Still Dancing Contra

So Saturday Night there was another contra dance at the Black Diamond Hall. Once again, I found myself travelling up the dark, mountain road in the rain, but this time I was not nervous. By the time I got the only leftover parking and got out of the car, I could hear fiddle music weaving through the rain, beckoning me inside. Sure enough, after I walked in and paid my eight bucks, I saw Joanne had, indeed, talked Bob into coming and there they were, over on the other side, the sheep farmer and the workman, dancing away.

Immediately, a man came through the crowd and asked me to be his partner. We danced, he the far more experienced one. He seemed very nice, although as the next half hour progressed I noticed his eyes became a little too fixated on me, and I felt myself becoming more interesting than I thought I was, under the intensity of his gaze. We danced a couple dances and, breathless, I excused myself,  told him I would be back but that I needed a drink. Hey, this dancing is exhausting! I was sweating! But you know, I sensed he was immediately impatient with my need, because he followed me into the kitchen and grabbed the sleeve of my shirt and said “Come on, hurry! The music started.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I have this personal space thing and he got into mine before I could say “pushy.” I said to him, “Not until I finish.” He pasted a smile on his face and pretended he enjoyed learning patience for the first time. It was a look I had seen before and did not like. It made me feel stressed, hurried, and believe it or not, rude. But I was not the rude one here, he was. When guilt issues forth from the unwarranted expectations of another, I want to pay attention to the source.

Finally quenched, I went back out to the dance floor with him. I do not know this guy for more than a half hour and he’s already revealing his pushiness?  I thought, then thought again, How considerate. In my book, Buttwheat, you get one free pass but you don’t get two.” So I mentally issued a free pass and we danced again and chatted about this and that until I asked him what line of work he was in. He said, “I was a potter for seventeen years.” Klunk. He plopped that one right out on the dance floor without flushing. I had questions I did not ask. Why did he stop pottering? How long ago did he stop? Was he not serious? Perhaps he dabbled more than worked, I could not know. So I said,”Oh, wow, that sounds interesting,” and tried to think what he might possibly do now for work. Where might a potter go from a position of pottering? “So, what do you do now?” I asked.

“Oh, for the past several years I have studied railroad law. Did you know Congress doesn’t know much about Railroad laws?” He asked, not knowing this was shaping up to be something about which to blog.

“You don’t say.” I said, trying to think on my feet how the heck I’d be able to come up with a  thoughtful question that would sound more intrigued than I actually was. I wanted to be polite after all. So I said, “I believe it’s true that Congress doesn’t know a lot about several things.” It was a joke. He looked at me blankly. I felt pressure to fill the newest lapse in the conversation with something both clever and kind. Hurry..hurry…dig deep now… OK, I had one! “Well, now, how railroad law intersects with Congress certainly is a niche occupation, isn’t it?” I asked and continued, “I imagine studying railroad law must take up so awfully much of your time. How very tiresome it must make you. Hmm, not doing so well in the kind thoughts segment for the evening…

He said, “You seem very interested in this topic. Most people are not, when I talk to them about railroad law. You are interested, right?” He asked.

“Actually no, I am not interested in it at all. It bores me to death, I am sorry to say,” I said and was glad when he laughed at my frankness. At least he was a good sport.

“Say, why don’t you come with me to the Valentine’s Day Dance down at the Sequim Prairie Grange this weekend?” There it was. The asking of the date I had known was coming. “Come be my date. It’ll be fun!” There it was again.

“I don’t know, but hey, will we get to talk about the cool and interesting railroad laws if I go with you?” I did not ask him. Instead I thought about how much I cherished my brother, David, and his excellent wife, Kathy in that very moment, in that very place, up on Black Diamond Road. “Oh, unfortunately, it will be impossible for me to go because my brother and his wife are coming over that weekend.” I put on my best frowny face in the hopes that he would be completely deterred. Instead, he said, “Your brother and wife can come too. Do you think they would want to dance with hillbillies?”

Wait. I’m a hillbilly now? Uh, OK, Fine with that. Don’t care. “The plans are not firmed up yet. All I know is that they are coming,” I said in a sure tone.

After that, we danced one more set. Then he said he was going to get himself another dance partner. I didn’t blame him. I don’t do pushy. Not anymore.


Learning to Dance

Dance Your Way To Womanhood



The petite Contra Dance caller, Lindsay Dono, took command of the dance floor at the Grange Hall.

“There seem to be more women than men tonight, so some women will have to be pretend men,” she said. “Please decide with your partner,” she continued, “that is, if you are a two women team, which of you will be the man. The gal who chooses to dance the guy’s role will then receive a necktie.”

Great, I thought. Thanks a lot, Lindsey Dono! It’ll be just my luck to be cast in a man’s role tonight. Please don’t make me, please!

Zoe, my new friend and dance partner turned to me and asked, “Who do you want to be, a guy or a gal?” She did not care-after all, she was a seasoned Contra Dancer.

I lied and said, “Oh, I really don’t care.” But I did care, I cared very much! Keep in mind that this was not a big deal up here at Black Diamond Grange Hall. The point of the evening was to have fun and dance the cold, winter night away. No one gave a fig what role you played, man or woman.

“OK, then you be the man and I’ll be the woman,” she said. Gulp, I gulped twice.

“Fine,” I said, but my word did not feel fine. My increased discomfort temporarily sabotaged my mind with thoughts of: I want to find out who the real me is, and, I know for sure I’m not a man, and, I have never been comfortable with role playing, and, I don’t even know how that works, and, I just got done being married to a gay guy for twenty six years and I sure as heck don’t want to be a man, and, I want to dance with a real man! What the heck?

But it was too late for that now. The die was cast. I was given the opportunity to state my preference and I did not take it. What was wrong with me that I was unable to say what I wanted? I felt like Homer Simpson. Doh!

So we danced. We switched partners and danced again and it was a blast. It did not matter one fig that I was the “guy” and after a few minutes I did not care. What mattered was, after getting the hang of the moves, there was a connection with others-eye contact, manners, freedom of movement. Freedom of movement that is, until a man asked me to dance with him.

“Sure,” I said, “but I am used to the guy role.”

“No problem,” he said.” You can switch to a woman and it will be all right.” I believed him because I am a trusting soul and, as it turned out, it was not altogether all right, due to the fact that I got a little “contra” with my “dance.”,  He was patient, as were the others on the dance floor. Luckily, they survived.

Needing a break and some water, I went to the kitchen for a drink and ran into Zoe.

“How are you doing?” She asked.

“Pretty well,” I said, “except I had to switch to a woman and I am terrible at it!”

“Aw, don’t worry,” she said. “Here’s the thing: when you find a man who is really good at being a man, he’ll teach you how to be a woman.”