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funny, isn't it?
by jeanne charters

I just found another reason that I am oh-so-glad to be female. I don’t have to lead!

When I was back in New York doing some television work last fall, I took myself to a local cinema to see Shall We Dance? The image of Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon dancing around their kitchen at the end of that movie inspired me. Obviously, their dance was a prelude to some steamy sex (or so it looked to me). So, I decided to check out Ballroom Dance in the Asheville area as soon as I got home.

In time, I would have forgotten all about it, but I told my daughter, Stacia, about my interest in Ballroom. Then, she went to see Shall We Dance?. For Christmas, she surprised me with a gift of 12 dance lessons for me and Matt. Don’t you hate it when that happens? You have an idea that is fun to talk about, with absolutely no intention of following up the idea with action…or dollars. Then someone you love listens to you and does take action, and suddenly, you are committed to it…every Wednesday night for 12 weeks!

Now, winter is a long, long season if you don’t ski and don’t have little kids around to build snowmen for. It gets plenty boring…fast. Surely, winter’s not as tedious in North Carolina as it was in the Northeast; but still, along toward February, it does slog a person down a bit. Plus, let’s face it…Matt and I have been married 20+ years, so anything I can do to rev things up a bit is a good thing. I kept remembering Richard and Susan frolicking in their kitchen, you see.

After Stacia gave us the gift, I rationalized to Matt who was grumbling like Scrooge himself…what could be better than taking Ballroom dance lessons together? I reminded him that he used to be my Italian Stallion. I didn’t mention the fact that, of late, the Stallion asks for slipper sox “to keep my ankles warm…and by the way, make sure they have treads on the bottom.” Treads on the bottom are for geezers. Is this what we have come to?

Furthermore, Matt’s a very good dancer—or used to be back when we danced. Perhaps you remember the time I told you about our first-date disco experience when he morphed into John Travolta at the Cahoots Club in Albany? He flailed…he gyrated…he bumped…he nearly did the splits! I was mortified, until I saw all the cute little Gen-X cuties cozying up to my boyfriend wanting to dance with him. My competitive juices flowing, I tried to do the moves right along with him. Bad idea! I nearly dislocated my sacroiliac that night. Oh, Lordy, imagine if I’d had to have an ambulance come to that club and take me to the Emergency Room, leaving my Italian Stallion back at Cahoots to charm all the twinkle-toed co-eds.

So anyway, let’s get back to the present and our ballroom dance lessons. The first night, I wore jeans and flat shoes. At least I had changed from sweats and sneakers, I rationalized and, after all, “nobody gets dressed up anymore”.

To my utter amazement, the ballroom was packed with at least 75 people, pretty much divided equally in gender, and pretty much nicely dressed. The room had a very high ceiling with a crystal chandelier sparkling away right in the center. Tables rounded the perimeter of the gleaming wooden floor. They were covered with red or white tablecloths. A pretend bar was set up in one corner of the room, covered with soft drink bottles and empty snack boxes. Confetti was everywhere. One whole wall of the place was mirrored. Clearly, I was underdressed.

After that night, I wore skirts and high heels. And panty hose…a monstrosity I vowed never to wear again. But, you know what, it’s kind of fun. Matt gets dressed up, too. Granted, he’s grumbling about it; but it’s really great to see him out of his jeans and sweat shirt. He looks pretty handsome…sort of like Richard Gere, if I squint.

Dr. Dance begins the cadence, “One, two, three, foah”. We learn the box step, the waltz, the fox trot. On later Wednesdays, we will try the meringue, the cha cha, the samba. We never dance with the guy we came in with. We switch constantly. What’s interesting is, that in the beginning, the guys were all apologetic and had sweaty palms. Now, most of them have morphed into Fred Astaire. I can see that the men there are taking control. Where they used to apologize, they now instruct, kindly. Cool!

I now realize how important it is for a man to know what he’s doing on a dance floor. In the beginning, I stumbled around like a klutz until Dr. Dance took me in his arms. Then, I became Ginger Rogers, Marge Champion, nearly, for Lord’s sake, Pavlova, in my grace and expertise. Do I know what I’m doing? Not at all. But I’m being led by a master dancer who can move me at will into any position he wishes. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s also about giving up control, something that’s not easy for me to do.

When I was a kid, I always led. I was usually the tallest girl in grade school, so naturally I got to lead. Now, when I try to lead, I’m called on it instantly, by my partner, my husband, or Dr. Dance.

Anyway, we’re halfway through our lessons. Once in a while, Matt and I do try to practice the steps in our kitchen (until Poncho gets jealous and tries to cut in). That’s one thing that Susan and Richard did not have to contend with—a neurotic dog.

Funny, isn’t it that having a man who is better at something than we are can be an absolute turn-on? I think it’s because most of today’s women go through their days and nights so thoroughly competent. It’s really nice to lean a bit, to learn a bit, to realize that there are some things he just plain does better than I do. Like leading in a dance!

Jeanne Charters is a former V.P. of Marketing for Viacom Television. She started her own award-winning broadcast advertising agency in 1990. Jeanne lives in Fairview with her husband, Matt Restivo.
[ charmkt@juno.com; 828-628-0023 ]

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