I don't dance. Well, I have danced and I do dance sometimes in the privacy of my own home when I can shake my booty without scaring small children. Overall though, dancing is something I have never felt comfortable doing. Probably because I was raised in a homogeneous small town where music was something that was played on a dusty old church organ on Sunday mornings and occasionally in my uncle's garage when the guys played pool and listened to tapes of Def Leppard and Guns N' Roses (the only people who dance to that are generally hanging off poles and there were definitely none of those in my hometown.)
I went to a small Christian school where dancing was not allowed ("dancing standing up leads to dancing lying down" my principal was fond of saying). Instead of school dances, we had "banquets" where we all sat at tables next to our dates eating the baked chicken and wishing we were hanging out with the heathens at the local public schools who were groping each other under the dimmed gymnasiums lights as they danced to Boyz II Men.
When I finally escaped to college, I was faced with dancing in public and quickly learned the only way to deal with nights in the clubs was to drink a lot and dress so slutty that no one would notice that my dance moves resembled a grand mal seizure. Under the strobe lights, pressed into the writhing mass of sweaty bodies, my inability to dance remained hidden.
So, whenever I am faced with a dance floor, I grow sweaty and scared, typically faking an injury or hiding in the bathroom until the music has stopped. I watch other people so effortlessly move to the music and I am jealous. I want to be out there! I want to feel the beat and grab a partner and enjoy life! I have tried. . .I have taken a deep breathe and walked out there and started to dance only to slink away quickly realizing that I literally had no idea what I was doing and others were not-so-subtly moving away from me and my flailing limbs.
I have often googled "dance lessons Tampa" and scrolled through the listings, looking at the photos of happy looking people paired off in couples being led in dance by some fit Ricky Martin look-a-like and I hover over the "register" button. Then fear and anxiety take over and I quickly close the page and clear my browser history, embarrassed as if I had been searching for porn. I just wasn't ready.
Until now. I am 37 and on my 38th birthday in SIX WEEKS I am travelling to Puerto Rico, an entire island of people who learned to dance before they learned to walk. I envision getting off the plane and being greeted by Salsa music and dancing airport employees. City streets full of women shaking their hips to the tropical music that fills the air. Latino men reaching out of doorways, grabbing the first woman they see and pulling them close into a sensual Merengue. And me. Standing there. Terrified.
I want to dance on my birthday. I want to go out and hear some music and dance in Puerto Rico. And not be terrified. So, I have decided to finally do it, I have finally signed up for Salsa dance lessons here in Tampa. I have waited too long. I start on Tuesday in a group class. A GROUP CLASS. That means there will be others in the room, others who will see me, others who will witness my awkwardness.
Life is short. Do something that terrifies you. DANCE.
(updates on the lessons to come. . .)