if this guy's feelings got hurt, it's mostly because *he* "opened himself up" a little too much, and got embarrassed, and then blamed you. It's not your fault, and in a way it's not really his fault. It sounds like neither of you did anything untoward. He missed an obvious sign, he misread some other signs, and when it became clear, he handled it badly. But unless this starts to happen to you often, I don't think there's anything you need to change about how you're dancing. That's what I think, FWIW.

Rebekah C said...

Been there, done that. I like to say that many men are ridiculously oblivious----but in a way that they tend to subconsciously ignore the details that don't fit the schema that they have in mind. I've definitely been in that position more than once, and they always get angry and even scary sometimes. You have to make your peace with it though, otherwise it will sit in the back of your head and fester.

Gina said...

oh, sister! this is clearly his adolescent-stage issue. warm smiles + dancing skillz do not equal terrorism.

Robin Marie said...

It's no fault of yours. The first thing you learn in contra is that eye contact is KEY, especially when spinning! If you don't make eye contact in a friendly way it's absolutely frightening! The whole structure of the dance is flirtatious, from passing your partners around to the absolute dependence on one another for balance. That said I am still trying to shake a guy I used to dance with a couple years ago. He doesn't seem to understand that dancing is dancing and doesn't guarentee a future relationship. Every few months he shows up at some event I happen to be at and gets all sorts of touchy feely. It's absurd. I wish he would take a hint as hard as your guy.

Dance dance dance!

Anonymous said...

My experience is, some people DO see the ring, and they think the flirting means you want to CHEAT. So when you gesture that the ring MEANS SOMETHING, they feel all put out and burned, because their intentions were dishonest.

You were right, you hid NOTHING!

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