senior scribes

Along Life’s Way
Dancing to a Different Tune
By Lois E. Wilson
The Victorian facade of the dancing school bespoke a faded era. Nevertheless well-meaning parents, perhaps seeking a higher rung on the social ladder, prodded their prepubescent offspring up its limestone path. The ornate oak door hid from view yet promised those on the threshold a glimpse of gentility.
Ribbon-haired girls curtsied; stiff-shirted boys bowed to the matron-hostess in blue-gray crepe. Around her neck were draped multiple strands of iridescent pearls; her right hand gripped tightly the dragon-head handle of an oriental walking stick. We obediently followed her to the ballroom.
She lined us up, girls on one side, boys on the other, and then demonstrated the dance's repeat pattern. Tentatively, we traced her diagram, plodded out: step-step-close, step-step-close. We kept our eyes diverted lest they catch sight of someone across the floor looking back.
The second lesson her husband played waltz music on a wobbly baby grand. She accented his slow, exaggerated style with strikes against the floor from her walking stick—a challenge to us to capture the cadence. But our rhythmless feet found their own beat.
At subsequent sessions, we labored over the fox-trot and two-step. Boys learned how to ask girls (properly, of course) for a dance. And girls were shown how to keep their dance cards.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the weekly abashment I felt in that ballroom was a lesson on sexual inequality: boys possess the power; girls pray to be chosen. My dance card often lacked names. Embarrassed, I’d be forced to dance with another slighted girl—or worse, the teacher.
The second term the woman and her husband taught the Latin-American dances. My subconscious, survival instincts signaled me that this “flower” would only flourish away from the wall. After the first ten lessons, I forsook the tango, rumba, and samba to find my place in the sun.
I didn’t shun dancing altogether, but I danced on my own terms. I chose situations carefully. A few years later, my friends and I went to a square dance at the YMCA in Dayton, Ohio.
Square dancers are down-to-earth. They enjoy the music, the movement, and interaction with other couples while dancing. They enjoy it all for itself—not as a means to enhance their social status.
At the “Y” I met my future husband. This tall, blond, blue-eyed younger version of Van Johnson came over and asked me to dance. Saying “yes” was the best decision of my life. That August night, I found my place in the sun. It proved to me that at life’s square dance, God is the caller.

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